I am an expert in last place. In a small group, I’m pretty much always last. In a really large group, there may be a handful of finishers that come in after me. Some days I can’t run distances I could just days before. Some days I’m so angry at myself for all the bad decisions I made in my adult life – the ones that lead to me being fat and unfit – that I could scream. Sometimes I have to stop and walk. Sometimes I have to walk most of my run. My friends are frequently well on their way back to the finish line before I have hit the half way mark. But I’m not quitting.
When I first started running, I had been walking for years and wasn’t really getting any results anymore. I didn’t tell anyone but Greg (in case of spectacular failure). I used Couch to 5K to get started and at the beginning, running a minute felt like dying (I won’t lie – some days, running a minute still feels like dying). I was so slow I would never dare refer to myself as a runner. My first 5k, I was last. Nearly every race that followed in that year, still last. I’m not a competitive person by nature so trying to race other people rarely comes into play for me (especially since they are normally so far ahead of me that I can’t even see them anymore).
But this year, I’m finally starting to notice some progress, despite not always keeping up with training like I should. I think I’m learning!
So for those of you who are thinking about running and just can’t get yourself to start, here’s some unsolicited advice and wisdom of someone who’s been there (is still there).
- Running is hard. Running when you are overweight is really hard. Start slow and put in the time. You’ll make progress eventually, honest. There have been times I have been so proud of myself in a race that I almost started to cry… almost. The satisfaction that comes from doing something really hard is pretty awesome.
- Runners tend to be awesome and supportive. Without even trying, I have a great group of running friends who are AMAZING.
(Greg, Alice, Bill, Nicole, Lloyd, Nathan, Sarah, Brenda, Dionne, Gill, Erin, Jeannie, Marjam, Melissa H – thank you! In some way or another, this journey would not have happened – or continue to happen – without you).
- Find the right sneakers. It took me a year to sort this out and now I have lovely Sauconys that are like running on fluffy clouds and they have actually made a difference.
- Learn to be mentally tough. In everything else, my brain serves me just fine. But it took some time for it to follow suit when running. And while most of the time when I’m running my brain is full of happy rainbows and unicorns and other foolishness, sometimes I get really frustrated with myself. I used to stop running and walk because I really wanted to and not because I actually needed to. I’m getting better at this – PB on my last 5k and last 10k!
- Don’t look at the ground when you run. I did this for a long time. It’s harder to breathe. Don’t do it.
- Don’t run someone else’s pace. I’m no expert, coach, or trainer… but I know I always fare a lot better when I stick with a pace I know I can hold for whatever distance I’m running. It keeps me from burning out too quick and when I tried to catch someone a fair bit ahead of me at my last 10k, I actually had something in the tank to pass them with.
- Learn what routine works the best for you… what to eat/drink and when, stretches, what time of day to run, what to wear, if you need tunes… set yourself up for success.
- Focus on a goal. I have two. I want to be less fat and more healthy. I want to climb things when I travel. Running is helping me with both. And I actually like it… win win.
So many people in the last year have told me that I inspire them. I find it surprising every time, but it still feels nice to hear it. There’s plenty of people in the world ready to cut you down – surround yourself with awesome supportive people instead! And unbelievably, I’m a month away from my first attempt at a half marathon – something I never thought I would say in my life (admittedly, it’s also on my birthday and in Las Vegas, so it possibly isn’t being taken quite as seriously as it should be because I want it also to be fun… but I’ll do my best). And so I’ll end my unusual rambling here (because I normally only write about traveling and beer)… and leave you with this… you can do it, and you really are faster than the person sitting on the couch.