Sunday, July 2, 2017

My Running Story

I do not remember the first time I intentionally went running. As a child, my first runs were as a means to an end: chasing a ball. Most likely a soccer ball, to be precise. I was never particularly fast but I could kick the ball hard! However, over time, I developed asthma and gained weight. I was still fairly active but no one would confuse me for a runner.

My first experiences running consistently were during college. I still much preferred playing pickup games of basketball. Occasionally though, the courts were closed so I wandered upstairs and discovered the strange hamster-like feeling of running on a treadmill. I would still wear my cross-trainers or basketball shoes, so you can imagine the quality of these runs.

During the summer between junior and senior runner, I had my first regular experiences running outdoors. I would run in the evenings along the Charles River to the Massachusetts Avenue bridge and back. Fun fact: the bridge has its own unit, the smoot! One particularly memorable run ended with a friend taking us out on her team's sailboat to sail out on the Charles itself.

Over the next several years, I would run a mix of treadmill and outdoor runs, mostly of the 3 mile length. The runs were regular but still supplemental to playing basketball and working out. Over time though, as work got busier, my fitness level dropped. The low point for me was returning to my regular 5k loop after a long layoff and not being able to complete it without stopping to walk and catch my breath. I felt defeated.

After that low point though, I resolved to never again let myself slack off so much. I made a goal of running a race, and practicing consistently for it.

My first actual race was a 5k in 2012. I learned a lot from the experience, especially how much pacing and heat affect how you run. While I enjoyed the race, I can't say the bug really bit until year later.

The two big differences were buying a proper running shoes and finding a running partner. A friend who was also getting into running encouraged me to invest in a pair (instead of my beat-up cross trainers). I was skeptical that there was much of a difference, and viewed it as marketing hype. However, you can't knock what you haven't tried, so one day, I went to the local running store, had a gait test, and got fitted. My first pair were from New Balance and looked something like this:

My first run out with the new shoes were eye-opening. I ran my usual 5k loop around the Rose Bowl, at my usual effort. The result?

I ran a solid MINUTE faster than ever before!

To the non-runner, that may not sound like much, but to shave an entire minute off your run time for a 5k is akin to 10% improvement in relative terms. It is hard to describe as a feeling, but it feels like you ran twice as fast. My eyes were opened to bigger possibilities after years of my runs all feeling roughly the same.

The other big difference? Having a running buddy! My friend Ashley served as an accountability partner: someone who makes sure you're staying on track with the goal you set. We never explicitly said we were AP's, but it happens naturally. You sign up for a big race, which means you have to do training runs. By yourself, you may choose to sleep in, but with a friend? No way you're wussing out and leaving them hanging.

A year after that first 5k, we completed our first half marathon in 2013. The bug bit and dug its fangs in deep. After that first half marathon, we have completed 9 more as well as two full marathons!

This is not the most inspirational running story ever, but that's okay. Rather, it shows how even an average person can achieve great things simply by making a plan and developing a keystone habit. As NYTimes reporter Charles Duhigg writes in the Power of Habit, developing a keystone habit is a consistent, sustainable routine that spurs other beneficial habits.

For me, the running habit has keyed into taking better care of my body by eating healthier, losing weight, and trying to be better organized about my life. As a bonus, running races outside my hometown has led to some great vacation memories. One of my favorites was running across the Golden Gate Bridge - the marathon is the only time they let runners do that!

Many people when first asked to run reflexively respond, "Oh, I'm not a runner, that's not me." I know - I did, too. However, everyone who is physically able has a runner inside of them. Don't believe me? Check out Christopher McDougall's Born to Run:

McDougall convincingly argues that one of the key evolutionary advantages that humans have over other species is our ability to run long distances and our stamina. Sure, other animals like cheetahs are much, much faster but they cannot sustain that speed for more than a mile or two. Even an average human can run 26 miles more or less continuously. A marathon is actually quite a feat not just among humans but across the animal kingdom!

So there you have it: running is in your bones. It's your heritage. Get started today with your running journey. If you have any questions about how to get started, please contact me or comment below!

No comments:

Post a Comment