For many of you who haven’t known me since childhood, it could come as a surprise that there was a time that the exercise I detested most was running. Swim a mile, sure. Run a mile, uh, no thank you. Hike for hours, yes please! Run for fun, not possible.
Then, before my senior year in college, I had a change of heart. So many fit people I knew were runners or at least ran as part of their training. Maybe it was time I gave it a try.
I have actually gone back and mapped my route, which was a whopping 2.28 miles. It took me 30 minutes and I know that because I would leave at 6:30 and be back by Jeopardy which started at 7.I was slow. My legs would actually ache going down the stairs the next day but I felt like I was conquering something – that voice inside my head that used to tell me “you are not a runner”.
Over time, I built up endurance. Running became something I wanted to do. I still wasn’t very fast but being able to run further distances or for longer time made me feel very accomplished. I used to run by myself because the friends I had were not runners and had not interest, or they were what I would call “real runners” and I couldn’t keep up. But this time alone running created something so special for me. It gave me time to think and to process. Or not think and enjoy being outside.
More time passed and I found people I could run with. I found groups and teams and friends and family. I found that “real runners” are everywhere and they are the people we see every day running fast or slow, alone or in groups, just enjoying the fact that they are running. The relationships I have forged over those miles are stronger than anything I would have imagined.
Even more time passed and I found another voice inside my mind quieted. The one who said “I am not a fast runner”. Turns out, I am fast. Not like Kara Goucher fast, but faster than I would have given myself credit for 20 years ago.
This is why I encourage anyone who wants to try a new challenge to go for a run. Maybe you’ll last a few minutes at first. But those few minutes will turn to 10 minutes. And 10s of minutes will turn into 30 and so on.
Maybe your legs will hurt.
Maybe you will get a cramp.
Maybe you’ll be joined by awesome people who will meet you at the crack of dawn to go for a run.
Maybe you’ll quiet some of the voices inside your own head.
And maybe, just maybe, you will start to feel that you are doing more than you thought you could. That you are pushing your own limits and redefining yourself in your own mind. And that you and I together can call ourselves runners.