Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Learning to Love the Run

I can’t tell you why or how or even when but one day I woke up, went for a run, and actually enjoyed it.
You should know that I only just began running January of this year. For the first 5 months of the year the running I did was primarily done in short bursts followed by a lot of walking/slow jogging since I was doing the Couch to 5K program which is almost entirely intervals. I did a bulk of my training for my first 5K on a treadmill which I hated.
I hate the treadmill. It annoys the shit out of me. But I didn’t know any better. I wasn’t sure how I would manage intervals on a track/road so I kept at it. Like a stupid hamster on a wheel.
I finished the C25K program and ran my first 5K in May. I was beyond happy to have achieved that goal. It was an amazing day. But you know what? I didn’t enjoy the run.
I enjoyed finishing, for sure, and enjoyed knowing I could actually run for 3.1 miles straight but the running- eh, it was for the birds.
That was it. I decided that running just wasn’t for me but since I stupidly signed up for another 5K in June I would keep at it until after that one. I couldn’t let my money go to waste, could I?
So I spent the next month running. Off and on. When I could fit it in. I wasn’t committed to getting better because I was going to give it up. But I did finally learn how to become comfortable running outside and spent the little time I was running on the track or trails.
I ran my second 5K in June and surprisingly it didn’t suck. I mean it wasn’t a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination but I actually kind of enjoyed myself. I was exhausted and sweaty and felt like that 5K took every ounce of energy out of me but I walked away feeling like I could actually like running.
So, I decided to keep at it. 2 miles at a time, 3 miles at time. I think I can, I think I can. Like the little engine that could.
People say if you are running then you are a runner. It doesn’t matter the distance.
I don’t think you would call what I was doing running. I would call it struggling. Every few days I would head out to the track for a nice early morning struggle. That’s really the best way to describe it.
But I kept at it because it was getting easier and I enjoyed it a little more each time.
Through the process of attempting to develop my running skills I read as many books, articles, blog posts as I could in search of advice. I found a lot of useful stuff but this one piece of advice really changed things for me:
Slow the eff down!
Ok, it didn’t yell or curse at me but I did learn that my pace was way too fast. I did not have the fitness level needed to maintain that pace. Even though my legs could move that fast it was just too much on the body- my heart rate was way too high.
So I got over that pace number I was working so hard to keep and focused on a different number- my heart rate. And most of my easy runs I was running slower than I could walk but I kept that pace so I could keep my heart rate down.
And wouldn’t you know- that made a world of difference.
One day I woke up and running wasn’t so difficult. I crossed over from struggler to runner.
And now running is fun. I feel great during and after. It’s not so freaking hard.. It feels like what it should feel like. And man it is great!
Now, all of my non-speed work runs are done at a pace that’s comfortable for my body and it has made all the difference.
Thinking back on it, I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that I signed up for that second 5K.
Do you love to run? Was it easy from the get go or did you struggle too?
“Most people run a race to see who is fastest.  I run a race to see who has the most guts.”  ~Steve Prefontaine

Me and Paul after the Freedom 4-Miler on the 4th of July