Let me tell you how I got into running.
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, the track coach came over the intercom and announced that the team would have tryouts the following week.
So, I looked at one of my best friends and said, “Hey, you want to try out for the track team?”
A week later, we were out there on the track ready to become all-stars!
The very first practice, the coach had us do a simple exercise: run for 10 minutes straight without stopping. Sounds easy, right? So many things take longer than ten minutes. Watching my favorite TV show, making cookies, and mowing the yard all take longer than that.
Well, for anyone who has started out with running, 10 minutes is actually a REALLY long time. Like, halfway to infinity- long time!
We started building a foundation that day, one minute at a time. And, slowly, we were able to increase our endurance and eventually even our speed. After two seasons of track, we had the genius idea to start a cross country running program at our school.
Long distance running
Thinking that we were distance runners because we ran the 800-meters (half mile), was like equating NASCAR drivers to punk kids racing their dad’s Corvette. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
We found ourselves a willing faculty dupe (excuse me, “sponsor”), and we were off to the races. Little did we know, she was going to make us run…and run…and run some more. A mere 3.2 miles was short in our mind, but way longer in practice. We didn’t realize that we’d actually have to run more like 10 miles in practice.
But, as with running the 800-meters, we eventually built up our endurance and speed. Before long, 3.2 miles didn’t seem so bad. Not that we won at any of the meets, but we usually ended up in the top 30%.
In high school, I enjoyed being an athlete and the respect I got from that status. I also liked how impressive it sounded when I told people about how far I could run.
The truth, though, is that I hated running. I did it for so many reasons, but not because I enjoyed it as an activity.
So, when I got to college I quit. The extent of my running became the quick 5 minute jog to warm up before lifting weights or playing basketball.
I did run 6 miles, once, when I was a senior. That was truly the end of my romantic view of running. I was so exhausted and sick, I swore off distance running forever.
Over the years, I picked up several other interests. I particularly enjoyed racquetball, and played that quite a bit. I played a little church-league softball, but wasn’t good for much but running the bases. Golf is something fun to pass the time, but not really that physically challenging.
These other sports helped me keep my condition in adequate shape, and I never felt inadequate when someone would ask me to join an athletic activity. More to the point, I never felt like I looked “out of shape”.
Things started to change after we had our first child. Suddenly, all that free time I had was gone. No more racquetball games, no more golf, no more softball. My total focus was at home on my family.
And, exhaustion slowly set in. Those late nights and early mornings started to zap my energy, and I’d find myself sleeping or resting every chance I got. Exercise? No, thank you- I just want a bed!
Then, along come kids two and three. What was I thinking before?! I had so much time when there was only one of them to handle! Now, I knew what it meant to have a busy life.
By then, I was in my early 30’s and starting to see the effects of my self-neglect. Maybe a little pooch in the mid-section. Maybe a lack of endurance and energy. Maybe a decrease in my overall health.
Saved by my brother, of all people
One day, my brother texts me and asks if I want to run in this mini-Marathon with him the next spring.
My brother and I are very different people. We don’t really have any common interests or activities, and we don’t really spend a lot of time together. But, growing up we were best friends, so I think, “well, this could be something that brings us closer again.”
Then, I remember: I HATE RUNNING.
I’m pleased to report that the good brother in me won out. I started training in September, and ran the race in April the following spring.
Don’t think for a minute that I didn’t complain about running every chance I got. About running 5 miles, then 6 miles, then 8 miles and so on. I complained to everyone that would listen.
All throughout the training, my brother would text or call and he’d encourage me to run faster and farther. I had a good time trying to beat him, and there was a good-natured rivalry to the whole thing. The whole experience really brought us together, as I’d hoped it would.
But, something else was happening as we went along: I started to enjoy running!
Oh, I liked the way it made me feel, and the way it made me look. I had more energy when I was training than I’d had in several years. My body became slim and sleek and stronger than it had been, probably since high school.
Even beyond that, I found I liked the actual act of running. The wind in my face, the pavement gliding away beneath me, the power in my body as it strained it’s way up another hill for another mile. When I was running, I felt proud and strong.
Now, I truly regret all those years spent complaining about running; furious anytime someone would make me run more than my standard 5 minute warm-up. It turns out, I never really appreciated the activity.
As I write this, I’m in training again for another miniMarathon. I’m putting in the time and the miles, and it’s easier now than it was last time.
These days I find solace and strength in the midst of my runs, and that’s what keeps me coming back.
Everything else is just a fringe benefit.