Run With It: Thoughts on becoming a runner
Weeks and weeks ago, in one of their weekly emails, Huckberry shared a quote saying “If you want to get in shape, run. If you want to change your life, become a runner.”
I sat with that quote for a while and realized it really rang true.
Two years ago, I was a guy who thought being fit meant hitting the gym a couple times a week and running a few times around the park. Last weekend I ran my first half marathon (in under 90 minutes!), and I have another half marathon, two 5ks and a 10k on the schedule for the next 2 months. In the previous 6 months, I ran a triathlon, half a dozen 5ks and 10ks - and medaled in more than half of them.
I plan work out schedules months in advance, pour over training strategies, develop sprint workouts, build out pace charts, I have not one-but two running apps on my phone...
When did this happen? When did I become a runner?
I suppose I was technically a runner years ago, in high school I ran track and cross country, and did pretty well. I was a varsity distance runner - by no means the star - but I could hold my own. I identified as a runner. I opted to not run in college, instead getting wrapped up in the rise of fixed gear bikes, alley cat races and the culture that went along with it. That faded (naturally) as I graduated and entered the real work force, and my “exercise” dissolved into the routine described above - or not at all.
My best guess is that it all started with the Triathlon (which i describe at length here). I had trained (albeit not that well) and completed the race and to my surprise - medaled in my age group. Perhaps it was that positive reinforcement mixed with the want to stay in shape, but my gears really shifted and I focused on running. The truth is, I hate the gym. The obnoxious “gym dudes,” the bad music, and all that goes along with it. Someone should really do a thesis paper on the social anthropology of American gyms.
My wife Kay (who also conquered the triathlon), shared my feelings, so together we set out to focus on running - at first just to stay in shape - then we started honing our workouts and getting excited about races… becoming runners.
We didn’t need to pay any fees, didn’t need any equipment, it was solitary, and it had quantifiable results. I could scroll through months of distance runs, speed workouts and the like and see my progress. We raced every 4-6 weeks and got faster, I placed more and more - we grew excited to hit benchmark after benchmark. Mileage growing, pace splits dropping. It was a part of my life that I could control, I could develop and excel without outside influence and that felt immensely rewarding.
Then there were the obvious physical benefits (running makes you skinny!). I’m the healthiest I’ve been since high school thanks to my love of running. The healthier we got - the healthier we wanted to eat. It makes it a lot easier to say no to late night ice cream, to skip the pizza and beer if you know you’re going to wake up at 6am and run 8 miles (because let me tell you - you feel a special kind of gross running on a dinner of pizza and beer). We got better about planning our meals and eating balanced and healthy (I really credit Kay with that, as she is an amazing and inventive cook). It makes such a difference for not only performance, but everyday energy.
I found it helped my mental health too. Sure, a better diet probably helped, but it helps me knock out the cobwebs. Starting my day with a run does wonders to clear my head. Sometimes I’ll listen to music or a podcast - but it’s really just me and the road - thinking only about my breathing and my pace. Deadlines and obligations fall away and let me start the day energized and open. Some folks meditate, but running has become the cornerstone of a mindful morning.
I know I’ll never win the New York Marathon, or join the Olympic team, or get sponsored - but I’m pretty confident I’ll always be a runner - and I suggest you give it a try too.