Monday, December 29, 2014

Why do I do this (advice to a beginning runner).

My friend of mine is training for his first half marathon.  He was inspired by his wife, and set out to raise money for a charity (it is a a very worthy cause, kick in a few $ if you can).  I have noticed that his Facebook posts and email updates about running generally culminate with "No runners high yet", and I found myself thinking about ways to inspire him.  Whatever I say to him is usually met with, "Well, you enjoy running and I don't" - which caused me to step back and legitimately ask myself, "Why do I do this?"

The answer dates back to December of 2007.  I was newly married, weighed 276 lbs, and was completely and utterly disgusted with myself.  I felt every day of my then 33 years (and then some).  I had aspirations of running a marathon for about as long as I could remember, but every attempt to go from zero to marathon had ended with injury and defeat.  This time, my goal was different.  I was going to get myself to the point where I could run 3 miles, then just run for 1 year with the only goal being not to get injured.

I started the process in December 2007, doing a walk/run program to get up to 30 minutes of consecutive running, and enrolled in the New York Road Runners beginning runner program.  From there, things took a life of their own.  I raced my first race in April of 2008, which I thought at the time was a herculean effort:

I started losing weight, I started feeling better about myself, and things sort of fell into place.  From there, I raced a number of shorter distances (up to 10k) and then my first half marathon in January of 2009, and my first full marathon in November 2009 - and the rest is history.

Did I enjoy running then?  Not really.  I enjoyed the social aspect, I enjoyed the fitness I was starting to achieve, and I certainly enjoyed the weight I was losing.  I would say that for the first 6 months, the hardest part about running was lacing up my shoes and getting out the door.

Eventually, running became part of my life, and part of my identity.  It was something I did, it was the people I hung out with, and it became a passion and a defining characteristic in my life.  I started appreciating (and enjoying) the big picture, and running each day was just a way to maintain the lifestyle that I had achieved.

I ran 9 miles in the cold and rain this week.  Did I enjoy every minute of it? No.  There's a significant part of me that just wanted to stay home.  Did I feel great after it was over? Absolutely.  These days, I find myself feeling that the days I want to run the least are the days that I need to run the most.

My advice to the beginner?  Two words: Patience and Persistence.  Take it slow, build the base, and be consistent.  The gains will come in time.  It will all pay off in the end.