Running used to be my least favorite thing in the world. In 8th grade, a friend convinced me to join the track team. I already hated running, and the 400 meter race that I was assigned did nothing to help (Have you ever raced 400 meters? It’s literally the worst race. Too long to sprint, but too short for you to pace yourself, so you try to flat out run the full thing, and feel like dying when you’re done. 0/10, would not recommend).
In high school, I hated having to run a timed mile in gym class. I was not a fast runner, I had no endurance, and I was in a “strength and conditioning” class, so all the boys in my class were running fast enough to lap me. However, my next door neighbor and I slowly got into exercising outside of gym class, and realized it made us feel good. A few afternoons a week, we would get together to run, either taking turns on her basement treadmill while watching TV, or running a 1-2 mile route around our neighborhood. Running a mile became a much better experience when I was running alongside a supportive friend, and I discovered that I no longer despised running with a burning, fiery passion.
However, running was still pretty low on my list of favorite exercises. In college, I occasionally went to the campus gym (I was paying for it along with my tuition, so it would be a waste not to go, right?). I always started my workouts with a short treadmill run – not because I enjoyed running, but because I didn’t feel like I had exercised unless I was sweating. I ran just enough to work up a sweat – usually about a mile – and then made my way to the floor to work on abs.
Nothing changed until two of my friends separately decided to train for half marathons. I followed their race photos on Facebook, and thought to myself, ‘Pshh. I could do that.’
Thus started my journey to half marathon. I may not have been into running, but I definitely have a competitive streak. If they could both run half marathons, so could I. Never mind the fact that I didn’t even like running. Never mind the fact that the farthest I’d ever run before was a 5k, and that was one of those Color Runs you do with friends for fun, without worrying about how fast you’re going.
I signed up for a half marathon in my hometown, which at the time was about six months away. The training program I would be following started off with a four-mile run, so I spent the first couple months leading up to the actual training just trying to get my endurance up so that I would actually be able to complete day one of training.
Day One of training was in July, and it was hot. I think I just ran around my neighborhood, and when I got back home, I just laid on the floor for a while to catch my breath. I remember feeling exhausted, but SO proud of myself for running the whole four miles.
The weeks wore on, and my long runs each week grew longer. Fortunately, my hometown has a really nice running trail, so I didn’t have to run endless laps around my neighborhood. I found myself actually enjoying my time on the trail – it was nice and quiet; and at about the three-mile mark, I crossed a bridge over a beautiful, sparkling lake. I found that for my longer runs, I didn’t really want or need music to pump me up. Instead, I started listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Audiobooks kept my brain engaged and interested during my runs, in a way that music hadn’t. I grew to enjoy my time on the trail with a storytelling voice in my ear.
Everything was going really well… until my long runs stretched to 8 and 9 miles long. As someone who hated running, I had never learned how to fuel up my body for a long distance run. I knew that I needed some food to keep me going, but too much food would just bounce around in my stomach while I ran, and make me feel sick. I didn’t know what to feed my body, and it was showing in my runs. Once my long runs got up to 9 miles, I found myself burning out and having to stop to walk a lot. It was really frustrating, because walking was NOT in my race day plans.
I struggled with fueling my body for my distance runs for a few weeks, until finally I remembered that a friend had recommended a plant-based protein shake to me ages ago. I started having a shake before my runs, and the difference was immediate. Suddenly I had the energy to get through 9 and 10 miles at a time! I was back on track to be ready for race day!
Now let me just say… when I first signed up for a half marathon, I had no idea how much time I would spend training. The long runs I had to get through each week took a LONG TIME. I was spending an hour and a half or two hours on the running trail each week. I had to actually plan time out of my day for running, rather than deciding spur of the moment to go for a jog.
Finally I made it to race day, and I ran an entire half marathon! While I had loved the solitude of training on my running trail, the energy of race day was electric. I loved having dedicated runners all around me to pump me up, and I loved seeing the amazing and witty signs from people standing along the road and cheering (“You’re the slowest one so far!” “If you pass out, I’ll pause your GPS!”). The energy from those around me really helped me stay energized for the entire 13.1 miles.
After that first race, I signed up for another. And then another one after that. I’ve run three half marathons so far, and I just started training for my fourth.
I guess this is my life now.
Be happy. Be healthy.