I started running (which is still a generous term for what my body actually does) back when I lived in New York as a strategic diversion from an unhappy work life. Similar to how I pinch my self in the side during a flu shot, it worked well — one form of pain distracting from the other. And I do mean pain.
The only thing I’ve avoided in equal measure to running is waking up early and my new habit required me to do both. I started out sluggishly willing myself around the reservoir in Central Park, a grueling 1.58 mile trek, on a random early morning in December. I don’t remember why it had to be then; there was no big “a-ha” moment. I wasn’t training for any specific reason and I had no sense of how far or fast I wanted to go — I wasn’t even sure what I was capable of.
It only took a few minutes for my lungs to start burning and my feet to ache. I quickly discovered I had no where to go but up. The next day, my only goal was to get around the Reservoir track faster than I had the day before. And I did. I beat my already abysmal time by a whopping 2 seconds. A few weeks later I was home for the holidays and testing out my progress on my parents’ treadmill. Having been purchased sometime in the 90s, it shuttered a little when I first turned it on but quickly calmed to a slow and reassuring hum. I experimented with different paces. For the first time, I ran 2 miles without stopping. I was elated. Sweating profusely and on the verge of throwing up, but elated all the same.
When I returned to New York I couldn’t wait to try out the loop that had always bested me. This time, I thought. This time I conquer you. And I did — I ran the entire Reservoir track without stopping. And I cried a little when I was done.
It’s been 9 months since I started and my relationship with running is, and will likely always be, a complex love/hate relationship. Even though I’m still running 3-4 times per week, there are good and bad days. I’m intimidated by the slightest elevation and I sometimes give up too quickly and I’m not nearly as fast as I want to be. I don’t know what that runner’s high thing is all about and, even though I’ve been able to run a bit farther and a bit faster, it’s never gotten easier.
I think I keep doing because it makes me feel in control. Even when it’s especially painful, I know that I’m the one pushing myself, pushing to get through it. It also reminds me that I’m always capable of more than I believe I am. If you’re thinking you might want to start running, I’d recommend against it. But if you’re like me and will probably just do it anyway, here’s a few things I’ve learned:
I run faster outdoors. I don’t know why. Buy a pair of running shoes that you only use for running. Map a route that has landmarks as mile markers. Not checking your phone to see when it will be over every few seconds makes it more enjoyable. Soundtracks make the best running playlists. #Hamilton Eat a snack an hour before. Focus on endurance – not speed. Call yourself a runner at bars. It sounds cool.