My running career started in junior high, but I didn’t get serious about distance running until college. In junior high and high school, running was something I did for sport, but it was just a small part of my day. Then, I got out of it for a few years and when I started back up, it was a totally different experience for me. If I could go back and tell my nineteen-year-old self what I was getting into, I’d have so much to tell that girl who thought running marathon was an impossibility she was determined to make a reality.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve changed in the last few years (it’s all that New Year’s Resolution talk we’ve been doing) and I thought it would be interesting to take a moment to record these thoughts and this reflection I’ve been doing. Plus, this blog has been amazing way to share these feelings with others and hear their own stories and experiences, which has been an incredible joy, so today, I wanted to share with you guys 10 things I wish I’d know before I started running.
Usually, I’m very careful not to put too many labels on who I am and what I like to do, but what I do know is that I love running. When I first started, I was doing it just to get a little exercise in my day. I was at college, stressed out, and needing something to help me relax. Most days I was sitting in my apartment doing assignment after assignment and barely getting any activity when I got back into running. And I started out by running a couple of miles a day.
A few months after I started running, I decided I wanted to set a goal. It felt like I was running in circles (because I kind of was) and I really wanted something to work toward. That’s when I started looking into running marathons. I did my first one at nineteen and I have never looked back. And when I look back at that kid who thought it was going to be hard, but she was going to do it anyway, this is what I want to tell her:
1. It’s a lifestyle
It started out as an exercise I did every couple of days just to get moving. I didn’t have a goal. I didn’t have a destination. Now, I always have a training plan and I’m always working to accomplish something. Running is part of my daily schedule. Anymore, I don’t miss a single day and not just because I want to succeed, but because it’s something I truly love and enjoy.
I plan my schedule around running. Thanksgiving and Christmas of last year I got up super, super early to get my miles in because I knew I wasn’t going to have time that evening, so I did what I had to in order to get the miles in. Sometimes it feels like my world revolves around running, because it pretty much does.
2. It can get expensive
If you let it, running can be incredibly expensive. So many people insist on you having the latest and greatest gear and gadgets. They say, buy these insanely pricey shorts and this outrageously expensive top that supposedly makes you faster. Then, of course, you need to spend a couple hundred on a watch that does the same things as the free apps. And naturally you’re going to have to have these water bottles, these snacks, this, this, that, that. It’s crazy.
Before I decided to just be a minimalist runner, I was overwhelmed with how much everything cost. That’s when I decided it was all too much and spending all that money was taking the fun away from running. So, I decided to invest in a great pair of shoes (because that’s one of the few things that I, personally, need for a good run) and just make do with what else I could have. That was almost ten years ago and I have never regretted not having the newest latest and greatest gadgets.
3. It takes dedication
Like I said, my schedule pretty much revolves around running. When I’m in the middle of marathon training (which is almost always) I spend hours and hours a week just running. Then, when I’m done running, I’m focusing on how I’m going to recover, how I’m going to fuel my next run, and what I need to do to make sure I can continue working toward my goal.
If you’re not willing to put in the hours constantly every week, you’re not going to be able to meet your goals.
4. Lots of people try to make it a competition
Sometimes I get caught up in everyone comparing times and distances and it can get disheartening. Some people believe you’re not a real runner if you have a pace over eight minutes per mile. Others say you’re not a runner if you do anything less than five miles. And then you even have those people who say you’re not a distance running if you’re running less than ten miles.
It can be so easy to lose yourself in these comparisons and accusations, but that’s when you need to remind yourself that as long as you’re getting off the couch, going out there, and giving it your best as often as you can, then you are totally a runner and you are doing awesome!
5. You’ll become obsessed with weather
Since I typically run after work, I check the weather a hundred times throughout the day trying to watch for temperature, humidity, wind speed, anything I can to give myself an idea of what my ideal departure time should be, what route I should run, what I should wear, and everything in between.
And on weekends and breaks, I plan my entire day around what time I want to go running. In the summer, early morning and late at night are my favorite times to try to beat the heat. Right now, I try to run with as much daylight as possible so I can get some sun and warmth. And I try to avoid the windy routes as much as possible, because running in winter wind is a serious pain.
Never did I think I would be so obsessed with weather, but here I am! I can’t stop checking it!
6. Sometimes you’ll wonder why you’re doing it
There are days when I’m exhausted from work and I’m dreading my run because I still have so many chores and things to do. Then there are days when I’m sore or tired and I’m putting on my clothes wishing I didn’t have to go out. But I almost always feel so much better after my first mile, because that’s when my body wakes up and realizes I feel so much better after I get done running.
Then there are those really difficult times when I have to cancel plans because I have running goals to meet or I have to stay up late to get my work done since I had too much running to do to get everything done before bed. Those are the days when I start to question this decision. But what keeps me going is…
7. It’s a huge reward
I might feel completely miserable during mile eighteen of a twenty miler on a ninety-eight degree day, but when I get done, I feel completely unstoppable. No matter how back my day was, running can almost always make it better.
And when I start marking off those miles toward my goal of a marathon, I feel so powerful and so accomplished. Lately I’ve been working on my speed and I’ve already cut down so much from this time last year, so right now I’m feeling like a completely success.
Just sitting here thinking back to how things where when I first started, I can go over twice as far over twice as fast and I’ve never been so healthy in my entire life. So while it can get hard, it’s a huge reward to see yourself come so far after some quality effort.
8. It’s an amazing community
In case you didn’t know this, runners are some of the most amazing people. Sure, you have your few bad apples in the group, but pretty much everyone I’ve met in the running community is a complete sweetie. They’re all supportive and encouraging.
I follow so absolutely wonderful blogs from people who document their own running journeys and not only are they talented and driven, but they’re also friendly and they’ll go out of their way to make you feel welcome and loved within this crazy running world. There are very few other sports that are so opening and helpful.
9. It’s hard
Part of being a distance runner is learning to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve dealt with aches and pains in abundance since I’ve taken up running. There have been ice baths, heating pads, and some pain relievers in my past that have gotten me through some times.
There have been days when I’m exhausted by I still have another couple of miles I have to push through. There have been hills I really thought I’d never be able to climb that I somehow made it to the top of.
There have been so many times when I’ve been faced with something I was sure I couldn’t accomplish. And here I am, having accomplished and defeated all l of those obstacles up to this point. And I truly believe all of these trials have made me a better person.
10. It’s worth it
I’ve ever done anything that has been so heart breaking and inspirational at the same time. It’s not easy. I question my sanity and my choices daily. But, at the end of the day, I know this is worth it. I’ve learned more about myself and what I’m capable of–both mentally and physically–through this one sport that I have through any other facet of my life. And for that I am forever grateful.
Those are ten things I wish someone had told me before I started running. Maybe they would’ve made this journey a little easier. Regardless, I’m so glad I decided to take up running again all those years ago, because it truly has been one of the greatest joys of my life.
What are some things you wish someone had told you before you started running? Let me know in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow my blog for more running content.
Until our next adventure, stay curious.