I was hyperventilating. My muscles were screaming. Sweat was dripping into my eyes. Total miles: 0.25.
This was my first run. Unbeknownst to me, new running shoes and a cute outfit were not going to transform me into an athlete. From then on the very idea of running filled me with dread. I hated running.
I kept running because I had a vague idea in my head about getting in shape. Somehow this hinged entirely on my ability to propel myself forward at faster-than-normal speeds.
For months, I was at war with my body and mind. My neighbors kept their distance after seeing my running down the road on numerous occasions muttering profanities. I hated running.
Maybe I am a glutton for punishment or just plain stupid, but I didn’t stop running. The first time I ran two miles without stopping, I celebrated by vomiting in my neighbors yard.
I read endless articles on running technique, running jams, running progress. I wanted someone to tell me that running would stop sucking soon. All I knew was I hated running.
As my running shoes started to lose their tread, an amazing thing happened. I found myself in those difficult, unbearable miles. For every second I kept running when I wanted to stop, I felt stronger.
Suddenly, I wasn’t competing against the other people on the road, but against the person I was yesterday. Running became less about meeting a predetermined goal for physical activity, and about sticking to my guns.
I no longer glared at my running shoes and pictured them spontaneously catching fire. I saw them as therapy. I left my problems on the pavement, and with each step I pictured a new self emerging.
One day, without meaning to, I ran a 5K. It was a new years resolution I made years ago that I finally fulfilled. I didn’t look back.
That same week, I joined a running club and started to shave time off my 5K. I met fellow runners who encouraged me to embrace the pain, who gave me tips, who kept me going. Running was officially my hobby.
It was then I realized that running isn’t about getting in shape, losing weight, or competing against your peers. The truth is, running is still hard, because I am always challenging myself to get better. Sometimes, my runs make me want to scream, but I finish them. Why? Because running is more than a sport.
It’s about finding strength in your weakness, it’s about lacing up even when it’s hard, it’s about constantly pushing yourself to be better than you were before.
I won’t say I “became a runner”, but rather, I became a person who was willing to go the distance. I am not the best, but I know for sure if I start a run, I will finish it. I know I’ll never give up on myself. I know I am strong.
Leave it all on the road.