Home > Running > This is How it Starts.

This is How it Starts.

You wake up one day and decide you’re going to run a mile. And you’ve never run just to run before, so it kind of sucks. Maybe your chest burns a bit. Maybe the lactic acid builds up in your hamstrings, and you feel a bite in your legs that you’re not used to. Maybe you even stop for a bit.

You feel like shit. But you don’t die.

And so a day or so later, you do it again. And then some days later, again. And you get a little bit faster each time, and maybe you run for a little bit longer. And that burning in your chest recedes a bit, and the bite doesn’t come so readily. And so you run a bit longer still.  And none of this shit feels good, at least not the way “runners” like to talk about it. But the number on the scale creeps lower,  the old jeans and shirts start to fit again. So you keep doing it.

But you still haven’t died. And it doesn’t feel horrible.

And then one day you’re out and you run where you’ve always run, and maybe you were out late the night before, and your body isn’t cooperating with you, and your sweat stings your eyes, and you’re frustrated because you know you’re faster than this, that you’ve already conquered these particular burns and these particular aches. And so you finish, and you vow to do better the next time.

You feel like shit, because it doesn’t feel right.

And the next day you’re back out there, rested and focused, to remind yourself that you’re not that time and that distance anymore.  And you keep at it, out of habit and not out of any real affinity for this thing you’re doing with your person, pumping and kicking. Because you’re not a runner.

And one day you’re out on some profanely beautiful day, running and breathing and sweating, and the ache in your leg comes, but it’s not so scary now because you know it’s coming, and you’ve learned how you need to breathe to coax the ache away, and the trees to either side of you are kind of swaying in the breeze and the sky is not just blue but some essential, Platonic blue. And your sweat doesn’t feel nasty, but vital. And you don’t think yourself one of those crunchy people who wax pretentiously about the soul or any of that nonsense, but if you had to call this something? This new way of thinking about your physical person, and the way it moves through space, and the way it keeps surprising you? If you were pressed to put a name to this shit? You might call it spiritual.

And you don’t stop because you feel alive.

And when you do finally stop, with 5 or 7 or 10 miles behind you, with your heart beating fast but not enough to concern you, and your legs feeling not as bad you thought they might,  your breathing returns to  its normal rhythm really quickly, like you hadn’t just finished running very, very far for a very, very long time.

And you look down at your trusty kicks, which now have hundreds of miles on them, and you wonder if it’s not time to get new ones.

But you’re not a runner.

Categories: Running
  1. April 5, 2010 at 5:33 am

    Love, love, love this.

    I might just have to copy you.

    I find myself smiling a lot while I run.

  2. Alyssa
    April 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for putting words to THAT mindset. Yet I still can’t shake the feeling that my preference for indoor treadmill running, living and dying by those little red numbers in front of me, makes me less of a “runner” than those well-conditioned beings who glide by me as I huff along on an actual trail. Especially since my performance differs so greatly per setting…

    • April 5, 2010 at 7:26 pm

      the disparity in difficulty between the treadmill and the trail is really jarring. I was down to a sub-7 minute mile on the treadmill. outdoors (at least on my hilly-ass route in Prospect Park) i’m stuck @ 8 minutes or so. that’s a big difference over 7 miles or so.

      far be it for me to tell you you’re not a runner, tho.

      why do you prefer to run indoors, tho?

      • Alyssa
        April 6, 2010 at 12:56 am

        Well, the difficulty level is certainly one factor. But I also like the control of running indoors. I get very much into a zone when I’m on the treadmill and I have the confidence to push myself faster and further. Outdoors, every mile is a struggle. There are a lot of distractions and I get so easily frustrated with my subpar (numbers and speed-wise) performance versus the treadmill.

        I think I’d enjoy it more if I could divorce myself from the numbers on the machine when I’m outside. I think a lot of it is in my head.

        Oh, and since I run on the Wissahickon trail portion of Fairmount Park (near Valley Green), the helpful signs cautioning about recent sexual assaults are doing little to ratchet up my comfort level. :/

        • April 6, 2010 at 2:29 am

          next time i come home, we should run together in/near Fairmount Park. Or Kelly Drive at least.

        • April 6, 2010 at 2:31 am

          yeah, it’s really disheartening to feel that much slower. but the curve will bend when you run outside if you do it enough.

          • Alyssa
            April 5, 2010 at 11:24 pm

            Oh god… I’d be embarrassed to run with you! I’ve SEEN those Facebook photos of your treadmill efforts and have cursed/applauded you. (But I WOULD like to see you when you’re local and I’m not a sweaty red mess.) Also, I got guilted into signing up for a 5k in November, so running outside is here to stay.

            I also bookmarked this blog so I can gradually replace my treadmill number addiction with words 🙂

            • April 6, 2010 at 12:17 am

              oh, hush. you’ll be fine. we won’t go crazy…

  3. April 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Reading this makes me want to hop off my treadmill and run in Central Park.

  4. Lemu
    April 6, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I just bought some new running shoes this weekend. this blog will be the motivation. Project 10 miles begins.

    • April 6, 2010 at 12:11 am

      fam, if you’re ever up for tackling Prospect Park, lemme know.

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