Search this site



Gym Belle  - noun  one who enjoys pull-ups, push-ups, lifting things up/putting 'em down, PRs of all kinds, racing, jumping, spinning, daring and blogging re same (more here)


Gympressions on Facebook

« And Your Little Dog, Too | Main | Fit, Fierce & Fabulous »

Princess in Training: Some Thoughts on Running

Until very recently, when the subject of running came up, I would quickly point out that I wasn't a runner.   It was a black and white issue; there were "runners" and "non-runners."  Lot of people identify as non-runners, so I usually had good company.  Someone would always point out the perils of running, the wear and tear on the joints in particular.  When I was 26, that person was me.  In all fairness, I did have major knee issues then, but I'd never been a runner before the knee trouble, either.  Even as a kid I dreaded the Presidential Fitness Test; back then, I blamed exercise-induced asthma.

Yet while I never had a burning desire to run, it bothered me that I couldn't.  It seemed like a good thing to do, and like something that good people do.  It especially grated on me when I was in decent shape.  Fit people should certainly be ok with running.  These weren't carefully thought out opinions, mind you; these were my gut level neuroses that I'm just now articulating and voicing.

Every now and then, I'd try to run.  When I spent a few months in Russia consuming more fat and calories than I ever contemplated, so much that I had nightmares, in fact, I somehow found the motivation.  Still, I never saw progress and I never tried for that long.

A few years ago, when I started working my current job, I gave running another shot.  This time, I was motivated by my lack of time to work out, and my desire to do so as efficiently as possible.  Say what you will about running, you do burn a lot of calories.

I discovered and downloaded some of their running workouts to my iPod.  The first one I got was 20 minutes long and, in the beginning, I would walk for parts of it.  Grace Lazanby narrated 20 minutes of intervals on the treadmill.  Mixing up the speed and the incline was new to me. It made the time go by quicker.  I also found that when someone was in my ear pushing me, I really could go faster and last longer than I would on my own.

Soon enough, I found myself totally comfortable running three miles.  I was very proud, but would never admit it.  It was just three miles, after all.  Then I plateaued, and I assumed that three miles was my limit.  That was fine.  I wasn't doing it because I liked it; I wasn't a runner.

Around that time, I read Haruki Murakami's memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.  I adore Murakami.  The man could write I shopping list and I'd pay money to be read it, so I felt mostly legitimate picking it up even though it was about running and I wasn't a runner.  I was curious.

One thing that surprised me, and surprises me still, is that Murakami says that he runs to "acquire a void," to make his mind blank.  I certainly understand the appeal. Most of my hobbies are escapist.  When I read, I'm wholly consumed by the story.  When I'm kickboxing or doing Physique, or working with weights, I really can't afford to let my mind wander.  I'm not that coordinated.  Spinning can be more of a struggle, but I can lose myself in a good class with good music.  For me, though, running doesn't work that way.  Yes, I can listen to music and sing along, but it's different - maybe because it's my music.  On a long run, I'm alone with my thoughts whether I like them or not.  I added this to my reasons for being a non-runner.

Then, this spring, I made a new discovery: running outside.  That really changed everything.  Through spring and summer, I ran outside a few times a week.  I'd do shorter runs during the week before work, and a longer run Saturday mornings.

Once I started running the whole loop in Central Park, I stopped saying that I wasn't a runner.  I wasn't ready to call myself a runner, but I also wasn't a non-runner.  I started to wonder when I'd feel like a legit runner.  I signed up for a half-marathon in March.  That was something, but even now it's far away and still theoretical; I'm not convinced my knees will cooperate.

When the weather changed, I made the decision to keep running outside no matter what.  That's what real runners do. I bought cold weather running gear.  I used it for the first time about a month ago when I was in Vermont for a wedding.  It was 40 degrees outside.  I ran down a steep hill, and then back up.  The whole thing was probably four miles, but when I got back, my throat was raw and my nose was runny.  I was happy.  That seemed like a good sign.

Right around that time, though, the New York Times ran an article, Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon?, that nearly killed my running buzz.  As it turns out, certain faster runners feel that the popularity of marathons, and the influx of slow runners running them, has tainted the sport.  Apparently, "running a marathon" means less than it used to; it's no longer something to be proud of.  I've seen people train to finish, train to beat their last time, and train to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I get that that these are different things.  I get if you're serious and competitive about something, you want those around you to be serious.  That said, if you can't be proud of your awesomely fast time because a boatload of people were still running when you hit the showers, I think you need to chill and get some perspective.  I'm thinking particularly of the woman quoted at the end of the article who makes it a point to tell people who take six hours to finish that they didn't really run the marathon.

I wanted to put up a post about this article when it came out, but I was dogged by a new fear: what if I was a plodder?  Throughout my struggles with the sport, I had always had the runner/non-runner dichotomy in mind. I figured that, eventually, with enough perseverance or time or something, I would make a Velveteen Rabbit-esque transformation and become a real, legit runner.  It had never occurred to me to worry that I was some kind of wannabe, a plodder.  Per that woman at the end of the article, 14 minute miles are plodding.  If that's the rule, I'm safe.  Still, I am slow.  Old men pass me on a regular basis.  I had always seen the crowds of people running in the park as a happy, endorphin-fueled bunch.  I figured we were all cheering each other on.  "Good for you, really old guy!"  "Way to tough it out slow girl in yoga clothes!"  Suddenly, I wondered if grandpa was judging me.

Just when I was starting to question why I was attempting this whole running thing, my knees started up again.  A smarter woman might take the pain as a sign to stop, but I've decided my knees are not allowed to win.  I promised myself.  I'm doing the half in March, and then maybe I'll ease off a bit.  I just need to keep pacing myself and keep using my foam roller.

It was raining when I woke up to run this Saturday.  I debated putting it off till Sunday.  It was so tempting to just roll over and go back to bed.  There was no real reason not to, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.  I credit the New York Times' recent article, Train the Mind to Run Right Through Winter for some of my motivation.  So, I ran the loop in the rain.  For the first mile or two, I continued to battle myself.  That wasn't unusual; I usually find the first 10 to 15 minutes really uncomfortable.  Then I get into a rhythm and I can just go.   At the big hill at the top, I managed to get water in my sneakers.  That was unfortunate.  Still, the run felt good.  There were less people on the road, so I felt free to really sing along to my iPod.  I didn't care what grandpa was thinking.  I finished the loop faster than I usually do, and I'm glad I did it.

When I was doing my laundry tonight, I picked up the long-sleeved running shirt my sister bought me a few months ago when we signed up for the Disney Princess Half-Marathon.  It's pink and it says "Princess in Training" in sparkly letters.  It's silly, but tonight, when I was finishing this post, it struck me as particularly apt.  I'm not a runner yet.  I don't know when or if I'll get there, but I'm en route, and there's something to be said for that.

I'll keep you posted. 

-Gym Belle-




EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (3)

I love this post! I can identify 100%...I was a non-runner until I watched a race in central park in February (with you!) and decided if all those people could run in 0 degree weather, why couldn't I run a mile on the treadmill? When I started "running" I was doing a 12 minute mile - ha! But I felt so much more like a runner after buying winter gear, and gave myself credit for actually being a runner when I ran the 4 mile loop in the hail in under 40 minutes :) Unfortunately my knees (and daughter) have gotten the best of me these days, but you're inspiring me to maybe get motivated again...we'll see!!

November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlissa

I'm searching for what to wear for the Princess Half Marathon and came across your post. We are living parallel lives. I always tell people "I'm a swimmer, not a runner!" but I'll be running with you in March! Thank you for your eloquent post and know that you are not alone as a "nonrunner" who runs. There are lots of us our there!!

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

Thank you, Elaine! I've been thinking about what to wear as well and would love to hear what you've found!

-Gym Belle-

January 26, 2010 | Registered CommenterGym Belle

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>

© 2012 Gympressions. All rights reserved.
Privacy and Terms. Site design: Cloudyreason