Remember back when you were a little kid in elementary school…when the bell rang for recess, we couldn’t get outside fast enough. We ran for the doors, and when we reached them, we kept on running. Often with no direction or endpoint in mind. We just ran and screamed and laughed maniacally, like little crazy people. After sitting at our desks all morning or afternoon, it felt amazing to run and let our bodies move so fully and freely.
You know what? Running is the same as a grown up. (Er, minus the screaming and laughing maniacally part.) It feels so good to move.
The enjoyment I had running as a little kid was replaced with a sickening dread of running sometime in my junior high school years. The 12 minute run we had to do in gym class several times each year…you know the one – lap upon lap around an uninspiring gymnasium?…was enough to make anyone hate running. My teachers never taught us how to run or build up our endurance, they just started the clock and told us to run. I think the longest I ever lasted was 3 minutes.
Perhaps as a result of my crappy high school running experiences, I developed the opinion that people who chose running as their workout of choice were crazy people. I would see them out in droves on Sunday mornings in Toronto and think they were part of some cult I wanted nothing to do with. The Cult of Runners.
Then one beautiful autumn day, I was out for a walk in a forested park near my condo. Some runners passed me on the trail, and something tweaked in my head. Some long-dormant part of me woke up, and I suddenly had the urge to pick up my pace and run. So I did. I lasted about a minute and a half, but you know what? I didn’t hate it. I was surrounded by nature, enjoying a gorgeous day, AND getting my heart rate up. Other runners waved at me as we passed each other. Just like that, I went from scoffing at the Cult of Runners to wanting to join it.
My pathetic endurance was going to be a problem, though. I was in awe of people who could run for long durations, like 10 minutes. How could I get there too?
I had heard about Learn to Run clinics, but the idea of signing up for one struck me as silly. Didn’t I know how to run? It’s like walking, only faster? I just wanted to learn how to run for longer lengths of time. That clinic seemed to be my best bet though, as the next option prepared people to run a 5K race. That was a bit too ambitious for this kid. Learn to Run, it was.
Turned out to be the best thing I could have done. Not only did I learn how to increase my endurance through interval training, I also learned how to avoid injury – which was very important to me as I had struggled with a serious back problem for many years and didn’t want to risk a setback. I learned how to stretch properly, what kind of shoes were best for my feet, and how to fuel my body properly for running. And you know what I did 10 weeks later when that clinic was finished? I ran the same 5K race that the other clinic was preparing people to run.
And so began my love for running. The natural high I was on after completing my first race lead me to sign up for an 8K race in the early spring, followed by a 10K race in the late spring, both of which I ran with friends, thus taking the running/racing experience to an entirely new level of enjoyment.
And then things got really crazy…I signed up for a half-marathon training clinic. Doing the clinic didn’t mean I had to actually run the race – that’s what I told myself whenever I had heart palpitations about the challenge I had just undertaken. I hated – absolutely hated – the first few sessions with my clinic group. There was a clear divide in our group – people like me who had some running experience and were tentatively/nervously considering running their first half marathon, and people who already had a bunch of half marathons under their belts and were obsessed with improving their finish time. Pushing past the 10K mark, in the dark and dead of winter, with a group atmosphere permeated with competitive edginess was turning out to be not a lot of fun. I contemplated dropping out, but then I made a friend in the group. Sarah had run several half marathons before, but she wasn’t up herself and all braggy about it. There was no ego to her, and we kept a similar pace when we ran, so I stuck it out. In May, after 4 long months of hill drills, speed training, and long and steady Sunday runs, we ran the Good Life Half Marathon in Toronto. (As daunting as that race seemed to me, I just couldn’t justify not running it after putting in all that training effort.) I had set a finish time goal that I managed to beat by 8 minutes. (In the running world, that is amazeballs, people.) (Sorry, that was a bit braggy of me.) (Yes, I do realize that ‘braggy’ is not an actual word.)
The half marathon was a great experience. I never want to run another one as long as I live, but I’m really glad to have done it.
That race was a few years ago. Since then, I have stuck with running, only keeping to saner distances like 5 and 10K. I do other types of workouts too, but there is just something about finishing a run that is so personally satisfying to me.
Today I went for my first run since having my son. Actually it was my first run since getting pregnant almost a year ago. I can’t say it was easy after so much time not running, but it felt great. No, it felt fantastic! One of my good friends said that she felt her ass beginning to fuse with the couch while she was on maternity leave – I totally know what she means. After so much time spent sitting with my son, to move so freely and fully again was exhilarating. I might have even screamed and laughed maniacally a little bit.