My First Run

My first run was a mess; more accurately a hot, sweaty, wheezing, near vomit inducing disaster. Sure, I’d run before my first run. We have all endured the forced 1-mile fitness test in gym class or punishment suicides in team sports practice. However, my first run was the first time I chose to run for the sake of running.

I was with a group of friends from my freshman dorm in college. I can’t remember if it was Fall or Spring, but I remember it was horrible. Five minutes in, I thought I would either throw up, die, or both. Most of my friends heeded my pleas for them to go on without me, except for one. My friend Morgan stayed behind with me as I walked and then tried to trot and then went back to walking, panting, and wheezing. Aside from the great kindness of her sticking it out with me, my first run SUCKED.

Now that I’m a marathon runner, personal trainer, and yoga teacher most of my clients, students, and random people I meet assume that I was born fit, that I am some sort of natural athlete. This is not the case.

I was the kind of child who at age 5 or 6 was not so politely encouraged by my gymnastics teacher to perhaps pursue other endeavors. I was famously out of step in tap class. In my first church led musical I went left, when all the other kids were going right in our choreographed dance routine. Anyone who has known me prior to 2003 can tell you that I am probably one of the least coordinated people they have ever known.

To be fair, I was sort of an athlete in the sense that I’ve been 5’9 since 6th grade. (Which may ultimately explain the inherent clumsiness.) I was never the last kid picked in gym class and played every major sport open to females in the 90s. (Side note: Tall women are required to play volleyball and basketball for some period of their adolescence.) However, because of my severe lack of coordination, I was never great and so I never really got to play. In light of that, I gave up sports my senior year of high school to pursue ultimate Frisbee and the never-ending search for Yuengling with my friends.

When I got to college, I was overweight, less due to inactively and more so because I refused to eat broccoli until my friends in college taught me that was ridiculous. I may be the only college freshman on earth whose eating habits improved when they got to school. With the improved eating habits came a desire to get in better physical shape. Or maybe those same friends who peer pressured me into eating broccoli were also working out. And so you have my first run.

There was no runner’s high. No euphoric feeling of completion. I hated it. Even still later that year, I joined a fancy all women’s gym on Boston’s Comm. Ave. The city was freezing and gray, and this gym had steam rooms and cucumbers in the locker room. It was a sanctuary. I was on a student’s schedule and so could go in the middle of the day when the gym was practically empty. I routinely got stoned beforehand and watched movies on the elliptical. While this is not really my go-to strategy with clients these days, those hours logged dramatically improved my cardiovascular fitness. Eventually I started running little by little on the treadmill, sort of walk/trotting. And sooner than later it wasn’t so horrible and I progressed to straight-up running.

 In the summer of my sophomore year, I was in good enough running shape to lead a running club at the summer camp in Maine where I worked. We mostly just ran up the road and ate wild blueberries, which is sort of the fastest way to fall in love with running. By the end of my Senior year, I was pretty tired of living in cold, gray, urban Boston. For nature’s medicine, I’d run a 6 mile out and back to make it up to the city’s reservoir when it was warm enough. Not long after that, I moved in with my parent’s for a short time and made a habit of running all around their suburban neighborhood and logged my first nine-mile run. My father didn’t believe me, so I had to get in my car and log it with my odometer to prove I was telling the truth.

 I’ve run on trail and road. In snow, wind, rain, and perfect California sunshine. I’ve run on the beach, in the mountains, through the desert. I’ve run in North America, Asia, and Europe. When I was forced to run those milers in gym class, I did not make it very fast, even when I was playing sports. 10, 11-minute mile maybe. Last spring I clocked in a mile at 6:28, at 31 years old.

 I’ve had perfect runs and terrible runs. I’ve PRed and totally fallen apart during races. I’ve run through the Sierra High Country stopping to take a dip in a high alpine lake to cool off, absolute perfection. I’ve also been hit by a car and had my house burn down during a run.

Still I run.

To say I love running is an understatement; running is like breathing to me.

See, what I didn’t know during my first run, was that I was born to run. When I started, I did not have great running form. Until I got my glutes on board, I ran like a flailing Donald Duck. Eventually everything just sort of feel into place for me and those long legs that made me so klutzy early on now carry me gracefully through many, many miles.

During mile 22-24 struggling through my first marathon, I thought about my first run and laughed out loud. You’ve seen people get all teary eyed and emotional, overwhelmed by the sense of accomplishment and physical exhaustion when they cross a marathon finish line. I’ll tell you why: it’s because their first run sucked too!

 Your first run, it’s going to suck. But if you give it some time, I swear you’ll make it to your version of perfect California sunshine and the blueberries at the end of the road. Truly, there is an unspeakable joy about getting outside and taking your body from point A to point B. I think it’s most commonly referred to as freedom.

Or maybe you’ll hate it. Maybe you’ll discover you are definitely not born to run.

Just try it!

Here’s the challenge:

24 runs

That’s it.

No distance. No speed.

Just 30 minutes, 3x’s a week for 8 weeks.

What you don’t have 30 minutes? You’ve definitely spent more than 30 minutes just scrolling through Insta today, don’t tell me you don’t have just a measly 30 minutes.

 If after 24 runs, you still hate running. I’ll give you a permission slip to never, ever have to run again. You can tell every runner you meet that they are indeed insane. But you have to log the 24 runs first.

 Here’s a few tips to help you get started!

 -The first 10 minutes are the hardest:

Those are the huff and puff 10, they’ll be easier if you warm-up prior to your run.

Choose dynamic movement and stretches.

Something like these:

 -If you can’t run, walk:

There is no shame in walking, just keep moving. If you’ve never run before, there is huge benefit to a walk/run method. Try your first run by walking for 2 minutes that running for 1. As you grow comfortable, switch to running for 2 minutes and walking for 1. Then lengthen the amount of time you spend running, maybe increasing to 5 minutes running to 1 walking.

 -Go somewhere pretty

One of the best parts of a run is enjoying the scenery. So step out of your neighborhood and head to a community walking path or trail.

 -Get some decent shoes

Once you fall in love with running, you’re going to want shoes that work for your gait and body type. Head to a local running store to get set-up. Don’t have the money? Go to a local running store, find out the make and model of the shoe that works best for you. Then buy last seasons version at half the price online.

 -Don’t punish yourself

We have invented a million ways to feel bad about yourself. Don’t let running be that for you. If you miss a day, so what? Don’t feel guilty, just try again. YOU CAN DO IT!