If anyone had told me a year ago that I would become “a runner” I would have cackled right in their face. Running is something I have avoided at all costs for most of my life, particularly since I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma at the age of twelve. I stayed active in other ways, such as dance, volleyball, rock climbing, and snowboarding. I didn’t mind cardio, but the combination of monotony and duress I experienced when running was unbearable to me. I have tried to become a runner several times over the past decade, because growing up in Boulder, Colorado made it almost impossible to ignore the cult that is the running community. I spent the majority of my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood completely mystified by runners: you woke up at 5:30 today to run 10 miles and you’re happy about that? You voluntarily paid money to run 26.2 miles? You did it on purpose?? It was utterly bewildering.
Now, however, I run five or six days a week, I avidly read running articles, I closely scrutinize running shoes, running clothes, the weather, and my mileage. What changed? Well, about three things. The first and most significant factor in my very sudden change of heart was that I started managing social media for Run The Edge and reading hundreds of posts in their Facebook groups about how amazing running is. It is literally my job (and, honestly, my privilege) to read, produce, and share content about running, monitor the groups populated by our wonderful participants, and provide encouragement and motivation to runners. It is now my responsibility to not only support all of you who undertake our challenges, but also to connect with the global network of runners. The sudden exposure to the running community, even the virtual one, sparked curiosity in me and forced me to think about what I might be missing out on by refusing to run. And I have the worst FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
As not only a new runner, but a freshly converted anti-runner, I have noticed more than a few aspects of the activity that really surprise me. I’m sure whatever I am about to divulge will seem painfully obvious to you, either because you had a similar experience, or because I’m not exactly unique in my “Oh-wow-this-is-what-running-is-REALLY-like” epiphany, but I hope you will enjoy a sincere and authentic account of how it felt to start running for the first time in my life.
My first whole-hearted attempt at running was an “easy” 3 miles in April with my boyfriend, who ran cross country in high school (I resent him for this, but it’s nice that one of us knows what we’re doing). I dug out my old trail running shoes (relics from one of my previous attempts to get into running… they mostly served as walking and hiking footwear), informed him emphatically of my asthma, and asked to do a route with little to no elevation change. He conceded and took me on a jog that was entirely paved and fairly flat. I was uncomfortable after the first mile and suffered mightily for the rest of the run, but I didn’t walk at all because I was too proud to admit how much difficulty I was having. Instead, I collapsed in a heap of tears and wheezing just before we arrived back at our starting point. This set the precedent for the next several weeks, but I was determined to make it a habit, and overcome my asthma. My running did improve slightly, but it had not reached the point to where I looked forward to it. I was still wheezing badly during and after every run, but I was slowing improving my stamina. I could wheeze for longer now, YAY ME. I convinced myself that my asthmatic symptoms HAD to ameliorate if I just kept running and forced my body to adapt. Overcoming my asthma and achieving better physical health (which translated into being a better climber/ snowboarder/ dancer) became the second major reason I decided to embrace running. I continued to put myself through hell twice a week, and was relieved to make it to June when I figured I could justify a respite because of a trip to Europe.
No such luck. While in Europe (France of all places), my boyfriend decided to lose weight (WHILE IN FRANCE), and I joined him out of solidarity (because who even wants to eat delicious French pastries and cheese and bread anyway?). Weight loss was the third important element of my decision to start (and and keep on) running seriously. We continued to run together in France, and when I returned to Colorado I fell into a steady rhythm of running at least four days a week and steadily increasing my mileage.
Several changes snuck up on me during the weeks of summer following my trip to Europe, which can only be explained by a burgeoning (and slightly begrudging) appreciation of running. I began to respect the sport and felt genuine interest in things that had been completely foreign to me. Splits? Strava? Insoles? These were concepts that had eluded my attention until I began running regularly. I used to be happy if I just completed three miles without absolutely suffering, now I was pushing nine miles at a 9:30 average pace (a sentence I NEVER thought I would type), seeking ways to challenge myself and improve my running. I was shocked to discover, sometime in mid-July how much I CARED. I was sending Strava screenshots of my run to my (frankly alarmed) mother. I was now the weirdo rising with the sun to prance my way around the trails next to my new home. I was jauntily greeting my bleary-eyed neighbors (who’s dogs had awoken them for a walk at this ungodly hour) on my way back from 5 miles at 6am. Why? How? Because I just “feel better when I run” and “I can’t NOT run.” Which, if I may speak with candor, were justifications I had until then regarded as utter poppycock. But I was finally beginning to understand, and they were actually TRUE. I observed with glee as my body began to change inside and out, validating my second and third reasons to really commit to running for the first time.
What most surprised me out of all of this was how easy it was to form the habit of running early in the morning before heading into work (where, lest we forget, I was absolutely saturated in running culture). It became as prosaic as brushing my teeth or showering. It was simply something I did, and it stealthily wove itself into my daily routine. I found myself seeking advice from my colleagues (it’s like having three elite, seasoned coaches) and incorporating special stretches, supplementary workouts, and dietary adjustments to improve my running.
I became a runner despite myself. My asthma began to fade, my climbing improved, my dancing stamina grew, and I’m sure I will see a difference in snowboarding as well. I still wheeze terribly sometimes, but only if I sprint or am faced with hills (no headway there, they are still the bane of my existence). Running became a part of my life much more easily than I had expected, and it successfully banished the FOMO. I can now relate to and interact with your posts and anecdotes on a personal level! And I can FINALLY understand what all the hype is about. I will admit though: now that the weather is cooling off, I’m finding it more and more difficult to drag myself out of bed at 6 am to run in the dark. But it's still worth it, weirdly!
So congratulations, RTEfam. Steeping myself in your amazing community inspired me to dip my toes into the running world, and I have fully taken the plunge. You converted me. I have officially registered for my very first race, the Antelope Canyon Half Marathon, which will take place March 9th, 2019! Look what you made me do...