Running is a pretty black and white hobby. You either love it or you really, really, really hate it. I get it. I didn't just dislike running, I really f*cking hated it. I didn't understand how people enjoyed running. When I ran, I felt like some sort of cross between a fish out of water and a beached manatee. It was a nightmare. Then I snapped and I ran to try to mute the self destructive loop that played in my head. Then I realized that the pain I was in would result in a stronger me and it helped me put one foot in front of the other. So I kept with it and a painful week turned into a painful month and 2 years later, 15 minute miles became 9 minute miles. You know the saying, "A year from now you'll wish you started today"? Yeah, looking back I wish I would have realized that it was never going to get easier and the right time to become a runner was never going to present itself. I just needed to suffer through it and the sooner I started, the sooner the fun would start.
There are a few very obvious reasons why one would want to run (it's a really cheap and effective way to stay healthy sits at the top of that list) but there are a few other aspects of running that, though unexpected, are game changers. Here are my favorite parts about being a runner...
Sense Of Belonging.
Looking for new friends or somewhere you can be yourself without anyone judging you? Start running. When I first started making friends in the runniverse, it was overwhelming how fiercely supportive they were right from the starting line. [Let's see how many running puns I can make in this post.] Running friends aren't just people who hold you accountable (or slack with you) at a workout, they are sounding boards, support systems, mentors, life advice gurus, a driven dating pool (YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE. RUNNERS HAVE ALL DATED EACH OTHER!) and most importantly, loyal friends. I am a better person because I have a crazy group of runners around me.
There is a deep, deep sense of pride you will feel every time you look in the mirror. Sounds a little narcissistic doesn't it? It's not. Running changes the way you see and perceive yourself as well as the way you see the world. Wanting to look a certain way isn't remotely as appealing as wanting to replicate the rush of adrenaline and pride I experience before, during and after a kick ass run. When you're a runner, every run is a victory. Every step is a triumph. (Even those truly terrible runs leave you feeling like a bad ass for getting through it. If you can get through a terrible run, you can get through anything.) Running helps you develop an ability to take risks and it enables you stop worrying about being something you're not. Want a way to feel comfortable in your own skin and own your sense of self? Run.
Most people start running to lose weight because running is an INCREDIBLE way to stay healthy! Will you lose weight and develop super foxy muscles? Hell yeah you will! I had to get new pants because my waist got smaller and my calves and quads got bigger. (Yes I said bigger.) Running changed my life because it helped me let go of the need to look a certain way. I always wanted to be a tiny skinny thing. But after I ran a marathon, I realized that I would never be happy unless I loved what I had. Running teaches you to look in the mirror and feel proud of what your body because you worked hard for it. You may not have a rippling six pack and you may still have stretch marks and cellulite, but you feel fiercely proud because you know how strong you are. It's not about how you look, it's about how you feel. That's something running teaches you.
Good things come to those who wait. It's true. One of the most valuable lessons running can teach you is that you have to plan ahead but run the mile that you're in. Your entire perception of worth and work ethic changes when you're a more patient person. You understand the importance of hard work because even though it feels pointless, you know that every step is a step in the right direction. Results take time and progress doesn't happen overnight. You have to trust yourself and keep going. Running teaches you how to look up and just wait patiently. Patience is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Life is hard. Sometimes when I feel like I'm drowning, I breath a tiny bit easier because I know I can go for a run. Running doesn't solve any of my problems but it's a way I can temporarily escape them. If there is something wrong, I know I can go for a run and by the time I get home I will have found a way to take the next step.
Elle Woods said it best, "Exercise give you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Happy people just don't shoot their husbands. They just don't." That runner's high is real. It doesn't always happen but the feeling you get after a run is the best feeling in the world. You feel limitless and unstoppable. Confident and brave. Happy.
Looking back, it makes me so angry that I didn't start running sooner. Had I known that it wasn't just me and it actually sucks in the beginning, I would have put my head down and suffered through runs much, much sooner. When you're a new runner, it hurts. You feel like crap and you feel like you're dying. That's not just you, that's normal! Don't give up. Being a runner is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. Don't wait. You can do it.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.