I have always wanted to be a “runner”.
I have always wanted to be able to run long distance, to experience a “runner’s high”, to hit and push through the “wall”.
Five years ago my mother was training for marathons, and I didn’t believe I could ever run a 5k. I had competed briefly in track and field in elementary school, but more than 25 hours a week were dedicated to dance until I was in university. I avoided the treadmill like the plague, always opting for the elliptical. An ex-boyfriend had said that I was a terrible runner; that I just couldn’t run. I believed him. I felt like my lung capacity was low, that my form was off…I just wasn’t a runner.
It’s amazing what you can convince yourself you can’t do. Without ever really trying, I had convinced myself that I would just never be able to run. It didn’t matter that I had never really trained. It didn’t matter that I had never even tried. I couldn’t be a runner.
Fast forward 3 years when I was hitting the gym every night to lift weights. My cardio warm-up became a 2km run-walk before every other gym session. Had I been trying to run, I would have been so frustrated with my lack of ability that I likely would have stormed off the treadmill. I told myself that it was okay that I was run-walking; I was here to work on abs. I wasn’t a good runner anyways.
After a few weeks, the run-walking became a bit too easy, so I started running for longer intervals. And then I started running very short distances outside.
By this point I had moved back to Toronto and met my boyfriend — a wildly talented FCAMPT physiotherapist who also writes articles on running and fitness for the Globe & Mail and Huffington Post. (I’m a little proud 😉). For one of our first dates, he suggested we go for a run.
I froze. I thought: dear Lord, here’s this athletic guy I really like who competes in triathlon, runs a 10k in his sleep, was a nationally ranked squash player…I’m going to embarrass myself.
I made up excuses not to go. Eventually, the following week, I was out of excuses and threw out a self-deprecating, “I’m a really bad runner, so as long as you don’t mind that…”
We went for a 6km run outside in 28C weather. He showed me some drills, adjusted my form, gave some suggestions. We finished it in around 35 minutes. And then we finished another run of a similar distance two days later. And another. He was supportive and congratulatory and always motivating.
More than anything, he changed my perspective. When I said that I wasn’t very good, he corrected me and explained that with training I could be a great runner. He reminded me to enjoy the process, to enjoy the work, to enjoy seeing myself improve.
For some reason something clicked. For years I had never realized that I had been setting myself up to fail every time I went to run – whether it was to the bus or for exercise. Without ever attempting to try, I had told myself that I wasn’t any good.
Once I stopped assuming I would fail, I started running consistently — adjusting my form, asking for pointers. I saw seconds and then tens of seconds come off of my average pace. That feeling was liberating and instilled so much of the confidence I had lost since quitting dance. I felt proud, and free, and unstoppable!
It’s been a little over a year and I’m working toward two sprint triathlons in August and September, a trail race in two weeks, and am training for my first half-marathon in October.
All of these races involve running. I would have never ever (ever!) thought that I would be here. The energy at these races is intoxicating and motivating! If you have any interest in competing in an endurance event (or any event), go to a race! I can almost guarantee you’ll leave with a new found sense of purpose and excitement!
I’m certainly a tri-newb at this point, but friends and family always say: “Oh, gosh, I would love to but I could never do a triathlon/5k/10k/half-marathon/cycling race.”
I wasted years of my life telling myself that “I could never”, and I regret that. You can do anything. Sure, it’s going to take a little bit of time (or a lot of time!), and some effort and lifestyle changes and there are going to be days where you think that the entire process is futile. But, you can do it. Don’t let yourself, or anyone (other than maybe a panel of very well-trained physicians assessing a health risk) tell you that you can’t.
Promise me this: Above all else, stop saying “can’t”, and learn to love the process.
You’ll be amazed at what you can do.