Oh, I had no idea you’re a runner!”
“But, you were just telling me you went for a run yesterday.”
“Yeah, but I’m not a runner...”
“...am I?” I thought to myself.
That was a conversation I actually had with someone at about this time last year, not too long before I was to participate in the Sporting Life 10K. I continued to think about this new concept, of labelling myself as a runner. To date, I had logged a total of roughly 1300 kilometers since February 2012, when I first started running (not really a lot, but it sounds like it!) I had about a dozen event finisher medals hanging from an old Cuban artisan market piece intended to house keys. I think about all the races I’ve completed that don’t have medals to show, but that have generated fundraising dollars to help cure breast cancer. I had just registered for my third half marathon. And I still didn’t consider myself a runner.
Sure, I run. But I’ve always waved away the word runner – “that's not me.” I run, but I’m not a runner.
What made me think this way?
I started listing things off, whether they made sense or not, that were reasons why I believed I wasn’t a runner. I didn’t have top-of-the-line running shoes. I didn’t have moisture-wicking running gear. I didn’t have the newest ear buds. I didn’t pay for a music subscription for perfectly curated run lists. I didn’t have a treadmill (see – this one doesn’t make any sense because personally, I loathe treadmills, always have and still do). I didn’t have a stellar pace. I didn’t have a running schedule. Who was John Stanton? I didn’t have the perceived physique of a runner. I never ran before. I drank beer. I loved cookies.
Fast forward from that conversation early last year to July 1, 2019, the day I started my 12-week half marathon training plan. I had used the same plan for both half marathons I had previously completed, but in each of those races, I was faced with obstacles both within and outside of my abilities to conquer. I knew the plan could work well for me, I just had to stick to it this time around and remain disciplined. I knew deep down this time was going to be different. Something shifted in me; nothing was going to stop me from attaining my race goals. I felt it in my bones. I knew it in my soul. This was the moment I acknowledged myself as a runner.
My friends gave me a gift card to the Running Room for my birthday last fall right around the time of the half-marathon, intended to buy a new pair of running shoes since I was “deserving of a new pair after all that training.” This was the first time I put serious thought into my running footwear, something I should have been doing the whole time. When I finally made it into a Running Room a couple of months ago, the sales associate couldn’t believe what I was telling her, that in 8 years of running, I had only used 3 pairs of shoes. I could simply never justify spending hundreds of dollars on shoes. It turns out, I didn’t need top-of-the-line shoes; I needed shoes that offered me the support I required for the ground I wanted to cover. I walked out of there with a runner’s high like I’d never experienced. Two days later, I registered myself for another half marathon and promised myself I would run a full marathon by the end of my 40th year (I’ll be 36 later this year).
Near the end of 2019, a dear friend of mine sent me a link for a project her sister was launching online: A Great Canadian Running Challenge. Well, that piqued my interest. The tl;dr version: can you run, walk or jog 1000 kilometres in one year? It’s a free nationwide challenge that I, along with over 7000 other Canadians, have committed to completing by the end of 2020. This challenge is for everyone, at all skill levels and doesn’t cost a dime to register. The sense of community that has emerged is incredible and I can only encourage you to check it out for yourself. I’m well on my way to completing in one year what I’ve accomplished over the last eight combined. It seemed daunting at first, but the community keeps you going. This challenge has turned out to be a saving grace for many during these unprecedented times and is far more than just a run/walk/jog community.
Eight years in and only now do the techniques of running intrigue me; I want to learn more, become a better runner. Just because it took me so long to learn the basics of running doesn’t mean the same goes for you. There’s so much available out there at the tips of our fingers it can be really intimidating, and you might feel like giving up before you even start. The Running Room is a great place to turn. In 1981, John Stanton, the founder of Running Room, was an overweight, out of shape, smoker who recognized changes he needed to make in his life. In 1984, the Running Room was born. Check out his running tips, from basics, to race day questions, to the unspeakable, John covers it all here. Running Room also has a free run clubthat gets together every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning at store locations across the country. If you’re thinking about taking up running, I found Run Repeatto be very helpful in terms of footwear reviews. They have over 7 million reviews from people all over the world in order to help you find a shoe that suits your comfort, gait and budget. Another important piece to running is proper form. Check out the Global Triathalon Network’s tips in this 7-minute video, or if you prefer to read an articleabout proper form. Another great option to start slowly is the Couch to 5Kprogram. I followed this when I first wanted to start running and I recommend it to everyone. The approach is phenomenal, sensible and realistic.
Running also has such a plethora of health benefits (including the mental clarity, “me” time and physical outlet so desperately sought after during this pandemic) it could be a blog post all on its own. I would love for you to discover the benefits for yourself rather than reading how the sport has benefited me; here’s a great 5 minute videohighlighting just a few of the benefits and changes your mind and body will experience once you introduce running into your life.
One of the most important things I have discovered along the way is you need to give yourself a chance to find the auditory stimulation that works for you. Some folks discover they only enjoy listening to podcasts. Others swear by coached runs on an app. Some prefer the sounds of nature and some listen to the radio. Some call their siblings or friends and some bounce between a variety of all these. The important thing is to find what motivates you to get out there and stay out there. Once you’ve found it, however, you need to acknowledge that what motivates you now may change over time and that’s okay! For my first half-marathon, I asked family and friends to send me a song that reminded them of me in one way or another and that was my playlist. I had enough songs to run the whole distance and I found it was a good way to break down the length of the race into multiple 3-5 minute segments of focusing on one person and reminiscing. One summer I listened to a new podcast, supporting friends from my hometown. I have gone through many stages of what works for me and right now, it’s audiobooks – they have been powering me through my runs since last fall. I have found that non-fiction works best for me. I’ve put together a list of audiobooksthat either inspire me in the sport of running and in being active or just capture my interest in such a poignant or relatable way I couldn’t wait to get out for my next run to plug in and listen. All the books are available to borrow online through the library. I’m always on the hunt for my next running audiobook so if you have a suggestion, send it my way! My favourite app to use to listen to my audiobooks is Libby by Overdrive; it’s very easy to navigate and keeps things simply organized.
By the time this blog is published, I’ll have blown passed my goal of running 100km in April. All the excuses I used about not being a runner no longer fly with me. I didn’t have top-of-the-line running shoes – I still don’t, but they’re good shoes that fit my feet properly and provide the support I need. I didn’t have moisture-wicking running gear – I did but just never used it. Turns out a lot of those tech shirts you get as part of your race kit are moisture-wicking, so guess what I now don while running? I didn’t have the newest ear buds – I still don’t, but I have ones that sit comfortably in my ears. I didn’t pay for a music subscription for perfectly curated run lists – I still don’t. I use the library’s free resources instead. I didn’t have a treadmill and I never will. I much prefer to run outside, no matter the season. I still don't have a stellar pace – but it has improved significantly. I still don’t have a running schedule – but I try to run at least 3 times a week. I do know who John Stanton is now. Remember that perceived physique of a runner I was talking about? It doesn't exist. We’re all different so everyone’s running physique will be unique to only themselves. I never ran before – but I run now. I still drink beer and I still love cookies – but the difference now is, I’m a runner...who drinks beer and loves cookies.
This pandemic won’t stop me – will it motivate you? Happy running!
Blog post contributed by Celia R. from the North Gloucester Branch.