How does someone go from I hate running to I can’t live without it? I get asked that question what feels like every other day. I half serious/half joking, give the same answer, to suck it up and smile because it gets better. It doesn’t matter if you’re brand new to the running world and can’t run around your block or if you’re an accomplished elite runner, you will fall out of love with running. So how do you fall in love, or back in love with it?
You have to have fun!
Read any “fallen” athletes comeback story and they all will say the same thing, they fell out of love with the game. They stopped having fun and they let the stress, expectations, competition, and business of the sport outweigh their ability to play and have fun. Then they remembered how to have fun again and boom, they’re back on top. We’ve seen this movie a million times! We’ve read this self-help book/article a trillion times! If you don’t love what you do or if you aren’t having fun doing it, you’re not going to be happy.
You have to find a way to have fun despite the pain. When I first started running, it was misery! I had blisters on my heels and toes from shoes that were too small, I was constantly sore (from running and walking a measly 3 miles), I couldn’t run a mile without feeling like my lungs were going to drop out of my chest. It honestly gets better. Here’s the really gross part, you fall in love with and end up craving the pain.
When I ran my first half marathon my legs burnt like they’d never burned before around the 10th mile. I actually had a conversation with myself about quitting. But 10 miles became 11, and then 12, and then 13, and when I saw the finish line, something came over me and I started sprinting. As I crossed the finish line I felt like my heart was going to explode. All I could think about, despite spending 2 hours in agonizing pain, was doing it again. Then 5 months later, when I ran my first marathon, the same thing happened. The same pain was there, though it lasted longer, and I had the same conversation with myself about quitting. Then I crossed the finish line and that feeling washed over me again. I thought, when can I do that again?!?
But that burning need to go farther and faster may dissipate and you can find yourself in a slump or falling out of love with running. Maybe you don’t have a race on the calendar, maybe life or work is hectic, or maybe that desire to run isn’t there. It’s up to you to find a new way to re-ignite that spark. What’s helped me get out of a slump is mixing it up and putting myself in a new world of pain. Like now, after the NYC Marathon, I felt a little like my gas tank was empty. I love running, I still run, but I needed something bigger. So I have made my new goal to get faster. And as much as I’ve spouted off that I want to get faster in the past, I’ve never actually done it. I’ve half assed interval or tempo runs and continued to do what I always do, run a wink at a uncomfortable pace. Now I’m not running as far but I’m running harder. At first, it sucked. (OK it still sucks. Running fast sucks! My lungs burn, my ass hurts, and I am in pain! And it’s winter so I’m always on a treadmill!) But…the pain…is actually…starting to feel good. And, dare I say it; I’m starting to enjoy working out on a treadmill. (WHAT! I KNOW! MYBE ANYTHING REALLY IS POSSIBLE.) Sometimes you have to change it up and lean in to the discomfort.
Most people start running because they are running from something. More people statistically start running in times of world crisis, war, personal conflict, or when they feel like they are crashing and burning. Speaking from my own personal experience, running is a great way to challenge yourself and have fun when nothing else works. It’s the world’s best escape. So smile, try to have fun, it gets easier.
Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.