I haven’t always been a runner. I have always been intrigued by running but mainly for the reason that the New York Marathon seemed really cool. I fell in love with New York in 8th grade when my mom let me tag along on a work trip. Then even more so when she took me and my best friend for my 16th birthday. I remember hearing about the NY Marathon (it’s always the week before my birthday) and thinking, “oooh, maybe i’ll do that one day!” Funny thing about that is I wasn’t a runner…not just a little bit ‘not a runner’ but really not a runner at all! A girl can still dream.
Fast forward many years and I hadn’t ever really attempted running nor had I ever said out loud, “I want to be a runner”, but I was fit and active and a friend approached me about training for a Half Marathon and I immediately said “yes.” We talked about it on a Friday night over drinks and met for our first training run on the following Monday morning. When I decide I’m going to do something, there’s usually no stopping me. It’s not a competitiveness as much as it is a stubbornness but whatever it takes, I’ll take it. Once I’m ready to face a fear, I want to tackle it head-on.
I did tons of research to find a training plan..we basically went with the beginners plan that many people follow- run 3 miles a couple of days a week and go up a mile every weekend. Ok, seemed easy enough. We trained in old gym shorts and cotton t-shirts. We didn’t run with music…mainly because ipods didn’t exist!..and we never once uttered the word “fuel.” We ran the race, maybe took 1 cup of water along the course, finished the race, and ate donuts and drank beer like it was our last ever.
Was it a good race for me? Well, of course! It was my first Half Marathon so it was great…but because it was my first, not because it was a smart race. I continued to run and the next year, same thing. I trained pretty much the same way, wore the same clothes, and had the same kind of finish. I didn’t have much improvement from my first Half to my second.
Again, I kept running. I eventually learned that if I ate before my runs, I would feel better. I switched from a cotton t-shirt to a cotton tank top. I added a little bit of distance during the week but I still never varied my pace, I never fueled, and I also didn’t improve much. Of course, I had read and heard about moisture wicking clothing, fueling (before, during, and after), speed work, slow runs…you name it, i had read about it but i hadn’t really tried any of it. I think I still suffered from that idea that maybe I didn’t need to be worrying about all of that stuff because that stuff is just meant for the super fast runners, the race winners.
Then I woke up and realized that’s nuts! Why would I not do everything I can to make myself have a better run, whether “better” for me that day is faster or easier or more comfortable or just more fun. It was a gradual evolution but eventually I was fueling before, during, and after long runs. I was wearing moisture wicking clothing. I was doing speed work, tempo runs, and long slow runs. I was calling food, “fuel.” Most importantly, I was becoming a “better” runner.
Not that any of the stuff that I was doing or not doing many years ago is right or wrong. That’s the great thing about running…what works for some may not work for others and there isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong” for much of it. There are things, though, that will help with your endurance, your speed, and your recovery. I do sometimes laugh, as I’m headed out the door for a long run armed with a fuel belt, road id, arm warmers, smartwool socks, compression tights, ipod, gels, gps watch, and whatever else that I can stuff on my body, about the “olden days” when I just threw on the cotton and hit the road.
I’m happy with my evolution as a runner and I’ve certainly learned a lot over the years. My running has certainly improved. I’m not a ton faster than i was before but i’m certainly stronger and more comfortable! I think the running industry is constantly evolving so we can continuously learn and do new and different things to become better runners. I just wonder what in the world I’ll be doing for my running 10 years from now! Oh, and while I’ve done some marathons, I still haven’t run New York but there’s still time 🙂