I mentioned the early days of my running career in a previous post, but for some reason, I’ve had a lot of people ask lately how I started running and why. So I will revisit and give more details.
I was an active child. I liked getting new sneakers because I always imagined they made me run fast. I liked to jump over the fence that separated our yard from the neighbor’s. I played soccer for many years and in middle school I trained with our track team, but I don’t think I ever actually competed.
I got it in my head that I wanted to run. I’m not sure why; I just did. The friends I mentioned this to were total naysayers. They basically told me that running was bad for people, that it damaged the body and that walking burned as many calories as running. I believed them. This conversation was repeated three or four times over about a year. I never started running.
I had gotten into the habit of walking on a treadmill at the gym, which remains a weird and disorienting activity for me. If you’ve ever walked on a treadmill at a gym, you’ve probably been surrounded by a whole bunch of people who are running on treadmills. I watched the people that surrounded me and marvelled at how fast they were going and for how long. After several months of walking, I decided to attempt running. It wasn’t a successful experiment. I ran a few seconds here and there, but instead of getting used to it and building endurance, I felt insecure on the platform and I found running on a treadmill just as boring as walking on one.
I’d had enough with the treadmill and decided once and for all I was going to be a runner OUTSIDE. On November 1, I went to Tascosa High School and attempted to run a mile. It took forever and I discovered running outside was harder than the treadmill. I also discovered I wasn’t in very good shape, which made me sad because I thought I was. Time to regroup.
Anyone who’s known me longer than two seconds knows that once I get interested in something, I will research the hell out of it. So that’s what I did. I Googled everything I could think of about running and eventually landed at runnersworld.com. I found a beginning training plan and I was all set. I literally started out running :30 and walking 1:00. I did this for a couple of weeks, then started running 1:00 and walking 1:00. The plan added running time every few days, but I needed longer to adjust, so I was kind of going at my own pace.
I kept running 3-4 times a week, anywhere from 3-5 miles a week all the way through January. During that time I discovered the joy of running in the snow and I decided that I really preferred running in the cold than the heat. I bought my first pair of real running shoes (Brooks Adrenaline GTS 7) after a careful analysis of my own foot at the instruction of RW. I outfitted myself with two pairs of running tights and I learned to appreciate a fabric besides cotton. But toward the end of the month, Mike and I went back to Tascosa to run and I hadn’t even gone a hundred yards when I felt a pulling sensation and terrible pain.
I did the whole rest, ice, etc. but the pain didn’t get better. In fact, it got worse and it got to the point I couldn’t even walk without a lot of pain. That finally sent me to a doctor, who sent me to an orthopedic surgeon, who did x-rays to make sure I hadn’t broken my leg and then sent me to a physical therapist. Basically, the muscle pulled off the bone in my lower inside shin. It’s like shin splints times a thousand. I was given elastic bands and a set of 12 different exercises to do everyday. Yep, every single freakin’ day. It was so boring!!! But I did them (mostly) faithfully and was finally cleared to run on May 1.
During my time off, Mike and I did take a trip to Austin and we both got professionally fitted for running shoes at RunTex. That’s how I ended up with the Asics GT 2130. I have two pairs now and that’s all I run in.
Anyway, I didn’t have to start completely over, back at running :30, but I did have to backtrack and change the way I did things. I bought The Stick and started using that on my calves. I had Mike massage my shins every single day. That was a painful process, but in my opinion, it is the best way to heal shin problems because it increases blood flow and works out knots. I made it a priority to stretch my legs after every run. (Never before running!)
It didn’t take long before I was running better and stronger than ever. I ran my first 5K in July with a finish time of 35:09. At the time, that 11:19 pace (how long it takes to run a mile) was the fastest I had ever run. It amuses me now, having run a mile race at 9:07 and run miles around my neighborhood at nearly that pace. Faster times are surely ahead, although at the moment I’ve slowed a bit as my distance has increased. Fatigue, as you might imagine.
My favorite running days:
- The day I ran 8:00 without stopping. For some reason, that number loomed large in my initial training and I couldn’t imagine a day that I would ever be able to run that long at once.
- The day I ran a mile without stopping.
- The day I ran two miles without stopping. (That was also the first day I ever ran in the rain.)
- The day I ran 30:00 without stopping.
- Race for the Cure (my first “big” race)
- The day I ran a solid hour without stopping. (And didn’t notice.)
I’m hoping to have a lot more favorite running days. I would encourage anyone who doesn’t think they can run, to at least get out and try it. (Run :30, walk 1:00.) Your body is engineered to run. In other words, God made you able to do it. It’s a wonderful thing and you will feel wonderful running, even if it’s only for a little while or short distance.
If you’re worried about your joints, running is actually good, as the repetitive firm motion helps flush out and return the synovial fluid from them. Many people begin running late in life and run well into their 70s, 80s, even 90s. It’s never too late. And no matter what you’ve heard, walking does not burn as many calories as running! 🙂