High school was the first time I was ever really exposed to running any kind of distance more than around the track a time or two. I was on the varsity soccer team and can distinctly remember how petrified I was when I heard instructions to do a two or three mile “warmup” run. You can just imagine the look on my face when I heard those words. You want me to run how far…?
Thinking back to those days, it’s pretty apparent to me that those exact feelings are probably what keep a lot of people from ever getting off their couch to try the sport. And I don’t really blame them! Training for my first 5K (just a local race on the high school cross-country course) was one of the hardest things I had ever done up until that point in my life. If just over three miles of hard running was so daunting to someone who was fairly active in sports, I can only imagine how tough must be for someone who just wants to be able to say that they at least jogged it after never having any running experience.
There’s a lot to be learned from the first few runs when you begin adding up miles too, probably some of the hardest runs that will ever be attempted! After my first 5K, I didn’t do any more running through the entire course of my high school career or the first two years of college – I was vastly underprepared for that tough race and it just left a bad taste in my mouth.
But in late April earlier this year, something changed and I actually made the push to do something about running again. The first few weeks just began with a little short jog from my dorm room up to the gym and back. Then I started adding on a little bit of speed and really began considering my little prances as runs when I hit the three mile marker a week or two later.
But something was wrong. My feet were slapping the pavement, my breathing was irregular, I felt like I was going to puke after every single run around campus. There was absolutely nothing enjoyable about these runs. They hurt and my feet felt like they were on the verge of falling off every time I made it back to my room. This went on for over a week, my spirits were constantly falling every time I attempted to make some kind of meaningful progress.
Then research came into play. I read on a blog or a post somewhere that you should end a lot of your early runs feeling like you could go farther. Many people reported that if you felt sick and dizzy after running, especially as a new runner, you were hitting the pavement too fast or too long. I was doing this all wrong, I realized.
The next day, I went out and instead of attempting a sub-10:00 pace (a pace I didn’t realize how quick it was for my lack experience at the time), I shot for something in the 11 to 12 minute range. By some miraculously fast change, that run was completely different! I felt great! Not only could I hold my head up while I was running instead of being hunched over barely conscious of where I was placing my feet, I could actually enjoy and think about my run too.
There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe what a polarizing feeling my run gave me that day. Since then, I’ve been pushing for better times, longer distances, and more productive runs. The feeling that I get today from running is completely different than it was six months ago and the amount of knowledge that I have about the sport in general is astronomical compared to that point.
So to those out there that haven’t ran a day in their life or who have just picked up running and can’t seem to find a rhythm, take some time to really pull back on your runs. Start small, start easy, start slow. It might be intimidating to be ‘the slowest one on the block’ for a little while, but I promise that every day you are out there working out and pushing yourself to do something that you never have before, another person is standing on the sidelines and being inspired by exactly what you are doing.
It might be crazy to think that you are an inspiration to someone from the first day that you slip your foot into your new pair of pavement pounders, but there will always be someone with a desire that just needs the same little bit of encouragement that got you out the front door that day. To the new runners out there: running sucks, every bit of those first few days are going to be the worst that you ever feel. But if you can make it past that and keep moving your legs, you can become a success story! Running only sucks until you’re running!