Learning to Run

I’ve never been a runner, even when I was a high school athlete. Now I’m learning to be a runner, and pushing through the pain and mental roadblocks.

I have never been a runner. Literally. Even back in high school when I played Football and rowed on the Crew, I ran as little as possible. In fact I didn’t do wrestling because their workouts required long distance runs.

As far as I know, I never ran a complete mile — until a few weeks ago. On August 14th I churned out a 12 minute mile on the treadmill.

What happened? Did I carbo load? Did I load up on caffeine? No. Nothing special. Just mental. That evening I went to the gym and decided to run. I had run a quarter mile a few weeks before and that night I decided to see how far I could go, expecting a half a mile or maybe three-quarters. So when I churned out a full mile, I was shocked. I had run a mile! And when I told my brother, he said something amazing and uplifting to me:

“You know who runs miles? Athletes. Like you.”

Now I’m certainly not an Olympian. And perhaps even the term “athlete” is still a stretch, but I like the idea of being one and its amazingly motivating as I’m running towards it.

I had tried to do the Couch to 5k Program before when I lived in Orlando, but I fell off a wagon and never started it back up. The Couch to 5k program focuses on training you to run increasingly longer times, starting with running 60 seconds and walking 90 seconds repeating both for 20 minutes. What they’re doing is that they’re training you to endure pain and push further, it trains you to run longer distances and be acclimated to the feelings of pain.

That’s where I had a disconnect with running. Pain. I did not really grasp that running meant working through pain, I sort of believed that if I were a runner – then running wouldn’t hurt.

I don’t know where I turned the corner, or what caused it. But I realized that running is always going to be painful. I mean sure, the better I get, the further and faster I can go before it hurts. Running is about the challenge of it.

Even though it was only a surprising mile run, it hearkens back to the story about Dean Karnazes discovering he could run for hours.

DEAN KARNAZES WAS SLOBBERING DRUNK. IT WAS HIS 30TH BIRTHDAY, and he’d started with beer and moved on to tequila shots at a bar near his home in San Francisco. Now, after midnight, an attractive young woman – not his wife – was hitting on him. This was not the life he’d imagined for himself. He was a corporate hack desperately running the rat race. The company had just bought him a new Lexus. He wanted to vomit. Karnazes resisted the urge and, instead, slipped out the bar’s back door and walked the few blocks to his house. On the back porch, he found an old pair of sneakers. He stripped down to his T-shirt and underwear, laced up the shoes, and started running. It seemed like a good idea at the time. – Wired

I’m still not a long distance runner, and I have no idea how far I’ll end up running, but I’m working on it. I’ve discovered that as long as I’m not exhausted, then I can sit down and run a mile. I might be in pain, I’ll probably have a stitch in my side, but I’m getting there.

It’s fascinating to me as I learn to run, because it feels so odd to do something that is, in many ways – completely new.

You have to walk before you can run. Well, I’ve been walking for 28 years, it’s bloody well time I learned to run.