Monday, September 3, 2012

The First 100 Miles

When I first started this blog, I told myself that I wouldn’t do two things: do posts about cute animals and write about exercising.

Well, since I got Buffy, the whole cute animal thing went out the window and now I’m going to break the second rule and talk about running.

Friends of mine know how annoyed I get when people talk about exercising. Here’s the basic rant:
I don’t care that you are training for a marathon. If you want to do something for your own benefit and your own health, fantastic. But don’t do it expecting me to praise you. Just because you choose to spend a certain amount of time exercising doesn’t mean that you are a better human being than me.

Like people who are vegetarian, people who exercise but don’t get all high and mighty about it, I respect. It’s the people who express their insecurities by lording exercises over people to feel better about themselves that annoy me.
My negative feelings about hearing people talk about exercise has to do with the fact that as a child I was never good at sports and the fact that as someone who is not interested in mainstream sports culture, I often feel like an outsider.

So, what am I going to do about this? Well last year I decided to stop whining and run. I started up the “Couch to 5k” training program. It seemed easy enough. I got about 4 weeks in and gave up. I tried again later that summer and stopped out again after a couple weeks.

Why did I stop? I’m not sure, I think, I pushed myself too hard, trying for speed over endurance and I just didn’t make it a priority.

So last spring, I started again. I read a tip to run at very slow speeds and just keep track of the intervals, not the distance covered. This worked. After about eight-weeks of following this program, I decided to just keep going after one session and completed a 5k in 49 minutes.

The first person I told about this (besides my wife, who has been incredibly supportive) laughed, and couldn’t believe how slow I ran.

That hurt.

There’s plenty of people out there who can run a 5k without thinking about it. But there’s a lot of people out there like me who can’t comfortable run a mile. It’s hard, because people who run a mile in 15 minutes, like I did when I first got up to a mile don’t talk about it. All we hear is about people doing marathons and five-minute miles. It gets really discouraging because, our society sometimes is too focused on comparing people as opposed to focusing on individual growth. When you compare me to other people my age, my running speeds are pathetic, but compared to why I used to be able to do, I’m really proud.

So after I did my 5k in 49 minutes I resolved to not tell anyone I knew about the fact that I was running besides my wife. I ran about 4 or 5 days a week alternating between long run and shorter runs working on getting my time down. During this time I came up with the crazy idea that I would run 100 miles by the end of the summer.

While running websites aren’t always directed at novices there’s some really good advice that made running possible.

1. Get good shoes: I went to Fleetfoot and the shoes they fit me with made a world of differences. Also, if you have any foot pain when you walk or at end of the day, see a podiatrist. It’s not normal. I have podiatrist made orthotics which have changed my life.

2. Bodyglide Anti-Chafe Balm: I cannot run without this stuff.

3. Treadmill: It’s a lot easier to keep track of speeds and not run too fast, too quickly with a treadmill. Yes, it’s more boring but with the right music/podcast/TV show, it’s not so bad.

The greatest thing about being a beginning runner is that the improvement is quick. In the 100 miles I ran this summer, my 5k time went down 16 minutes to 33 minutes and my one-mile time went from 18 minutes to just under 10. Is this impressive to other people who run in my age group? Not really, but this improvement is an achievement that give me a great sense of pride.

Start with the Couch to 5k program, jog as slow as possible until you work up to a 5k and then turn on the speed slowly. Don’t skip weeks; let your body slowly adjust and the pay off will be tremendous. I’m not talking about weight loss, I’m talking about your energy and your spirit. If you push through the early workouts and the days that you just don’t feel like running, you will get to a magical day when you actually want to run.

Do it, and be proud of what you run, no matter how slow it seems to other people. Because if you keep at it, if you don’t give up, you will be surprised how far you can go and how much you will grow in 100 miles.

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