Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So You Want To Be A Runner

So you've decided to start running? Congratulations! You won't regret it. Most of the runners I know are positive, happy people. There are some things you should know, though.

The first few days, maybe even a week or two, will be wonderful. They will be challenging days, but filled as you are with such enthusiasm and excitement it won't be difficult to convince you to go for your regular run.

There will come a time shortly after this initial burst of enthusiasm when it will get really hard. You will want to quit. You will tell your running buddy that it's too much work, you're not getting any faster, and why is it so hard to run?! You decide that running isn't your thing.

Stick with it. Your time is coming.

The months will pass and soon you'll be able to run 20, 30 minutes at a time. Oh glorious running! This is what it's all about. When you can legitimately go out for a run, and do nothing but run - no walking for me, you'll say.

Then your running buddy will suggest you enter a race. Sounds like fun! T-shirts and medals and goodie bags at the end. You might start with a 5K, or a 10K if you're ambitious. You'll become addicted to the incredible feeling of standing at the start line, covered in anticipation. Mere hours after finishing your first race, you'll start looking for the next one.

Then you'll begin to consider what you once thought ridiculous, crazy, and impossible. Running a marathon. You'll think about this for awhile, but then common sense will kick in and you'll admit that you should probably start with a half-marathon.

One of your colleagues will give you a training schedule. You'll be amazed at how many people in your office are runners. Just like you! You'll start talking about running all the time, even when no one is asking.

"What's up for the weekend?" they'll ask.

You start with "Oh I've got a long run on Sunday" and then proceed to tell them about how your training is coming along, how you ran a new PR (personal record - it's important to learn the lingo) the other day, and how you've been experimenting with various gels and energy bars during your longer training sessions.

You won't notice when their eyes glaze over and a distinct air of disinterest enters the space between you. It doesn't matter. Because you love running. And talking about running.

You'll sign up for a subscription to Runner's World, because now when you're not running, or talking about running, you can read about it! Yay!

You'll complete your first half-marathon and swear off running forever.
Because it was hard. Very hard.
Two days later, you will sign up for another race.

You'll run a few races, getting faster with each one, until you get lazy and slack off on the training. Then you'll run your slowest race yet, but you'll say it's ok, because you were just doing that one for fun anyway.

Even though you know you're destined to be a middle-of-the-pack runner, you'll get a bit discouraged when you read about the guy who's not really a runner but who decided to do a race just for fun, and ran it 30 minutes faster that your fastest time. Or the friend who, in her first marathon, accidentally qualified for the Boston Marathon. Really? I don't think so.

Never mind them. Running is about you. Unless you're an Olympic athlete, there will always be people faster than you. And even the Olympians don't get the gold every time. So remember to run your own race.

You'll reach a point where you start to falter, and the joy of running seems like a distant memory. You've conquered the distance goals you set for yourself, but lack the gumption to press on to greater heights. Or lengths, as the case may be.

When this happens, there are a few things you can do.

Quit training and just start running again. For fun. Without a watch or a GPS. Run freely, with no strings attached.

Find something new to work on. Maybe you've always just plodded along, but now you want to work on speed, or become a master hill runner.

If you're a road runner, take to the trails and learn some technical running.

Or just take a break. Because every now and then you need some time apart from your beloved running to appreciate it again.

And you will come back to it.

Because deep down you know what you've become. No matter how fast or slow you are, no matter how far you can run. Miles logged, medals earned, and negative splits are only part of the story. Whether you're knee-deep in training or taking a breather, nothing can change the fact that you are now a runner.

Welcome to the club.

1 comment:

the prairie penguin said...

Huh! Sounds like someone I know!