January 19, 2009

Becoming a Runner is Easy

If there is one thing about running that is extremely easy, it is starting.

Ditch the lofty expectations about completing that 10-kilometer race in three months from now that you signed up for a few weeks ago, forget about that life-long dream of running a marathon "one day".

Don't think about why, how, when, with who, what if or why not.

Just take a pair of shoes, running shoes if possible (now I gave you an excuse didn't I?), shorts or tights, a long-sleeve top and a pair of gloves, and a banana. Then set your alarm so that it wakes you half an hour (only 30 minutes) earlier than usual tomorrow morning.

When the alarm goes off, get up, put on all the clothing you got ready yesterday as per the above, eat your banana and head out the door. Then you run.

There is absolutely no point thinking about becoming a runner without starting to run.

Sure it IS wiser to first buy proper running shoes (which are simply those shoes designed for that purpose), and ask a professional running coach for advice on how to start running. (Of course you did already get that medical clearance to run.)

But often those become the permanent excuses for putting off any type of running. And I can guarantee you that the majority of hardcore runners - which in my book is anyone who runs regularly regardless of pace or distance - began running by simply heading out the door and putting one foot front of the other.

As you may gather from this blog, I do a lot of running and am about to run my 10th standalone marathon on a certified course. (I mention this since I have run five marathon distances as part of Ironman triathlons and completed three races on foot that were 39km, 46km and 100km respectively).

I train five times a week, every week, following a training program designed by my coach, one of Australia's former top distance runners.

But I started running by .. simply going for a run, or rather a very slow jog. In 1996 I had absolutely no intention to ``Become a Runner''. I just wanted to get a little exercise, lose a bit of weight and thought that going for a run was the most flexible and cheapest way of achieving that.

I have no idea what shoes I wore that day. I had not even considered asking anyone for advice, let alone would have had the nerve or idea to track down a professional running coach. I just put on an old cotton T-shirt, shorts, shoes and headed for the closest park.

As it happens that park was pretty close by but by the time I'd reached it with a slow and tiring jog of five minutes, I was done and returned home.

But with the benefit of hindsight, that was my first and crucial step to becoming a runner: I simply went for a run. It was slow, it was a struggle, but it was a run. And then I did it again. And again.

Running doesn't become easier because the point of running is that it isn't meant to be easy (not as easy as sitting on the couch). Runners typically seek new challenges. But it does become more enjoyable as your body slowly adjusts to running (an activity we were meant to do anyway) and your physical and mental awareness increases.

Before you know it you'll realize one day that you have covered that 10km - perhaps it was even in that race you did sign up for a few months ago - and that you are a runner because you run.

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