I have always liked the idea of being a runner. An efficient, full body workout in a short time. No equipment required. No flat tires. Possible in all kinds of weather and locations.
I tried becoming a runner many, many times, sometimes for months at a time. One year in college my roommate and I ran several times per week together. But ultimately I found myself thinking at some point in the process, “I hate this. It’s just torture.” And I’d stop.
Then a couple of years ago I was out on one of my long walks around my neighborhood, and I realized that I really wasn’t getting the cardio workout that I wanted. I have a super slow metabolism (it takes a lot to bring my heart rate up to the maximum–thanks to a genetically slow resting heart rate) and walking wasn’t enough. What to do?
I decided to jog on the downhill portions of my walk. Just to bring my heart rate up.
When it was flat or uphill, I walked again.
I did this for several weeks. Then I realized that I could also run on the flat part of my walk. So I started doing that. But I still walked on the uphill portions.
And surprise, surprise, I started to love it. Even the running part. There was absolutely no torture in the experience. None. It was pretty exciting! I started to say that my workout was “Gravity assisted running.” Clever, huh?
I reported to my good friend, who is a runner, what I was doing. She would like me to be a running partner, as well as a biking pal. She said, “That’s a great start!”
No. It was not a great start. It was what I did to enjoy running. I wasn’t trying to reach some big goal (“I want to run a marathon.”)
In that moment I realized why I had had such a hard time becoming “a runner.”
Running, in my mind, had always been something to conquer. I was in competition with myself and my idea of what a runner was. I had never been content with the process–I was always pushing myself to do and be something else. I found myself thinking, “I have to run to that light-post before I can walk.” “Push harder.” “I can’t slow down until I’ve gone three miles.” “I have to run my route faster than I did last week.” “Ignore how I feel.”
I had never just enjoyed the moment, the process, the experience. Running hadn’t been torturing me, I had been doing that to myself. My type-A, set-goals-and-reach-them mindset had ruined the experience for me, making it impossible to love the experience.
So, am I a runner? Sort of. And I am okay with that. I love the process. I don’t set goals, I just pull on my shoes and head down the hill, running (OK, truthfully, it’s more like a basset hound jog, but I don’t care) and enjoying the air and my neighbors and the orange blossoms. I still walk uphill, never feeling guilty. It’s what I do.
So I won’t give you a list of “Ten Ways to Become a Runner.” I’ll just give you this:
Who cares if you run a half-marathon? Who cares if going around the block takes you 30 minutes? What does it matter that you stop and chat with your neighbors?
Enjoy the process. Enjoy getting in touch with and listening to your body. Enjoy taking care of your health. Enjoy being alive.