I’ve never been a runner. In fact, when my high school tennis coach had us run up the hill for conditioning, I despised it. With extensive tennis training over the last ten years, specifically the last three, I was always advised not to run distance because it counter-acts the fast-twitch muscles that are desired to strengthen in tennis training. Running distance was completely foreign to me – even when I had signed up for this first race. So here’s the story that got me to finishing a 10K!
I joke that you could find me throughout the entire summer either doing chemistry, in the emergency room, or running – which is true to an extent. I wouldn’t have had it any other way given the option! I gained shorts and sock tan lines, streaks of white-blonde in my hair, and my watch looks like it’s painted forever on my fair skin.
I signed up for the race in May, giving me the entire summer to train. Being a conditioned athlete from three years of a college sport, I began by running one mile at a time. Yes, ONE MILE. And when I say I was a conditioned college athlete, I played two hours of tennis 5-6 days a week, did speed and vertical mobility workouts, and strength-trained to a total of about 20 hours/week.
But I quickly learned that there is nothing like training to run. I struggled to run a mile straight at first, even despite my physical training I had withstood in the past!
To train, I continued to add more and more distance at at time being mindful as to not over-do it. I ran consistently (or close to) every other day, and would attempt to add 1/2 of a mile each time. I cross-trained by playing tennis and lifting weights and taking at least one “active rest day” per week.
When September came, I was running more than the distance of the race – which I couldn’t fathom! Looking back, it is amazing to think about what the human body can do. I knew I was capable of doing the distance I had ran, but when you actually do it, you feel amazing. But this was not easy. In fact,
IT. WAS. HARD.
The hardest aspect of training for me was learning how to pace myself. I was used to sprinting (and trying to beat all my teammates in conditioning drills 😉 ) and one learns pretty quickly that giving your all fatigues your body in no time. I became nauseous throughout my runs and had to learn when to eat, what to eat, and to stay hydrated prior to running.
To overcome this, I went painstakingly slow at first (yes, it killed me). I adjusted to going slower and maintaining that near-constant speed rather than tiring out a few minutes in. Gradually, I built up a better endurance, and was able to go faster, but as mentioned, this is difficult to learn!
- One Direction, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift. Need I say more?
- Apple watch. It tracked my distance, pace, time, and route all summer long.
- GOOD RUNNING SHOES. I’m talking ones that don’t hurt your feet or other areas of your body. I am a huge fan of Nike, but not their running shoes. After I switched back to my Asics, life was better. Running is logging a lot of miles over time!!!!
- having a friend that is experienced. Shout-out to my girl Jenna for giving me advice and training with me.
On race day, I woke up, brewed black coffee, and read my bible about 2 hours prior to the race. I had two pieces of plain whole wheat toast, and slammed a bunch of water. It was a balmy 45 degrees here in North Dakota that morning. I prefer wearing shorts and a sports bra when I run, but the conditions were not right for that specific attire on race day.
When getting to the site, Jenna and I got our race tags and gear, and started our watches to track our distance, pace, and time. Before I even could conceptualize what was happening amongst the crowd of excited runners, I heard the race gun saying, “GO!”
The route went through many residential neighborhoods and was part of several of my training routes. It was comfortable and beautiful; from the people outside cheering, and the midwestern hospitality of serving water and some alcoholic drinks along our route – though we politely declined. :p
Everything went smoothly, by mile 5, I felt drained. I tried my best not to look at my watch in attempts to keep my mind off the distance left, but I was feeling those five miles! I asked Jenna if we could slow down, and she continued to talk to me, carrying out a conversation. I thought nothing of this and kept going.
When we got to the origin, or the finish line (displacement of zero 😉 ), I FELT AMAZING. Jenna said, “we kept the entire race under a 9 minute mile. I wasn’t sure if you wanted to go that fast, but we did it.” I will never forget that profound statement. Jenna distracted me from thinking about the “temporary misery” that I thought I was experiencing. That alone proves how mental the sport is. And there is nothing quite like making it past that finish line. It screams, “YOU DID IT!”
After we got our finishing medals, Jenna and I headed to Bully Brew Coffee House to get some carbs and caffeine. About an hour after the race, each of us felt uneasy and I personally faced strong abdominal cramping. I lost my appetite and began to feel sick. This seems to be a common theme among distance runners when scanning internet forums, and I had experienced this in a much milder form when training. But by dinner time, I ate 3/4 of a pizza from Blackbird and was the happiest girl on the planet. I have to remember to be mindful of what and when I eat, and caffeine consumption prior to running in the morning. You live and you learn!
Tennis, my predominant sport throughout my life, requires skill and a great deal of athleticism that one learns over time. This is true to some extent with running, but the difference is that you do not have to be good at running to run successfully; you have to have the mental drive to finish. Sure, you get better at it over time; your physical and mental endurance outdoes the voice in your head telling you you need a break, but if you have the willpower to keep going you will be good at it!
Running in itself is its own category. You are out, alone, experiencing the beauty of nature. Just you, your music, and the details of the world around you. It challenges your mind and body, and crossing the finish line is a feeling like no other.
You want to give it at shot?
DO IT! Be patient with yourself. There are good running days, and there are not-so-good ones. Thrive from the good ones, and don’t let the bad ones get you down. Run a little bit at a time. Stop if you don’t feel well. Keep going if you’re feeling great. Carry pepper spray when you run alone. Run in safe areas. Don’t run in the dark. Treat your body well. Drink a lot of water and at a well-balanced diet. Invest in high-quality running shoes and break them in by wearing them around the house. Appreciate your hard work.
Thanks for reading!
Push yourselves and step outside your comfort zones – your future self will thank you!