I shared previously how running was one part of my overall weight loss journey. After the weight came off, running has become on its own independent journey in my life. I want to share that journey and some of the things I’ve learned along the way, so that no one compares their start to my middle and I say my middle because I am by no means an expert, I just have a passion I want to share. I’ve come a long way from the 5 minute runs I could barely squeeze out ten years ago, so if you’re in that place or haven’t even started yet, don’t feel defeated that you’re not at a half marathon yet. Be gentle with yourself.
- Be reasonable and realistic. If you want to start running, be realistic with yourself. Remember how I was a “serial quitter“? During my struggling high school years, I signed up for a half marathon hoping it would get me to lose weight and this perfect ideal runner image I had in my head – big mistake! I signed up, I hadn’t run consistently EVER, I got shin splints and I was training in the freezing Indiana cold for a May race. I didn’t even finish two weeks of training and thereby just added to my misery and confirming my sense of self shame. In contrast, when I started running the second time around, I decided the days of the week that worked for me to run and I committed to running 5 minutes and walking 30 three times a week. I had no excuses because it fit right in my schedule. Each week I added 1 minute. I didn’t buy any nice workout clothes, I literally had a stop watch that was five bucks from Walmart to time my five minute runs. As days turned into weeks and months, I earned my own trust and I grew stronger. Now that I’m ten years into running, I’ve just now started running at 5am and in the cold of winter, but if that seems unrealistic to you, you probably shouldn’t count on that being your plan because you’ll bail the first chance you get.
- There’s no such thing as a “runner’s high”. Yes, there are times when you feel really strong on a run and seem to find a groove – your breathing aligns with your steps and you feel like you could run for ages, but most runs, well, they kind of suck or even still you feel great for one mile and terrible the next. Before I signed up for the half I bailed out on, I was reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and desperately wishing I could be like Bee – long, blonde hair waving in the wind while she effortlessly runs along. Nope, running is more like the second book when Bee has to lose weight and she feels awkward and jiggly in all the wrong places. I don’t want to sound like a kill joy, but there are good days and there are bad, running is like any long term commitment – it’s hard work. However, I promise that while pain is temporary, your pride is forever (thank you Eric Koontz for your quote) and you won’t ever feel bad about going out for a run. You will only feel bad about the ones you skip.
- Running and life have seasons. Last year I trained and ran the half at Fort Ben. It wasn’t my greatest but I had an 11 month old on race day, I was nursing, my husband was traveling out of town, and I had a lot of work on my plate. That’s ok, running is the one thing that helped me deal with stress and it certainly helped shed the baby weight. It’s not always about the best time, but the journey that inevitably makes you stronger. I certainly don’t ever regret training for a sub par race, I regret if I don’t train at all. Again, be gentle with yourself and know that there is a season for everything.
- If you run, you are a runner. I am so passionate about this. It took me years to call myself a runner. People would say, “Oh, Erika, you’re a runner, right?” And I’d be all, “Well, I’m not running right now…I mean, yeah, kind of…I’m super slow…” Wrong. If you run, no matter how fast or slow or how often, you’re a runner and you should take pride in that – own it!
- Race and Reward. One thing I should have done sooner was sign up for a race – I race I could finish. Choose a reasonable race and one that’s well done, and you will feel that much more like a runner, you’ll keep going because you want to fulfill your commitment and you’ll get the runner’s high of crossing that finish line. Even better yet, sign up with someone you know will follow through so you have a running buddy and accountability partner – this has been a game changer for me – and then you can create a tribe of runners to share the journey. Finally, reward yourself at the end. I usually promise myself that if I complete my training and race, I’ll get myself a fun piece of running gear.