A few weeks ago, I ran a mile without stopping for the first time in my life. Depending on your attitude toward fitness, this might be impressive—but more than likely, your reaction is: “Really? How on earth did you make it 31 years on this earth without running a mile?” Well, I’ll tell you.
I’ve been a casual jogger on and off for years. I’m not sure if I ever ran in high school (I don’t think I did), but I remember starting in college, with runs by the Charles River in Boston. I continued on with runs here and there, but they were always the same: Run a few blocks, walk a few. Repeat until I was over it. Lol.
Here’s the thing: I was very much convinced that I was not (and would never be) “a runner.” My best friend is decidedly a runner. She ran a half marathon. She looks forward to her runs and actually jumps out of bed at 6 am and heads out with no coffee most days to accomplish them, despite the fact that she essentially has two full-time, exhausting jobs. She’s always been athletic and excels in pretty much any sport or workout class that she tries.
On the contrary, I have always been…the opposite of athletic. I am a creative, I am (was) a dancer, I am a Taurus (and therefore really great at seeking comfort and not so great at pushing myself physically). My mother desperately tried to find a sport, any sport that I didn’t completely suck at (bless her heart), and it was never found. My hand-eye coordination is awful, and I am genuinely scared of the ball. The only sport that I wasn’t an embarrassment at was lacrosse, and I think that was because you use a stick to catch the ball, at a very healthy distance from your body/face. Ha.
So, there was certainly my lack of physical abilities in the athletic space, and then there was my mental block. I don’t know when I first became aware that I Am Not Sporty, but my first memory of shame around my lack of athletic ability was in elementary school gym class. I had this awful PE teacher that would literally mock me for doing exercises wrong. I think he called me by my last (maiden) name, Thompson (wtf?!). In terms of running specifically, I remember having to do the Presidential Physical Fitness Test once a year, every year (anyone else remember this?), that required kids to run a mile. I remember (even as an 8 year old!) being like, this is bullshit. I’m supposed to just run a mile out of nowhere? How on earth am I supposed to be able to do this? I would walk most of the four loops around the school track while chatting with girlfriends, watching my elementary school crush effortlessly coming in first place. Sigh.
These are kind of silly memories, but they all created a narrative in my mind that Running is Not For Me. I fell in love with yoga years ago (I felt like it was dancer-y enough that I was kind of okay at it), I’ve come to really like barre workouts (or at least tolerate them, lol), but running and I have always had this slightly torrid relationship where I had kind of given up ever being “good” at it. And yet, it’s something that I always came back to. You know why? CONVENIENCE. Running is so goddamn convenient. Basically all you need is a sports bra and running shoes. You can do it on your own schedule, at your own pace. I could go in any direction I wanted. I could stop whenever I wanted to. I could do it when I was home, I could do it when I was traveling. It’s one (relentless) repetitive motion, so there’s no complicated method to follow and you don’t have to think about it. You get to be outside. And lastly: It’s efficient, which became especially important to me when I became a mom. Gotta love a workout where you can break a decent sweat in 20-30 minutes. Done.
Alright, so that was a long-winded introduction; let’s get to me running my first mile. Things shifted this past summer when I went to California to visit my family for ten days and was able to go for quick runs just about every other day when I was there, thanks to no work and lots of grandparents, uncles and aunties to watch my kid (thanks, fam!). When I got back and headed out on my regular running route, I ran a considerable distance without stopping, without feeling like I was going to die. Weird. I checked to see how far I had gone, and it was 0.7 of a mile. Suddenly, a full mile was right within reach. I calculated how far I’d have to go from my house to reach one full mile, and on my next run, I did it. Ran my first mile. And it felt freaking amazing.
Now, I have friends that are runners/marathoners that have been so encouraging. “Just wait,” they’ve said. “You’ll run your first mile, and it’ll be smooth sailing after that. You’ll be adding miles no problem.” And you know, at this point, who knows? Right now, the fact that I’m regularly going on one or two quick runs per week and attending one barre class for strength on the weekends is HUGE for me. Between my crazy working-mom schedule and my natural disdain for fitness, the fact that I’ve committed to a semi-regular workout routine blows my mind. Admittedly, I don’t usually even run the full mile without stopping, but I always make myself run to that original 0.7 mile mark, because right now, I know that’s a good thing to maintain. Lately, I’ve noticed that even my single barre class per week has been making a difference, and suddenly I’m not wanting to die during that workout, either. I strongly, STRONGLY doubt that I will ever run a marathon (or even a half), but taking time to regularly move my body on my schedule, at my own pace, AND finding that I don’t hate it (!) feels pretty damn amazing.
Right now, I’m back out in Northern California visiting my family for Thanksgiving, and I headed out for a run yesterday for the first time on this trip. As soon as I started to jog, I could feel the difference in my body: I had ENDURANCE. The first lap was almost effortless. I really can’t tell you how crazy it feels to have ANY significant athletic activity feel effortless. And I have no idea how far I ran before I paused and ran/walked out the rest. There was no medal waiting for me, nothing cool to brag about on social media, but I felt the change—and that’s more than enough.