I’ve always admired runners; probably because I’ve always found running to be quite tortuous. Even though my brothers, my dad and my two sisters-in-law all ran marathons (yup, that would be marathons, plural), I never really caught the running bug. I was definitely inspired by them all, but not inspired enough to actually strap on running shoes. The thought of running for enjoyment and stress relief seemed like an oxymoron to me, and I was fine with doing my own “running” on the tennis court.
Except I wasn’t fine.
I wanted to be one of those runners. I wanted to experience the elusive “runners high”. I wanted to get up in the morning for a refreshing jog that would clear my mind and ready myself for the day ahead. And yes, I probably wanted the cool running shoes and cute outfits as well.
And so I set out to become a runner. And instead of doing something logical like using the “Couch to 5K” program, I tried a different approach. This strategy could probably best be called the “Cold Turkey Torture Method”, but it worked for me. Here’s how it all went down:
The first thing I did was join a running interest group at work. This would make me accountable to our Friday noon “Fun Runs” (yeah, I chuckled at that too – at first). This was also good because my company then paid for my entry fee into a 5K in September. If I had to run in front of others as part of an organized event, you’d better believe I was going to be prepared. There is nothing that motivates me more than avoiding public humiliation.
The next step of my plan was getting back into kettlebell and high intensity interval training, which I had done in the past. I knew that this strength, mobility and cardio training would really help with my running. Again, this was more accountability. Those classes made me work harder than I would have on my own. The trainers squeezed every last ounce of energy out of me, and that’s exactly what I needed. Some days (in my case, the heavy leg days) I felt a bit nauseous, but that was a sign it was working. In my mind, if I could do those classes then running would be a breeze in comparison.
Oddly I didn’t even start running for a good month or more after I started the kettlebells. Then one day I tried a 2-mile run that included a nasty hill. I stopped once at the top of the hill for about 30 seconds, but otherwise I ran the entire thing. (And when I say ran, I mean jogged.) But still, not too shabby for someone who wasn’t a runner.
Soon I was doing the 2.5-milers every Friday with the running group. I told myself to run my own race; there was no way I was going to keep pace with the others who had been running for years. Plus, I’m not going to lie – this was one of the hottest and most humid summers in Wisconsin history, and those runs were often quite horrible. In addition, all of the runs started with a giant hill. At first I would stop and catch my breath about 3-4 times per run. And then it was once. And now there are no stops, and I can run an entire 5K (albeit slowly) and then some.
So now here is the real shocking part: I’ve found myself getting up at 6:00 am to go running. And excuse me while I watch these pigs fly by, but I like it. I like the quietness of the streets, practically empty except for the dog walkers and a few other fellow runners. As I wave to the other runners, I feel like I’m finally in with the cool kids, or maybe some secret society. I also like the sense of accomplishment I get before I even get to work. I run up the hill alongside several college dormitories, thinking of the students inside who are still fast asleep. And I’m glad I’m not sleeping. Let me repeat that: I’m glad I’m not sleeping.
I can now call myself a runner.