Last year, the day before a the Seawheeze half marathon, someone asked me, when I started running? I sort of fumbled a bit to answer the question. And I think I came up with something estimated at about 10 years ago, which puts me at about the time when I graduated from college.
But that’s not really true because I ran before that. I ran in college to try to “stay in shape”. It didn’t really work if that was the goal. I ran in high school when I played lacrosse. I ran in grade school and middle school playing soccer. And before that, I ran those dreaded laps in gym class that we have all probably experienced at one point or the other. And I ran away from boys during recess around the 2nd and 3rd grade. Which was probably the most fun running of all. Purposefully slow to get caught. Ya, maybe I was a flirt at recess. What gives?
But really, it brought me to thinking, what makes a runner a runner?
I have plenty of clients and friends who tell me every day that they aren’t runners. In fact, that they hate running. That they are slow. That they get bored. That they aren’t built for it.
To all this, I am always inclined to ask about their experience with running? Not to press the fact that they should run – because it truly is not for everyone – but just to examine how it is that they have related to running up to that point.
Often, it’s been on a treadmill or as part of a dreaded gym experience years prior.
Seriously, I hope someone is revamping PE programs to make up for the emotional devastation it has caused 98% of people. I think all the fitness classes now are seriously meant to fix the damage that PE did to everyone’s psyche back in the day.
My experience with running
My story with running as far as I can remember, began to take shape into something in college when I made the decision to not try out for the lacrosse team freshman year. I was faced with a big question mark with what to do to stay active and in shape. It is now pretty clear that no matter of working out was going to shave off the late night hot pockets and beer consumption over a 4 year period but that’s beside the point.
Eating clean is everything. Who knew and who cared back then?
In college I would run 3 miles, feel pretty tired at the end and then follow it with a nutritious meal of pizza. Balance, right? But my cap on running in college stayed at 3 miles with the exception of maybe one 5K race every blue moon. It became pretty boring and uninspiring.
Finding my teacher
I graduated from college and moved to Washington, D.C. I joined a gym and started to work out there regularly after work a few days a week. I’d mix that with runs in the city. And on these runs, I discovered the city. I discovered myself. And through these things, I suppose I discovered that I enjoyed running.
I was going through some early 20's life crap like break ups, drinking too much while having a real job, losing my grandparents. Really pretty standard stuff, but now that I think back on it, running actually let me work through a lot of the grudge and the fun that was happening back then.
I started to make real food for myself, which did loads for my energy and overall health... talk about an AHA moment.
April of my first year in D.C. (I arrived in August – the hottest, Swampiest, least sexy DC month of the year), a co-worker who had been planning to run the Cherry Blossom 10 mile race got injured and sent out an email offering up her bib number. I didn’t know if I could do 10 miles, but I responded immediately that I’d take it.
important Life Note: this was about the time when I started to make impulsive decisions like this (which continues now) and it serves me well most of the time. They usually relate to fitness and travel so it could be worse. It just brings forward something I truly believe in.
You are your own decision maker so what the heck are you waiting for? Being scared is not a good excuse, but it's one we all struggle with everyday.
Bib acquired, unofficial entry set up, I decided I might look up a few training tips. I reached out to my brother who had been a cross-country runner in high school and a recreational runner since then (just placing 1st or 2nd in his age groups in races in California every once and a while - #nbd) and embarked on my first ever self-motivated training program.
The week before the race, I ran 10 miles on my own to make sure I could do it. I remember that run like it was yesterday. It included Roosevelt Island where I encountered a deer. A deer. In the middle of DC. I mean, bring on the runner’s high! I was euphoric.
Now, I see deer a lot – especially in the Berkeley Hills - and they sort of gross me out but hey, it was a novelty at that point. You see a lot of things when you run, and it is awesome.
I ran that 10 mile race at 10 minute miles. I didn’t care about the time. It felt so good to finish. And after it, I knew I was hooked on running and maybe even a bit on races. The excitement and energy on a race day is spectacular even when you aren’t racing the race.
My running has progressed and continues to evolve over time. I've improved my pace, participated in some challenging runs and am am a fan of the half-marathon distance.
But mostly, I’m a fan of just getting out there and using my legs to go. Anywhere. It clears my mind. It burns. And it feels spectacular.
But you know what? It is still SO hard for me. Some days, I really don’t enjoy it. And some days, I feel like the slowest human being alive. But I still love it because running is my teacher. And I never stop learning from it. As they say, there is always someone faster than you. Always someone slower. What matters to me is the challenge with myself.
I’d venture to say that for many people, an escorted run outdoors may shift your perspective on it. Perhaps it won’t transform you into devout runners but it may allow you to be more open to the idea.
Maybe this will be one of my San Francisco endeavors. To take people on guided runs around the city!
Now that I’m in a new city, I’ve gone on some exploration runs and this is a gorgeous place to do it. The hills are teaching me a lot. It’s a whole new mentality and challenge. My runs are full of life lessons and cliché’s that go through me head as I tumble through the hills.
But I can’t wait to do more. Any suggested running routes or trails in the San Francisco or the area are welcome!