For those wanting to get into running but feel discouraged or scared, I offer to you my advice.
Do not rely on motivation alone. Many who wish to start running begin with the motivation of losing weight, increasing their fitness, or simply improving their health, which are all beneficial, but if you’re looking to make running a part of your daily routine, those motivating factors alone won’t suffice. These motivations rarely yield long term results because, through running, it’s very difficult to accomplish these goals in a timely fashion and can lead to making running a dreadful act. More often than not, these motivations will draw your focus to the numbers and distract you from running itself.
While motivation may be your catalyst, it can’t be your purpose. When you make it your purpose, you lose the spirit of running, and you run the risk of giving up too early. Instead, you must open yourself up to finding your purpose. As with many things in life, I find that purpose is uncovered through relentless commitment and investigation.
To get there, I encourage you to focus on discipline. There’s an intangible quality to running which is only experienced once you’ve developed a long-term relationship with it. So I believe running relies on discipline, and everything else is just a bonus.
When you wish to start running, instead of thinking up an image of a thinner version of yourself or whatever your motivation may be, start with the thought of “today I scheduled a run, so I must run.” But do not mistake this for the “No excuses!” mindset. I know how counter productive that can be. Instead, you must address running as a relationship. In Mary Oliver’s 1994 Poetry Handbook, she beautifully describes the love affair between ourselves and our intrinsic creativity, which I’d argue isn’t much different from running.
“If Romeo and Juliet had made their appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet—one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere—there would have been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them. Writing a poem is not so different—it is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Or, they make appointments with each other but are casual and often fail to keep them: count on it, nothing happens.
The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—the heart of the star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious. It learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be. Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself—soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.”
A romance doesn’t blossom from a mindset of “no excuses,” it takes root in commitment. When you build the routine of running based on discipline you are more likely to continue running in the future to which you’ll experience the perks and side effects of running such as increased happiness, fitness, meditative practice, and so much more.
There’s one more thing you must know: running is not meant to be easy. Often times people look at runners such as myself who run competitively, and make the assumption that running just comes easy for some people. When you look at running in this light, it’s easy to claim that you simply aren’t one of those people and then write yourself off. But the reality is that running really isn’t that easy for anyone. So when you live vicariously through comparison, you are robbing yourself of enjoyment—of potential.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Your run is unique and specially crafted for you. By thinking “Oh, so-and-so could do this in X minutes” you are stripping yourself of your individuality. Even for me, running was extremely tough in the beginning and I still continue to struggle with it. Often times people overshadow the struggles I’ve faced with my running because of my current times, accomplishments, or experience. But it’s important to note that there are still plenty of days that I stop mid run and walk. Sometimes it’s just too much for me, and you know what? That’s okay. That’s normal. Even those who you think running comes easy to experience struggles. I encourage you to embrace the struggle because you’ll learn so much more about yourself during those times than you will anywhere else.
So for those wanting to get into running but feel discouraged or scared, I offer to you my advice. Running doesn’t have to be a chore, an exercise, or even a sport, but it does have to be a relationship. And with all relationships, things take time. You must commit yourself, listen, and learn. If you continually show up through the ups and downs, a romance will bud.