How I Went from Not Being Able to Run a Mile to Finishing a Marathon
As I got into high school I realized that some element of activity was going to be necessary to look the way I wanted to look. Forget how it could made me feel- at that point I had never considered that exercise could make you feel anything other than sweaty and miserable. I wanted to look good in bikini.
So I’d pop in Cindy Crawford’s workout video or power walk with my friend while we discussed how fat our thighs were (News flash- they weren’t). But it was always a punishment, never a pleasure. I’d move enough to keep the extra weight away, but I was never even close to remotely in shape. Run a mile? Not a chance.
When I became a mom I began to think of all the emotional baggage I had that could potentially contaminate my kids. God, opening up that can of worms can really make you think. I realized that on some deep level, after all those years of being picked last for kickball and self-body shaming, I fundamentally believed that I was weak. As I watched my son sit on the sidelines at soccer class, I asked him why he didn’t want to play. He looked me in the eye and said, “Mommy, I’m smart but I’m not strong”. Oh crap. I need to fix this. But first, I need to lead by example.
For some reason I was drawn to running. Maybe it was because you get a medal (hey, I’ll take jewelry in any form!), or because it was so concrete (you finish or you don’t). I set what was, at the time, an unthinkable goal- I’d run a half marathon. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t run for more than three minutes without wanting to die. I couldn’t understand how people chose and wanted to do this, let alone enjoyed it?
I started small- I got the awesome Couch to 5k app and built up slowly. Run a few minutes. Walk a few minutes. Try not to die. I was consistent- three times a week, no matter how badly I wanted to throw in the towel. It didn’t matter if I was slow. It didn’t matter if I was miserable, I just went out and did it. I ran no matter what the weather, no matter how much I had to force myself to keep going. One foot in front of the other. Three times a week.
I wasn’t even sure I was making progress. It was SO SLOW. Each day I could run maybe a few seconds longer than the time before. But the progress came. Finally, I could run a mile. Then two. Fast forward a few months and what was misery became a warm up. Crazier still, I started to look forward to my runs. They were therapeutic. They were cathartic. And lets face it- runners legs do look awesome.
It took me eight months to go from scampering a mile and wanting to die, to crossing the finish line at the Disney Half Marathon in Orlando. Two years later I would return to cross the same finish line after 26.2 miles.
Tips to Start Running
- Get outside! The treadmill is fine for a half hour warm up, but once you really want to add milage and get used to terrain, you need to go outside. Ask fellow runners or hit local running message boards for suggestions. I recommend finding a good 1.5 mile loop to start so you can easily add milage. I love our local park because it’s pretty, clean, safe and has bathrooms (a key component when you start running several hours!).
- Set a Goal! Active.com has a list of local races– and man, will you find a TON. Most weekends you can find a 5k or 10k, and at least once a month there are longer races within driving distance- no matter where you live.
- Hydrate and Fuel! For amateur runners at short distances like 5k and 10k you only really need to worry about adequate water. As you start running over an hour you need to think about mid-race fuel. Find out what the race will be offering (usually energy gels like Gu or a banana) and train with that so you can find out what works for you. Make sure you have the same breakfast and run fuel every time you run and on race day.
- Find a Plan and Stick to It. For beginners the Couch to 5k app is amazing. As you start training for longer races, I love Hal Higdon training plans. Each week look at your required milage and plan it into your schedule. Factor in the weather! Your long run needs to be outside. You’ll find that 50s-60s are the most comfortable temperatures to run in, because of how much your body temperature rises.
- Give it a Soundtrack. Apple music has awesome Running Playlists but I prefer to curate my own. Find songs that inspire you, make you feel strong and get you moving! I even time my favorite ones to come on when I know I will have hit my stride.
- Find a Friend or Go it Alone. I trained and ran for both my half and my full marathon solo. For me, it was a meditative process and something I needed to accomplish alone. I like to zone out with a good playlist and my thoughts, but some people love running with a friend- figure out which works for you.
- Recovery. Make sure you are taking care of your joints! Stretch and foam roll AFTER your run when muscles are warm and pliable. Find a great place that does massage, or (my favorite) cryotherapy and Hypervolt.
- Gear. The nice thing about running is all you truly need is shoes and a water bottle. I’ll do another post on cold weather running gear, but to get started all you need to do is get a comfortable pair of running shoes.
- Use Technology. You want to zone out and run, not worry about figuring out your milage, elevation and splits (time it takes to run each mile). Plus you want to track your progress over time! I love the workout app on my Apple Watch. Map my Run and Nike Run Club, are also good.
- Consistency. Motivation may waiver, but commitment does not. You have to stick to your running plan, even when you are hating life and questioning every moment of the decision. Drag yourself out there and get it done. No one ever regretted a workout.