Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Facts" about runners

I have a love / hate relationship with running. I'm finally starting to consider myself a "runner" but only after several years of vehemently denying it by saying instead that I'm just a soccer player who runs. Before all of this could happen, I had to get past a few things I thought were facts about runners:

  • You have to run continuously. This was a big hurdle for me. In fact, in my first 10k, my only goal was to run the whole thing. There weren't many people near me after about the 4 mile mark, but there was one guy who was always right there. He would run and get slightly ahead of me, then start walking, where I would pass him. We kept leapfrogging like this until the very end and honestly, I was MAD! I was putting in everything I had in order to be able to run the entire race (I did), and this dude kept passing me after his walk breaks. I did eventually pass him for good once I could see the finish line - I'm a pretty good sprinter and in every race so far, I've been able to do some type of "kick" to finish strong. Slowly I got over my annoyance at walk breaks during a run, but it was only once I started training for a half marathon and ended up needing to walk to catch my breath that I realized that I was ok with taking a short walk break during a run. But, even then, I still went into my second half marathon with the goal of running the whole thing (I didn't). I added planned walk breaks into my third half marathon and took over 12 minutes off my time in 5 months!
  • You shouldn't run with music (aka real runners don't need music to run, etc.). I have always run with music. First I started with an iPod shuffle connected to a sensor in my shoe. I've moved on to a Garmin and my iPhone, but recently I've started doing my group runs without any music. I still do all of my solo runs with something (most recently, I've been listening to audiobooks), but running with the groups without music has allowed me to talk with my fellow runners (what a concept!) and I don't feel mentally strained without it. I still fear those races that say "iPods not recommended" but I haven't run across a race that completely bans them, so I still feel safe. I have to say I'm still in awe of anyone who can go out for a long run and just go - it's just another one of those mental games that running brings on that you have to figure out how you're going to tackle. 
  • You have to be fast. I don't consider myself slow and usually, I think I'm pretty fast - I can keep up with the majority of the guys on the soccer field and I actually enjoy sprinting. But push me beyond the length of a soccer field and my speed definitely drops off. Am I ever going to win a race? No. Can I win my age group? It depends on how many other people I have to compete against (I came in #1 out of a group of 7 last March). My favorite quote regarding this faulty concept:
  • The only reason to run a race is to beat your previous time (aka beat that person in front of you, etc.). The good news is that when you first start running, it's pretty easy to beat your times, just by making some small changes, so sometimes it feels like it will always be that easy - unfortunately at some point, you hit a plateau. This happened to me when I first started running and was focusing on 5ks. My first race was one I signed up on a whim for, so I didn't really "train" for that race - I finished with some major walking and knew that I could do better. So, I signed up for a 5k/10k training group at work and registered for another race. Race #2 took off 2 minutes, as did race #3, so in a matter of 4 months, I had taken 4 minutes off. After that, the record-breaking stalled. It took another year to take off 2 more minutes and another year after that to get 20 seconds off to get under 26 minutes where my PR stands now. Yes, getting faster and beating your previous time is a great feeling, but there are definitely other reasons to run a race - to do something you've never done before, to run for fun or for a great cause or to complete a bigger goal
What other "facts" kept you from jumping straight into calling yourself a runner?

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