I Think I Finally “Get” Running

I did cross-country for three years in high school and ran track (pole vault, mostly) for nearly six, going partway into college. But in all that time, I never got past the point where going out and running 3 miles felt hard. It was always unpleasant at best.

Jess spent most of this year training for the Twin Cities Marathon. She went from hardly running at all to looking forward to getting up early to run 10 miles, and then she finished the marathon with relative ease. It was incredibly inspiring. Somewhere in the middle, that inspiration took hold and I finally started running again. I got sidelined by sickness for an annoyingly long time and ran in fits and starts for a while, but I have finally settled in to running at least three days a week. I recently ran for an hour on the treadmill just because I felt good and I wanted to listen to another episode of Serial. Then I ran a 5K a few days later and kept speeding up the treadmill because I realized I could go faster without feeling like I was pushing my limits. Then I got up at 5:30 in the morning to run six miles outside in the cold with some friends — it was probably the furthest I have run since high school — and it felt amazing.

This is crazy. I’ve never felt this way about running. I actually want to get up and go running. I think about running even when I’m not running, and not because I am dreading my next run. I think about running because I look forward to my next run.

I’ve heard people talk about why they run all my life. I grew up going to 10Ks with my mom and dad. My sister started running cross-country in high school and then added marathons in college or law school — I forget which. I was always around runners who talked about needing to run. They mentioned endorphins, I’m sure, and how great running makes them feel and said all the things people say about running. I always responded along the lines of “that’s just not me.” I really thought that was true. (I think Jess felt the same way before she started training for the marathon.) Now I realize it is me; I just never before put in the work to get to the point where it could be me.

Right now, I am laser-focused on one thing: running three days a week through the winter. Getting to the point where I can get myself out the door for a run three days a week seems like a small victory now that I am doing it. It’s certainly no marathon. (Go Jess!) But still, it took me 37 years to get to this point, so maybe it is a pretty big victory after all. Granted, I’m still only a few months in, and I definitely have a history of not sticking with things. So I know I’m just starting to “get” running and I have a long way to go before I feel like I can call myself a runner. But I’ve never gotten this far before, and I’m pretty proud of myself.

If I can keep it up until the weather is good enough for running and cycling outside, I think I can keep this up indefinitely. I sure hope so. I want to greet spring in good shape. (I’m also trying to beat 21 minutes in a 5K.)

In the meantime, it feels good to finally “get” the whole running thing.

Featured image: “Running part 1” by The World According To … is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0.

3 Replies to “I Think I Finally “Get” Running”

  1. Hey Sam,

    This really spoke to me. Last year I was playing basketball with my 9 year old son and his friends and I couldn’t even run halfway down the court without getting winded and having to rest. Not only was I embarrassed, I felt pathetic and old at my lack of endurance at only 39 years of age.

    I have no background in formal sports or exercise like you, so it took me a while to even acclimate to the idea, but I decided to go to the gym and start running on the treadmill.

    At first, I only walked briskly at about 2.5 mph. I did that for a month every single day till I started to get bored, then I varied the speed gradually increasing my endurance. Then I got bored again and varied the gradient.

    Today I’m up to 5.5 mph, and I go up and down alternating gradients, from 0-4-5-6-9…and then all over again, for 13+ minutes.

    It’s the greatest feeling in the world. I can race up a hill now without even thinking twice, whereas a year ago it would’ve put me on the floor, panting and trying to catch my breath for the next 15 minutes.

    I love knowing that I’m building my endurance, my heart, and oxygenating my blood. And it’s exciting to see what I’m made out of, i.e. how long I can go before quitting. I usually get a second wind right around minute 11, and then I feel like I can go forever.

    It’s such an awesome experience, and I try to never go more than 2 days without it.

    My next goal is to start running outdoors, which is a completely different experience, from what I understand. Thanks again for sharing your running experiences. See you on the road sometime!

    1. Good for you!

      And you know, running outside isn’t as much of a change as you might think. Lots of people talk about how much easier the treadmill is, but mainly it’s just different. Outside, you set the pace by speeding up and slowing down, instead of by pushing buttons on the treadmill. And you take the hills as they come, of course. I much prefer running outside. Just not necessarily when it’s cold, wet, or icy.

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