“I can’t run. My ankles (or knees depending on the day) are just too weak to even try being a runner.”
That was just one of many reasons I used to avoid the truth: I just wasn’t putting my heart into running. I’m still not so sure why running, despite the numerous times I had failed at it, was the one sport I couldn’t get off my mind. I’d thought about it many times over the years, even talking about what I thought could be one of the reasons. During the years leading up to the moment I set my sights on my first 5K, what was it about running that continuously drew me in, chewed me up, and spat me out…and kept me coming back for more?
I think I may just know.
Have you ever truly thought about the difference between doing something with your heart and doing something without it? Performing without heart just isn’t going to cut it now is it? Back when I first started running in November 2009, I moaned and complained the second I knew it was time to get out the door. I cried on my way home knowing I barely made it through a half a minute of continuous running. Somehow, though, I felt it…I felt the connection to the run. I wanted that 5K, I wanted the strength to get through a run, and I put every ounce of my heart into that one race. What happened next came to me as a surprise: I fell in love.
Today, it doesn’t matter if I have to take a break from running for x number of months (though it does aggravate me)…I can still go back to it, having to push hard to get through those initial runs, and I can still run joyfully. I remember there being one incredibly frustrating run back when I was training for my first half last year. Someone mentioned to me that she was beginning to think something was wrong with me, because I wasn’t having any “bad” runs. I giggle at that now. I know it can be quite irritating to some to hear that someone got another awesome run in, haha, but really, why should running require bad days? Is it strange that I find even the hard, not-so-hot runs pretty, well, awesome? (Shit…I came from not being able to run at all!)
So how do I run so joyfully?
- Run with your heart. This could be interpreted in so many ways. There are far too many people to see running as “crazy” – and heck, sometimes it really is crazy. However, if you keep feeling that drive to start running, harness it. Yes, it’s tough. Yes, it gets frustrating, but really, who has ever truly succeeded without having to work for it…without ever having to put some heart into it? Don’t start running expecting to see that you’re an instant marathoner…or that you can even run a mile without stopping. Some days it’s easier, some days it’s harder. Go with the flow, but make sure you take that drive to start and run with it. Literally. Harness the power of heart. (Sounds so cheesy, but it’s oh so true.)
- Leave the numbers behind. At least do so on occasion. Yes, it is fun to have goals of a speedier mile or a longer distance, but leave the numbers at home once in a while. Don’t use a Garmin to pace yourself. Don’t set a mileage. Just run. Find your breath, find your happy stride, soak up the sun, and run. Be present. Leaving the numbers behind helps you connect to the run rather than to a predetermined goal.
- Celebrate every accomplishment. Accomplishments in running can be anything from running for a longer interval to pushing through a hill to being able to toss aside your iPod and just listen to your own thoughts and the sounds that surround you. Smile when you’re done and think about what you’ve just done. Shoot, tell someone what you just did! There’s no shame in feeling on top of the world for running 10 seconds longer than last time. Running isn’t easy – but some might argue it is, and in that case, in my opinion, they’ve tossed aside their modesty and forgotten what it’s like to work for a run or what it was like to take that first step. (But I digress.)
- To be a runner, you don’t have to race. I have friends who just don’t enjoy the race scene, and that’s okay!! Racing is not a requirement to be a runner. There are no requirements to be a runner other than to run. It doesn’t even require sneakers. Haha. If you’re feeling the pressure to race and don’t want to, then don’t race. Run for any reason you’d like to run – to race, to lose weight, to raise money, to prove a point – whatever. Make your runs about you.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. I can’t say this enough. I’ve talked about other runners stealing someone else’s glory. I’ve had others try to tear apart my personal accomplishments. I don’t care if someone runs a half marathon two hours faster than me. I run for me, and you should be running for you and not for someone else. So someone calls you “slow”…so what!? Your miles are your miles, and you should own every single one of them! You put the work in, rock them! When you throw caution to the wind and run for yourself, that’s when you’ll find joy.
QOTD: For you runners: what other ways can you make running a joyous experience?
Quick editor’s note: To make sure I stay on track, I weighed in and measured this morning….and I’m overjoyed!!!! 8 pounds and 12.5″ lost for the month of February!!!!!!! Yeeee!!!!