I never used to like running, and was totally fine with that. I am pretty active, after all, and did my fair share of crazy speedwalking, city scouring on foot or by bike, plus doses of hiking, tennis, and dancing whenever I could manage it. Plenty to keep the arteries free and flowing.
But then, one morning two years ago, I found out I was a runner. It was a few days before my first backpacking trip with my boyfriend’s outdoorsy Oregonian family, and I was keen to make a good impression. We’re talking 8-day trip in the backcountry, and while I’m plucky and determined and quite love getting dirty, I can’t do such things as light fires, and will likely attract bears unless told how not to. So I figured my best bet would be to keep up on the trail.
So, rather than, say, drive to work from my boyfriend’s house, I opted to walk the 6.5 miles – usual heavy backpack in tow would be decent training, yes? But then that was taking far too long, so I started jogging the intersections… and realized I didn’t mind keeping that up. So I ran 6 miles straight for the first time in my life. And grinned when I realized that just happened.
Fast forward two years and I’m now running my first half marathon tomorrow. I wish I could say I had the guts to initiate the idea myself, but alas the final push came when a dear friend said she was running one and wanted company. I’ll report on the results (or, at least, what it was like) after the weekend, but first, some quick tips on what got me to not just willingly run, but to love it. Still surprises me to this day.
I’m pretty sure you’re aware of the obvious pluses: runner’s high, excellent butt, healthy heart, all that. We all know these things and yet don’t do such things as go for a run, or generally exercise as much as we’d like to.
So my list includes some of the tricks – positive mind games, if you will – that you can play on yourself to get the habit going… and then, soon enough, surprise yourself when you want to get out there with no prompting at all.
- Trick your leg muscles into running. In my case, I used to have a 25-minute walking commute in San Francisco. My roommate and I inevitably left late for the train in the morning, so we jogged down the first few blocks of hills (downhill running is so gratifying) and then sprinted through any intersection with a countdown clock of two seconds or more. Other people prefer the more normal build-up of the run-walk method – run one minute, walk two (or whatever ratio you prefer). Either way, don’t expect that your muscles enjoy the motion of running right off the bat – but soon they will.
- Find some way of fun running. For me, it’s getting on a trail – it’s not running if you’re just skipping around over roots and such. For others, it might be chasing little kids, playing catch with someone who throws terribly, etc. Basically, we found running pretty fun as a kid – totally on the list of playtime activities. So find your own version. This will accomplish the leg muscle tricking as well.
- Read about it first. When I announced to my friends that I was finally running a half, one sent me a link to Born to Run. He’s never liked running but said that simply reading this book makes him excited to take up the sport. And I’d agree. I grin now when I run, and have much better form – an important read when I was on the verge of injury at the start of my training – in my over-zealous, sprinting mode. Another favorite: ChiRunning.
- Think about whether or not you’re a racer. If you are, then signing up for a 5K is probably great motivation to just get out there and try it. For me, if I have to do something, I sometimes fear I won’t want to (and indeed have lacked a bit of motivation the past week or two, right when I knew I really had to get out for that last pre-race push). Hence, I put off a race for a couple of years, and will admittedly be a little happy to run as little or as much as I want, as often (or not) as I want next week. I already feel like a rebel. Perhaps the apt point, at least for a person like me, is to change it up – sometimes train, because that has definitely made me more focused and faster, even dared me to call myself a runner. But then sometimes just keep it at play status, and follow what your body wants to do that day, running or not.
- Use running to explore. In the spirit of this very blog, I obviously needed to mention this one. As much as I love walking my legs off over hours in a new city, I’ve also come to really appreciate the running introduction to a destination – or even just new corners of one’s hometown. It seems to me to be the perfect balance of going fast enough to really cover some ground, but slow enough (compared to, say, a bike, and definitely a car) to absorb the details and take a bit in. Slow enough to bring a camera along. Favorite recent exploration runs have been in Paris (my first jaunt down the Seine, 7ish miles) and Dubrovnik (9 miles = able to see what lies outside the walled city).
So, we’ll see if I’m singing a different tune on Saturday around noon. But, for now, I also just appreciate how nonchalant I almost feel about running this half marathon tomorrow. Just over two years ago, I distinctly remember saying to myself that I would never (dumb word to ever try to assert) run a marathon. And balked when a friend first suggested I consider a half marathon.
Today, I’m considering a full (this is in writing, wow). And what does MasterCard say about changing one’s perspective, one’s belief of his or her own capabilities? Priceless. No matter how it comes about.