Anyone who knows me or has read my About Me will know that I am not a ‘runner’ by nature. By this I mean I wasn’t a naturally sporty child, I shunned PE at school, and it wasn’t until I turned 20 that I decided I wanted to be a ‘runner’. Since then I have run four Half Marathons and one full Marathon. I guess that makes me a ‘runner’.
My point in saying this is that I want to break up the myth that someone either is or is not a ‘runner’. A lot of people talk about whether or not someone runs as a defined and unchangeable part of their genetic makeup. This is ridiculous. It’s putting on certain shoes and moving faster than a walk, not altering your DNA or a surgical procedure.
The reason this matters is that people have said to me before that they’d like to go for runs or train for a race, but they can’t because they’re not a ‘runner’. If we are what we repeatedly do then anyone can become a ‘runner’ by starting and sticking with it.
On a wider level, it really is as simple as that. However, making the transition to ‘runner’ by starting and maintaining a running regime is nowhere near as straightforward.
A while ago I contributed to the lovely Gymbags and Gladrags’s blogpost on how to start running, but I decided I wanted to get down to the nitty gritty of how I started running
Here are the most important things I learned between my first run and my first marathon:
- Nobody Cares
One of the biggest comments I hear is the fear that running will be embarassing as people may see you sweat, struggle, or walk. This is not the case.
Nobody cares. Everyone is far too involved in where they’re going, who they’re talking to and their phone (if using Google Maps and Whatsapp then maybe a combination of the three). Breaking a sweat isn’t embarassing it’s a sign that you’re working hard. The only things people will maybe think when they see you is ‘oh look, a runner’; ‘are they going to move on the pavement or shall I’; or ‘Shit, I should probably go for a run’.
- Run a Song/Walk a Song
I couldn’t continuously run when I first started as I didn’t have the right sort of fitness or stamina and I had to work to build that up. I started by running for a song and then walking for a song for the duration of my run. I then ran for two songs and walked for a song. Gradually I stopped walking. There is no shame in needing to take a break during a run, just try and work as hard as you know you can. Walk so you can keep running, not because you can’t be bothered.
- Don’t expect to enjoy it immediately
This is a tricky one because I do like running and it’s an important part of my life. However, I don’t enjoy every minute of every run, I frequently spend entire runs wondering why it isn’t over yet, can I stop and is it inappropriate to take a bus home.
I don’t want anyone to hate running and feel like they should dislike it, but don’t forget that running is high impact cardiovascular exercise and it is hard.
The enjoyment comes after a run when you know you’ve done some good work and when you realise you’ve improved. There will be runs where I do feel great and I really enjoy it, but even then I am working and it’s a different sort of enjoyment to going out with friends, dancing, eating cake etc. (nothing is as enjoyable as eating cake).
The first run sucks. The second run is worse. And they continue to suck until one day you realise that it was just a little bit easier than before and that you can do a bit more than before. That’s when you get hooked and the enjoyment starts. You just have to push to that point.
This hilarious book by Alexandra Hemingsley is testament to the fact that runners are made, not born, as well as answering plenty of the questions that you might feel too silly to ask.
If you’re nervous about the runs that lie ahead of you then Alexandra has gone ahead of you to run into the potential pitfalls and inspire you to keep on going regardless.
- Don’t think your faking anything
By this I mean don’t feel like you’re a non-runner having a go at something that probably isn’t for them. If you’ve left your front door with the intention to run and you do the best that your body can do then you are a ‘runner’. It is as simple as that.
This also includes what you wear. Don’t wear a baggy t-shirt that you also wear to sleep and binge on Netflix. How you choose to present yourself is important for proving to yourself that you mean business and this is something that you want to do.
I don’t want to say fake it til you make it, because by running you most definitely are not faking it, but remember that setting yourself up for failure comes from assuming you can’t do something and that you’re not a part of something, not from giving it a go.
If you have any experiences of what got you through the first runs then I’d love to hear from you!