How To Run and Not Die

I’d never been a runner.  I still have a hard time saying that I am a runner, despite the fact that I am.  I run, therefore I am a runner.  It sounds like such an exclusive club.  When you’re overweight and inactive, it sounds not only exclusive, but unattainable.  Running is for other people.  Running is for people that are in shape, for people that are skinny, for people that don’t have to give a second thought as to whether they’ll fit in between two people on a crowded bus.  But here’s a little secret: No, it’s not.  Runners come in all shapes and sizes, and I’ve found that they’re also very inclusive.  Runners want everyone to know how much running is simultaneously awesome and horrible.

“I’d love to run one of those 5K’s I see so many of my friends doing,” I thought to myself one night in January.  Of course, I immediately nixed the idea – the last time I’d run more than forty steps was when I was being chased out of a haunted house, and that was a solid decade ago.  But the thought wouldn’t leave my brain.  Unwarranted, I’d have a picture in my head of myself with one of those numbers proudly pinned to my shirt, posting the pic to Facebook all, “Hey, I did it!”  Instead of being someone on the couch eating macaroni and cheese for breakfast at ten o’clock, scrolling through my newsfeed and lamenting how great it must be to be active, what if I was one of those people?

I’m not sure exactly what clicked, but I decided.  I was going to run a fucking 5K.  This was it.  And sure I’d told myself many a time before that I was going to lose weight, I was going to exercise, the whole shebang.  But this time was different.  Because this time?  I really was going to do it.  Being a bit of a researcher, I was a Google fanatic for a couple days.  All I did was look up success stories, people that started running while obese – and yes, I had to come to terms with the fact that that word described me, and yes, it sucked – people that “weren’t runners,” and managed to run a 5K, or an 8K, or a half marathon.

So I started the Couch to 5K program, designed to change any couch potato into a runner within nine weeks.  The first day, I had to run 60 seconds straight.  I almost threw up from the exertion, and while it made my eyes burn with tears because it proved how far I had to go and how hard I would have to work, it also made me more determined.  I started in January.  In Chicago.  During the worst winter this city has seen in thirty years.  Running outside.  In the snow, in the bitter cold, in the dark – because it was always dark, before or after work – dodging ice patches and puddles of sludge.  I didn’t miss one day.

When I ran that first 5K nine weeks later?  The first time I ran three straight miles, without stopping?  It was the best sense of accomplishment I can remember having.  You can read about my first 5K in all of its glorious messiness here.  But my point is this: I did it.  And if the statement “If I can do it, anyone can,” has ever applied, it was here.  If you’re thinking about it, do it.  If you’ve ever considered it, do it.  You CAN.  I promise.  Whether you use the program I did or just get out there every day and do your own thing, you can do it.  You can start changing your body and your outlook and your everything now.  All you need is a pair of shoes and some determination.

What’s stopping you?

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