I've been thinking a lot lately about my relationship with running. I didn't really start running until I was in my late 20s, mainly as a way to spend more time with Tony. At the time, we had been dating for about a year, and he would go out for a run a few times a week. He seemed to really enjoy it, and one day I asked if I could join.
Running was HARD. I felt uncoordinated and slow. I remember the first few times we went out, I would be gasping for air by the 5 minute mark. I had to learn how to pace myself; there is no reason to be starting out going full speed on a 3 mile easy run. I learned quickly that my cardiovascular system needed some conditioning. Up until that point, cardio had been pretty non-existent in my life.
Honestly, I'm surprised I didn't give it up. Maybe it was a combination of Tony being such a calm, patient coach and my stubbornness to not allow myself to just give in to something that was difficult. Either way, I did stick with it with varying degrees of consistency. We started running local 5ks, and had the boys join us with a few.
I think running races really helped intensify my feelings towards running. I find that runners tend to be such welcoming people. It is not uncommon to have complete strangers cheering each other on in the middle of a race. I like the camaraderie and inclusiveness, regardless of speed and ability.
We started running longer distances, and ran a few half marathons. I found myself thinking about running when I wasn't running. I loved reading about other runners, and found that I was getting choked up reading about complete stranger's race recaps (and I am NOT generally an emotional person). I would spend hours each week reading running blogs and various articles on running form and technique. It seemed like running was the only thing on my brain.
But at the same time I would not call myself a runner. This is something that I still have trouble doing to this day. Even after 3 marathons, 5 half marathons, and years of consistent running, I still hesitate to call myself a runner. I will say "I run" or "I like to run", but for some reason I feel like I haven't earned the right to label myself a runner. Silly, right? I would have zero problem calling anyone else who runs a runner, but I almost feel phony when I think about calling myself one. Maybe because running has never come easy for me. Maybe because sometimes I hate running and find any way I can think of to skip my run for that day.
Running is still hard for me. Not in the same way as it was when I first started out, but it isn't always effortless by any means. It probably doesn't help that my husband is a far better runner that I am, and runs at a pace well below his ability so that we can run together. He was BORN to run. He is built for long distance, and he always looks so fluid and relaxed while I'm having difficulty maintaining our 10ish min/mi pace.
Even knowing how difficult running is, and how much work I have to put into it, I still think about it all the time. When I'm driving I often find myself thinking, "I wonder what it would feel like to run down this road". I continue to sign up for races, despite knowing how much work goes into training. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment after pushing myself in a hard speed session or a hilly tempo run. At the end of the day, I can't get running off my mind, even when I don't like it very much. If that isn't a sign of true love, I don't know what is.