My Life on the Run

Disclaimer: I am not a very experienced runner. I am not a trainer. I'm just a gal who couldn't run at all five months ago and now runs five days a week. A couple commenters and friends have asked about my process of becoming a runner, so here's the how. If I can run, so can you, and here's why.

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My first run was on December 26, 2013. I'm a lunatic who remembers these types of things.

When I say it was my first run, I mean the last time I attempted any semblance of running was when, in high school gym class, they made us get around the track four times every class. We usually walked the curves and "ran" the straights.

So years later, I have a friend who is a seasoned runner — 20-something races under his belt. Let's just call him "my trainer." So my trainer was the first person I ever told about my desire to run. There was no point really in telling anyone else: I didn't have any other runner friends, and anyone else would have laughed in my face if I expressed this. See, I was a looong-time smoker when I began running. But that's another post for another day.

So my trainer helped me realize that I could be a runner, if I really wanted to {I did}, and promised he'd help me. So on that December day, we set out for a run. He said we'd just do a mile and a half that day.

I probably made it about a tenth of a mile before I had to stop. My chest was burning, I was gasping for breath and kicking myself over smoking that cigarette less than an hour ago. Stupid.

So we stopped, walked for a bit, picked it up again, called it a day. In that first run I MAYBE ran a total of one mile. The next couple of days went like that.

Eventually my trainer stopped letting me walk. When I had to stop, I stopped and stayed where I was until I caught my breath, then resumed running — I guess he was getting me to be able to at least run the full distance.

About three weeks after my first run, we set out for a mile and a half like usual. Something felt different on that day. I wasn't keeping track of my own distance yet at that point; I just relied on my trainer to give me the stats when I asked for them. But I had a vague idea of where the turnaround point was, and the closer we got to it the stronger I felt. For the first time ever, I hadn't had to stop yet, and I felt great.


I thought for a second about stopping for a few breaths at the mid-way point, but my trainer's supportive nod kept me going. Before I knew it, we were rounding the corner and the end point was in sight. I wanted to stop so bad — my chest hurt, I had a side stitch — but more than that, I wanted to finally finish one run without stopping. And I did, and I could barely believe it. It was only a mile and a half, but it was more than I had ever done, and more than a lot of people would have thought I could ever do.

From that first non-stop run day, I stopped making excuses. I eventually quit smoking, which obviously helped with the feelings of aliens trying to break through my chest cavity. I set a race-day goal — my trainer suggested in the very beginning that I aim to enter a 5K in March, and I laughed at him. But I got comfortable at 1.5 miles, and then upped it to 2. Then 3. Then 4.... you see where I'm going with this.

For over two months now, I've been running without my trainer. He sprained his ankle on some black ice during one of our runs, and then our relationship disintegrated went up in flames not too long after for unrelated-to-running reasons. But I quickly — not immediately, I'll admit — realized that I didn't need him to run anymore. I'd already proven to myself that I can do it, and that I could do it with just myself to motivate me. I never ran for anyone else. I run for me, and I always have. In the beginning I thought I needed my trainer to help me, to motivate me... but look who's crossing finish lines all on her own now.

It's been a process, and I've had some injuries and setbacks and days where running hurt like crazy or seemed like the worst idea ever. But because it's something I really wanted to do, and truly love to do, I kept at it. And I kept getting better. Because the only thing that will ever make you a better runner, the only thing that makes it easier, the only thing that makes you stronger when it comes to running, is running more.
Icing screaming shins the smart way. {I rocked this look at work on more than one occasion.}
Here's what I've learned that I want you to know, if you're just starting:

1. Find someone to run with. In the beginning, this is going to be huge. Ask a friend, sign up for a running group in your area, check out a running shop and see what they have as far as training programs. Having someone to help keep you accountable is going to help you get through those awful days — which you will have. Want a virtual running buddy? Email me. :)

2. Find someone who can answer your questions. You won't know everything, and you will have questions. You'll have questions about rest days, what kind of pain to run through and when to stop, what to wear. Diet, protein, hydration. No one can tell you exactly what your body needs — you'll need to learn that yourself. But you'll need someone athletic and experienced to answer certain questions. I might be able to answer some — email me and we'll see! :)

3. Neon running shorts, FitBits and heart rate monitors, Bluetooth headphones and tech compression gear are all optional. You don't need them to be a runner. Sure, sometimes they help. And sometimes they're fun. But don't let your lack of them keep you from running. Grab yourself a good sports bra, shorts and a t-shirt. But here's what does matter: Your shoes. Do yourself a favor and go to a running shop. In my {granted, limited} experience, the last thing you want to do is run on the wrong shoes. Get a gait analysis and invest in the right shoes. Tell the pros about knee problems, joint pain, whatever you have. Have them analyze your arches, foot shape, all that. You'll save yourself a lot of injuries and a lot of pain if you run on the right shoes. This is the one place I will advise you to splurge 100% of the time.

4. Set goals. For me, it was a distance to run without stopping. Then a total number of miles per month. Then a race. I'm currently signed up for three more races this year, but my next milestone goal is this damned hill in my neighborhood. I'll get all the way up it without collapsing one of these days.
You know yourself better than I do. What will motivate you?

5. The Internet is a really smart place sometimes. /r/running and this blog have been so clutch for me. Find other runners to talk to. Follow motivational Instagram accounts. Download an app like RunKeeper, MapMyRun, Nike+ Running — whichever works best for you. The community is a pretty damn cool place. Come on in and get comfortable.



6. You will have great runs and bad runs. One day you'll break a personal record and the next day you'll slog through a mile. It happens. Give yourself a high-five for making an effort that so many are unable to or unwilling to make, and do better next time. A bad run does not a bad runner make.

7. Track your progress. A day will come a month or two or three into your training where you think about giving up. When you look back at how far you've come and the fact that you're now able to do things you never were before, you'll likely banish those negative thoughts right out of your mind.

8. Get a foam roller and thank me later.
Sweet, heavenly roller stick, I would be lost crying over my enraged muscles without you.

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We're bordering on obnoxiously long now, so I'll wrap it up. But if there are any specific questions you have or things I should elaborate on or things you think I got dead wrong, please shout it out in the comments! Let's get some good information-sharing happening here! :)

Side note: Today is the 118th Boston Marathon! Those who experienced the tragedy there last year, my heart is with you. You inspirational maniacs running it today, my heart is with you too. #runhappy

Comments

  1. Geez, reading this makes me miss running like I used to. With me, it's such a love-hate relationship. Even when I was pretty fit, I still had runs where I wanted to die, and times when my legs felt like concrete. I'm totally with you on the goals. I didn't enter races to win (I'm pretty slow!) but having a date set where I had something to train for was so good for my motivation! Keep being awesome!

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    1. Thanks Panda! I have no delusions of winning any race (I'm rather slow, comparatively, too!), but I'm very much a goal-oriented person so the races I'm entering are crucial for that — plus, fun :) But the only person I'm ever competing with is myself, and I do that every time I lace up for a run!

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  2. I think this is a great post!!!!
    It's so easy to get sucked into buying all the running gear and to look like a runner but never actually run. When you first start just get a good pair of shoes and go run. The other stuff comes later.

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    1. Thanks! & agreed. No matter how cute they are, those hot pink neon shorts aren't going to make running a mile any easier if you don't put the work in ;) glad you liked this one!

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  3. this was great! I've been considering starting to run, but when I was younger & would run my hips popped out of place & that's really freaking painful. My back & hips are better than they used to be, but I'm scared to try! I might have to give it a go & test the waters!

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  4. i was never a runner and still think i'm not but i love me some trail runs. i could run trails all day!! i think for me, the environment is what i need; roads never did it for me but trails...i could go on forever!

    -kathy
    Vodka and Soda

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  5. Just found this through Kristen (See You in a Porridge) and I LOVE it! I'm a runner too and couldn't agree more with everything you said. Keep on keepin' on!

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  6. Somewhere deep down I long to be a runner. I don't know why, I hated having to run the straights and walk the curves in gym (isn't that how we ALL did it?!) Now, I think I love/hate it because it hurts my ankle. My lungs can handle it but with one foot having an arch and the other being flat it creates ankle and knee problems. I need to hit Road Runners and be fitted for proper running sneaks but shelling out those dolla dolla bills makes me sick. I should probably start saving...

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  7. I'm going to take this to heart. Thanks Alyssa!

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  8. The idea for icing your shins is genius!!! I want to be a runner, but I've never made it, I keep trying though

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