I started running six years ago because I wanted to run a 5K with my dad. I figured it would be good motivation to go to the gym on a regular basis and get in shape. Like most first-time runners, I had no idea that the first run would turn into six more years of running. Even if I wouldn’t have believed them, tying up my tennis shoes and heading out to start a 5K training plan for beginners, I wish someone would have told me these things before I took my first run.
- You don’t have to love every run. Sometimes I hate running. Like all relationships, there’s an ebb and a flow to my relationship with running. I’ve tried to break up with it before, only to be called back by the lure of a new challenge, a race I want to run, or because it’s the single best way for me to cope with anxiety.
- Some days you will need it more than you want it. The days that you want nothing more than to bury your head in a pillow and scream are the days you definitely need to lace up and hit the street. By the end of your run, whatever has been weighing you down will feel resolved.
- The addiction is real. Most people train for “just one race,” until they cross the finish line of that first race. After you feel the runner’s high for the first time, you’ll spend the rest of your life chasing it, unable to believe that something so wonderful is free and legal. No matter how many times you say you’re not running a certain distance, it will nag at you until you accomplish that distance, too. There’s no such thing as “just one race,” so don’t be surprised that after finishing your first 5K, you immediately jump online to see where you can race next.
- Eventually a training plan will dominate your Saturdays. Friday nights with the girls will give way to early bedtimes when you start training for your first long distance race. You’ll realize the importance of getting up and out before the sun rises, and look forward to brunch after you conquer the distance you weren’t sure you could run. The strangest part is that you’ll find yourself looking forward to that Saturday morning alarm clock more than you looked forward to your Friday night happy hour.
- Running expands your social circle. Even though you’ll likely find yourself doing most of your runs by yourself, running expands your social circle. Within months you might be on a first name basis with the owner of your local running store. You might talk yourself into joining the local running club and making friends you didn’t even know you needed until you survived your first nasty hill together. Even if it’s a silent friendship that consists of a friendly wave on your regular course, you’ll look forward to the faces of the people that have the same addiction as you.
- You’ll eventually change the way you eat. You might notice that your dietary needs change slowly, but one day you’ll know for sure that there are foods that you just cannot eat before a run. You’ll begin to recognize what foods fuel you best and what foods send you screaming towards a port-a-potty on a bike trail.
- You’ll get beat by people you never expect to get beat by. As you start to take on more road races, you’ll find yourself getting beat by small children and people much older than you. The first time you realize that body shape, weight, and age are inadequate predictors of finishing time, you’ll know the elusive running truth that every body is a runner’s body and running is an inherently individual mission.
- Soon, your running clothes will be among your most expensive. When your runs start to get longer, you’ll realize the importance of really good running shoes, moisture wicking tech fabric, and the perfect pair of compression pants. Workout clothes will no longer be just old t-shirts and a pair of leftover shorts from high school. The clothes will fit better, be brighter, and will be with you during the lonely long runs — and worth every penny.
- You’ll talk about it . . . a lot. Your friends and family may grow tired of hearing about your weekly training achievements, but they’ll still show up for your big races. You’ll start using words like “fartlek,” “tempo,” and “IT band.” When people ask you what you do for fun, you’ll say you run and you won’t think it’s weird.
- One day you will define yourself as a “runner.” You’ll quit shaking your head when others call you a runner. You’ll quit listing the reasons that you’re not a “real runner” and you’ll find yourself telling people that you are, in fact, a runner. A real runner. It won’t matter anymore the longest distance you’ve ever ran or how fast you can run one mile. You will know inside of you that running is now part of who you are.
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