I was 15 the first time I ran on a track. I had always been terrible at sports in school. I was incredibly flexible but hated gymnastics. I hated group sports with a passion, probably because although I’m very competitive with myself, I hated the competition and angry faces it stirred up in the field. I was going to ballet classes every day around that time, which made my feet and legs feel sore constantly, and my gym teacher was getting more and more frustrated with the fact that I was getting so intense with my ballet and dance training, but still hated sports in his classes. The more frustrated I got, the more frustrated he got, until one day, while the others were playing volleyball, he suggested I go out and run on the beautiful new track we had in school.
I remember everything from that day, what my teacher was wearing, how my hair was tied in a high pony tail, how everyone was staring because there I was, the girl who sucked at sports, flying on the track.
I loved everything about that run. I loved feeling the track beneath my feet, the blurry images I saw as I ran, the wind pulling my hair back. I loved that my teacher saw the end to his frustration and I certainly found the end to mine. I started loving my runs on the track and didn’t care how long he asked me to run for. I didn’t even think about the end of the run, how long it was going to take me or how tired I would be, I just laced up my shoes, jumped on the track and ran. One foot in front of the other.
If you think I kept on running for the next 15 years you would be sorely mistaken. After I graduated I fell victim to the absolute myth everyone was telling me, that running was unhealthy for women. That it put too much pressure on the ovaries, that the impact was too hard on the joints. I heard it all, even that it could lead to osteoporosis, which we now know is actually prevented by adding physical exercise to your life. It was the time of the power walk ladies and gentlemen, a practice that I still find unnatural (at least for me), because when I feel a pavement or a treadmill beneath me all I want to do is run. So did I fight the propaganda and continue to go for it? Nope! I fell for it, I focused on my dance training and left it on the back burner for a few years. That was of course until my hubby (then boyfriend) and I moved to a little house right next to a baseball field and track. I could ignore my calling no more.
That little track was nothing compared to the beautiful one in my school, but to me it seemed like the most beautiful thing on Earth. I couldn’t resist any longer. Once again I was lacing up my shoes and heading out. Two minutes later however, I felt like my lungs were going to explode, like running was impossible, like my legs were made out of jelly. I was so frustrated! I left my track and now it had left me. I kept at it for a few more weeks and powered through the pain, and then something incredible happened. My husband, who had also started running, joined me one morning and as soon as he saw me he said “you’re running too fast!”. Followed by a “No I’m not!”. Then by a “Yes, you are!”. It got me thinking of how at school I worked on my pace gradually and how maybe he was right. He then gave me the greatest gift ever. He told me to run by his side and copy his rhythm. It was tough at first since I had the memory of flying across the track, but I did as I was told. I was back, and suddenly with mixed feelings of wanting to stop and hug him but also not stop running. After a few weeks, I was back to my usual stride, and I haven’t stopped since. That was about 7 years ago and to this day I get excited when I see a trail, a treadmill, and especially a track.
In our next post I’ll guide you through some of those magical little tips like the one my husband gave me, so that we can take the mystery out of running. Running is not for an elite group of people and it isn’t something only athletes can do. To me, it’s the most liberating and freeing feeling, it’s an amazing workout, it helps you lose weight or maintain your weight, and it especially helps with your mood and has recently been found to work almost as well as some antidepressants. How great is that? If you’ve ever gone out for a walk, started to jog and thought it was horrible, you probably need to make a few simple adjustments we’ll be discussing tomorrow. Forget about pace, time or if you can run for 1 mile or 6 without stopping. Running is about listening to your body and it’s about letting go and feeling the breeze.
Let’s meet up again tomorrow for some tips and some stories on what my running is like nowadays. Don’t say no to running just yet, you might find your bliss on the track like I did so many years ago.
If this ever gets in the hands of my old gym teacher Jose T. (a long shot but you never know):
Thank you for the incredible gift you gave me, and for turning the most unlikely student/couch potato into a runner for life, with a simple lap around the track.
The awesome running photo at the top is by The World According to Marty, and is shared through Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives 2.0 Generic.