When my wife and I were expecting our first child I’m pretty sure we read just about every book and magazine article we could find on being a parent, the baby, the birth, the months leading up to, the months immediately after, the must have products, the must nots, and so much more that I can’t even remember. We were not nervous. We were not ignorant. We were just excited. Almost all the information was bunk, as it usually is, but we did enjoy reading about it all. Over the last 11 years I have joked with my wife, half-joked really, that we should write a book about what really happens when you become a parent. Guaranteed best seller.
For now I am content with writing something for those people out there contemplating becoming a runner. So I asked myself what a non-runner needs to expect if he or she takes those first steps, if she does, in fact, become a runner. I’m going to steer clear of post-long-run-endorphin-crazed ramblings or talk of running highs or magical final straightaways right now. I believe it is best for newbies to experience those in the moment, in shock. I think it is best to let them know what happens, really happens, to all of us runners when we are not floating through glorious sun-drenched trail runs. If they think they can stomach this kick-ass sport after reading what comes next then give them their star and deputize.
They obviously could have taken on a far easier sport but have chosen instead to run. At least they will have been warned.
Here we go:
Sometimes people will crap themselves when they run. That person may be you.
Your new shoes will get dirty. Dodging puddles is a waste of time. Get your shoes dirty. Be done with it. This is not a Road Runner Sports Catalogue.
This is not a fashion show. That being said, it is also not a basketball game or the family backyard Thanksgiving touch football game. Buy some running shoes – real ones, from a running store for crying out loud. And ditch the knee length shorts. If you want to be a runner then be a runner! There are some really great companies out there that make some really great running clothes. They can make you look as cool as you can possibly look while basically suffering for extended period of time. You will feel better about yourself and you will feel like a runner when you wear the clothes made for runners by companies that cater to runners. Buy from those companies and from those stores.
So you may need to change your shopping and viewing habits. Support the sport by supporting those that support the sport. Universal Sports. Oiselle. New Balance. Brooks. Nike. Running Times. Track & Field News. Balega. Flotrack. Running Specialty Stores. They have all stepped up to help running and Track & Field. By paying them back you will be paying your sport back and in turn yourself. Champion and Wilson and Izod can have your business when they start doing business with your sport.
You will get aches and pains. Alot of them. Actually, it is rare that you will not have something bothering you at least a little bit. You don’t always have to take off because something is hurting either. Remember, there is a difference between hurting and being hurt. Knowing the difference is essential. So, realize now that YOU know yourself better than anyone else. Use running to learn about your body.
It’s usually your inability to understand yourself that gets you injured. It’s probably not the shoes, or the road, or the trail or the pace or Alberto Salazar or the hill or the wind or rain or snow or the article or the song that was on while you were running on the treadmill. Getting hurt is usually because of you. Staying healthy? You can take credit for that too.
A good massage for almost anyone other than a runner feels good. A good massage for a runner hurts. It does not hurt good no matter what John Cougar Mellencamp says. It is deep and painful and does not involve the massage therapist talking about Odwalla drinks while Enya is being played.
Sometimes you will pull a muscle except you won’t. It will only be a cramp. You will scream and embarrass yourself. You will be carried back to your car. You will contemplate quitting the sport. You will sheepishly be back running with the crew in a few days.
Ice baths are not fun. If the water is the correct temperature then your toes should feel like they are about to explode until they go numb. Ice baths may not be fun but they are worth taking.
You will get in shape to get in shape quicker than you will get in shape.
When you are finally in shape you will have runs that make you feel like you are in the worst shape of your life.
You will have a hard time dealing with the fact that improvement should be measured by the improvement on your crappy days and not the improvement on your good days.
Don’t run to lose weight. At least not the weight you measure on a scale. Running will not work for you unless you love it and if you are running for any other reason other than your love for it then running just won’t love you back. Try to use running to be a better runner. Believe me, you will become a better person in the process. And if that happens then those weights you want to lose both on the scale and off will disappear. Jacob Marley was not a runner. He should have been.
When you at your best you will be running on a thin line between greatness and sickness/injury.
Many of the runs you go on you will not want to do.
Many of the runs you want to go on will become runs you don’t want to finish.
Still want to be a runner? After all of this? Do ya?
I hope you do
We runners know these things because we learned these things over miles and miles and through aches and pains and the flu and bad races and terrible runs and goals not met. We’ve been through all of this. We kept running. We want you to know that we kept running. You need to know that. And if you really, truly want to be a runner, then you will need to learn these things yourself as you run your own miles.
No one said it would be easy. That was the one thing about running you already knew.
And isn’t that why you showed up in the first place?