I need to tell you about something that is happening to me. I’m sitting here on the floor of my bedroom, still in my running clothes. My socks are still wet because we have been getting a lot rain here and that combined with the snow melt has caused the little creek that runs through town to flood. Which cut off my running path. But instead of turning around I decided to just wade through and then run the rest of the way with wet shoes.
I just ran 6.5 km. This means that in the last 8 days I have run 19.5 km. When I did the math I was annoyed I didn’t run 0.5 km further. Two days this week I woke up and decided that it was a great idea to go for a run before I went to work. Then I actually went out and ran 3-4 km, showered, and headed to work. Like an actual crazy person. Today I woke up kind of grumpy for the second day in a row. I sulked for a bit, but finally got changed, put my shoes on, and headed out into the rain and started running. Within minutes my mood had lifted. My first thought was, “Damn, does this mean that for the rest of my life I have to go for a run now when I want to be happy?” I have to say it was both an encouraging and deeply distressing thought.
So the question is. How did I get here? If you know me at all you probably know that this was (and kind of still is) me:
I would like to start off by saying that if you are a runner who has, at any point in the past, tried to get me to start running or to convince me that running is fun in any way, this is not a victory for you. You had nothing to do with this. Me running was a 100% internal thing and I did it IN SPITE of the fact that you tried to convince me I should love it.
Okay. So perhaps a good place to start is why was I so against running in the first place. Easy one. This goes back to my Jr High and High School sports teams. All of my coaches and gym teachers used running as punishment. Especially my coaches. It’s not that I was against physical activity. I could run and work hard for ages if I was playing basketball or some other sport or game. But to just run, with no other goal than to run, was only ever a punishment. If we let the opposing team score too many points in our game on the weekend, we ran lines at practice on Monday. When we didn’t do a drill well enough at practice, the coach would stop and make us run suicides. One year my coach made us run the beep test at try outs and told us that if we didn’t hit a certain level we would be automatically cut from the team. Now I am not saying my coach was terrible for doing these things. Basketball players need to be fit and conditioning needed to be a part of our training, but he really did enforce the idea that running = punishment. At the time I really didn’t realize that this was the message I was absorbing, I just knew that I hated running.
So now fast forward a whole bunch of years and you find me as I was last year. An ex personal trainer with a kinesiology degree who knows a hell of a lot about exercise, who is not grossly out of shape but also not fit, who lives in a reasonably isolated little place in the mountains and has a lot of time on her hands. Over the years that have past since high school I have often wished I was into running. It seemed like a great way to stay fit and I am basically always in a state of wishing I was fitter.
Okay, so there I was. Living in a tiny little cabin with approximately one friend within 15 km of me. Spring came and the daylight hours got longer. I spent hours just sitting in my house by myself. I had no internet at my house I must add, I feel like that contributed greatly to this whole thing. If I had had internet I probably just would have watched everything on Netflix instead. My job was stressful sometimes and I tended to get consumed by it because I lived on site. I was lonely. I was out of shape and unhappy with how my body looked and sitting around my house was just making it worse. Eventually all these things built up into a sort of oppressive force. It got to the point where I hated all of these things more than I hated running. It was kind of like a balancing scale with my hate of running on one side and all of these negative emotions on the other side. Over time they would build up until the scale tipped and going for a run became the better option.
That makes it sound like me running was a super negatively fuelled endeavour. Which is maybe true at first. But the act of actually going for a run resulted in positive emotion. It felt good to be tired and have sore legs because I knew it meant I was building up my fitness. It felt like an accomplishment to do something that was unpleasant because I knew it was good for me in the long run. It was empowering to take something that I used to only do when someone forced me to and choose to do it myself.
It became a cycle. At first I needed the negative emotion to get me out the door. But then the positive emotion became enough to carry me to my next run. I would loathe every single second of the actual running part, but then as soon as I was done I would feel good. And that that good feeling would carry me long enough for me to get my shoes on the next time and get out the door. Then I would hate every second of the next run. But it became just enough to keep me going.
Another thing I desperately needed to keep me going was to only ever run alone. I needed this because I am an extremely externally motivated person. If I run with other people, I will feel the need to impress them. It doesn’t matter how genuinely they tell me I don’t need to, I will push myself significantly harder if they are there. This isn’t a bad thing if you want to be pushed harder, but for someone who is barely making it out the door each time she runs, this would be too much. I needed to know that at any point in my run, if the hatred became too much, I could stop and go home with no consequences whatsoever. That knowledge is what many runs relied on. Once I was actually out and going I don’t think I ever actually did just decide to stop and go home, but I needed to know that it was an option.
I also did not do well with a long lead up to a run. I needed to just spontaneously put on my shoes and go. The longer I thought about it, the more I would dread it and then the more I would hate it. So that is another reason running with other people was/is a no-go. Running with someone means planning ahead of time and knowing for hours if not days that a run is coming.
So that is how it happened. I really slogged through it last year. It hurt and it was hard but I had so much spare time and so many things that sucked that running just became part of how I dealt with it. I had this vision that I would keep running through the winter. It did not happen. I did work at the mill all winter and apparently that helped significantly to maintain my fitness because when I started running this Spring I was running the same distance and pace that I was doing in the Fall. This year running has been so much easier than last year. I really feel like last year was the hard part and I worked to push through and keep going and now I am reaping the rewards. I am running further distances and I hardly ever stop to walk anymore. A month ago my weekend run was 5 km, last weekend I ran 6 km, today I ran 6.5 km. It hasn’t felt that hard to progress. I no longer hate every second. I don’t love it by any means, but it now only feels like a minor convenience to go for a run. Last year it would take me a full hour to recover after a twenty minute run. A full hour of being about the colour of tomato and flopping around on the floor like a dying fish. Now I run for forty minutes and feel back to normal in about ten minutes. It has become that a run is really just a quick slight inconvenience. If I want to run during the week before or after work, I really can just do a quick 4 km and even with recovery time it is only about half an hour out of my day.
I am noticing improvements in my fitness. My legs are getting slimmer and more toned. I feel great. Last year I had some problems with my IT bands getting super tight and making my knees hurt. This year I am right on top of it and I stretch and roll them out every day and have had no issues so far. But by far the weirdest thing has been this change in motivation. I have no idea what happened that changed it from “I hate this with the fire of 1000 suns and will force myself to do it” to “I just woke up and maybe I’ll go for a run before I eat breakfast.” My best guess so far is that I was abducted by aliens and they did that adjustment bureau thing and altered the way by brain works.
I have this nagging feeling that maybe this is just a phase. I really can’t imagine that I am “runner” now. That is a label and personality I have never wanted. People who are fanatical about running still baffle and annoy me. It baffles and annoys me that I am running this much. But I think for now I am just going to lean into it and try not to talk about it too much so that people don’t hate me the way I used to hate runners.
(I know, good start, write an entire blog post about it. Good job Raiah)
Related story: I actually had a friend see something I had posted about running and send me a message that said “So I noticed something… you’re running now. I remember you being pretty against it.” It may have been Graham (hi Graham) and I may have given him a pretty hard time when he decided to start running about a year before I did. Like I’m pretty sure I tried to talk him out of it on multiple occasions. But instead of saying some version of ‘I told you so’ he just ended that text message with “good for you!” like the nice non-jerk person that he is.
Anyways, I will leave you with this video and a promise that I will never ask you to go for a run with me or compare run data, post run data on Facebook, ask you for money for a run (unless it is like some crazy good cause), or just generally talk or complain about it without being asked.