You Don’t Actually Hate Running
Running: you either love it or hate it. You either can do it, or you can’t. And I’m here to say that this mentality is complete B.S. Here’s the thing: I get it. I used to think that too, but then I realized that running is as natural as breathing and almost as rewarding. Don’t roll your eyes at me, just keep reading.
Running comes naturally to young children. If you set a pack of them loose in a park, they won’t stop. They will play tag, they will run around in circles, they will dart around obstacles and jump from “safe point” to “safe point” to avoid the dreaded Hot Lava Monster with a seemingly endless supply of energy. This running is fun for them, it’s almost as if they can’t go a day without it. Can you image?
So, I’m going to go ahead and blame this hate of running on school. Remember the dreaded mile-run that stretched from the earliest grades of elementary school to the pimply final years of junior high? How much did any of us look forward to that? Answer: we didn’t. In fact, we dreaded it. The mile run was the ultimate form of punishment and humiliation (unless of course you were on the track team). And how could we see it in any other way? It wasn’t that we were out of shape, many of us were in other sports and activities that kept us from the throngs of childhood obesity, but this mile run turned running into a test, into judgement, and so we began to hate it. But that’s the cool part about running, most of it is a mental game.
I myself was one of the mile-run haters. A mile was an impossible unit of measurement for a human being to run. It was four whole laps around the track. FOUR! By the end, I would be huffing and puffing with a burning in my chest, lucky if I got a time under 11 minutes. Looking back, I realize this is because I didn’t understand how to breathe while I was running and I was so in my head about hating it that it became an impossible feat. Even in high school after the mile tests were finally behind us, our dance team coaches made us run laps at the end of every practice while singing the school song (presumably for stamina). If we weren’t loud enough or they suspected some of us of not singing, we were punished with additional laps. And so the idea of running as this horrible, humiliating punishment was further ingrained in my mind.
And then came college. By sophomore year, I had begun to see the dreaded “freshman 15″ spread its way across my midsection. It wasn’t actually that awful, but I did realize that it was the most inactive I had been in a long time without daily three-hour dance team practice, and on top of that, my high school kid metabolism was slowly weaning (oh god, was I old already?).
At the start of sophomore year, one of my best friends from high school suggested running the Turkey Day 5K together that coming Thanksgiving break. She presented it in such a way that it actually sounded like it could be fun despite the fact that three miles was the equivalent to death. So I started training, I read some articles about how to run properly, and most importantly I just did it.
I started running every day, and I was surprised to find that without a gym teacher with a stopwatch in hand or a coach waving us on for additional punishment laps, running wasn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, it made me feel sort of…good. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was ready. The race was fantastic; difficult, but rewarding.
But that wasn’t the end of it for me. I fell in and out of love with running throughout the rest of college. Sometimes I was just too busy with school and I fell out of shape. By the time I wasn’t busy anymore, I would be frustrated that I couldn’t run the same distance as I could before and would give up. But notice this is a mental problem, not a physical one. I could have done it, but I was too frustrated so I convinced myself that I couldn’t, and I’d be willing to bet that that’s where most of you so-called “running haters” are at right now.
I realized that I needed goals to force me to stay on top of my running, otherwise it was too easy to wave off at the end of a long day. I signed up for a 10K, an even more impossible distance than a 5K. I trained for it. I did it. I signed up for a 15K, I didn’t train as well and I did it, but it was awful (okay so physical training is just as important as being mentally there). And now I am writing only days after signing up for my first half marathon coming up this June. I could not have fathomed running that distance even last year, but I’ve got a schedule I’m sticking to and I’m growing stronger each day. Plus, I just bought my first pair of “omg those cost HOW MUCH?” running shoes, so I’m pretty much locked in. Even now there are days when I could keep running forever, but there are still days where I want to quit at mile two. Physically, I think I’ve got running down, but it’s the mental game that keeps it interesting.
Running is a conversation with yourself.
It makes all the difference in the world whether you’re thinking “oh god I’m so tired this is awful” vs “I am so strong, I can push it one more mile.” Of course, injury and fatigue are real issues, but most of the reason why people think they hate running is because they think they hate running.
I’m tell you this as a runner who really isn’t that far ahead of you. I’ve really only “become a runner” in the past year. I’m not fast (averaging a 9-min mile), I don’t even run that far usually (3-4 miles is my sweet spot), and I don’t even run every day. The important thing is that when I’m out there I am focusing on how good it feels to know that I am purely moving on my own strength and willpower, and that amazing feeling is what keeps me coming back for more. It has become therapeutic and empowering and, quite honestly, the highlight of my day.
So I challenge you to shuck this idea of hatred toward running. Stop whining that you wish you could, that you wish you were more in shape, and just do it. No, it’s not easy, but the difficult things in life are the most worthwhile. And who knows, you might just fall in love with it.