You are such a simple thing. Put on shoes (or don’t). Step outside (or don’t). Run.
But you’re also so easily complicated. Put on shoes (what kind? what size? minimal? cushy? barefoot? socks? what kind of socks? compression? wait, laces? what about velcro? weight of shoe? color? do I even need shoes?). Step outside (where? what kind of ground are we talking about? asphalt? concrete? dirt? and what about the weather? is it humid? snowing? full sun? sleet?). Run (when? how often? how fast? how far? how?).
I picked up running way back in high school, when I decided on a lark in senior year that maybe I should do a sport, and maybe that sport should be cross country. They couldn’t turn me away, so for a few months I trotted out miserably with the other runners every afternoon and forced myself to run in the high heat and humidity of Florida. I dreaded and hated it, and was so relieved when the season finally came to an end.
I came back to it sporadically despite our rocky relationship in the years since then, although more often as a form of punishment than anything else. For example, when my heart was hurt in college, I ran myself to exhaustion to get through the pain. Other times I ran to appease the Calorie Gods for having sinned and gained weight. I would push through each run thinking about all the fat I was burning to atone for having eaten too much. Needless to say, my relationship with running was not a healthy one.
Then we joined Crossfit. Running 400m, 800m, and a mile were regularly part of the warm up and the actual workout. I approached the running like I did every new thing in Crossfit – it was hard and I wasn’t any good at it, but I’d push through regardless. When I found out that a regular Crossfit workout was to run 5k, I grew afraid, and then determined. I wanted to be ready if I walked in one morning and “5k” was scrawled in sharpie across the white board.
I tried to run regularly outside of the workouts, but it was in fits and spurts. I finally managed to run a whole mile without stopping (two weeks and two years ago). Then I got some proper running shoes and tried to run a little every day. That started out promising but crashed and burned when I hurt my foot. I stopped. And then I started again, because the Thanksgiving 5k was just around the corner and I really wanted to participate. I ran 5k the day before for the first time, came home, signed up for the race, and ran that as well. I pushed myself over the finish line, forcing down the urge to throw up, and limped to the car. It was terrible. It was wonderful.
But I still couldn’t commit to running regularly. I ran another 5k six months later with the bare minimum of training right beforehand. Then I did it again in September, with an equally minimum amount of training. I beat myself up when my race time didn’t improve. I tried to force myself into a program, running 20min and trying to reach a greater distance each time, then feeling defeated when I didn’t. Or I shaved off two seconds. It was disappointing. I stopped running again.
This repeated over and over in the following year and I notched more 5k’s on my life belt. But they weren’t as much fun and I wasn’t improving and I really didn’t want to get out there and actually commit to a training program. I ran a 7 mile race in April and then just. stopped.
We went walking. We took a hypertrophy course. We took a break from Crossfit for three months. We walked our neighborhood. Swam. Hiked. Lifted some weights.
And then I started running again. Except this time, it was different. This time I ran began I got the urge to. I put my earbuds in and stepped out the door and ran until I wanted to turn around and then I did. A day or two later I did it again. Rinse, repeat, and almost a month later I’m running regularly. And I think I’m going to keep going this time.
Why? Because I’m running to run. I’m running to destress. I’m running to listen to bright and peppy music. I’m running to watch the sunrise.
I’m not running to lose weight. I’m not running to PR. I’m not running to train. I’m not running to punish myself. I’m not running to beat anyone else. I’m not even running to get better at running.
Maybe this is just another part of my running cycle and in a few more weeks I’ll abandon it again. Maybe. I hope not. I kind of like this new relationship I have with running. It’s a lot simpler. Put on shoes. Step out door. Run.