I’ve had some interesting conversations with friends recently about running. They might say something like “I don’t know how you do it, I feel terrible when I try to run.” I have to laugh a little when people say this. Let me tell you a little secret – the first mile or two (or sometimes 10) never feels good. It is a very rare day when I feel good at the beginning of a run, and I’m not alone. The body takes some time to warm up; the tight muscles have to loosen, the heart rate catch up, the airways open up a bit, and none of this happens instantly. If I never ran more than 3 miles, I would probably hate running too, because I would never get to the point where my body feels good.
Several people have told me, “I could never run that far.” In a lot of cases, this just isn’t true. It comes down to desire and training. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having no interest in running 100 miles, or a marathon, or a 10K, or not having the desire to run at all. But there is a big difference between not being interested in running that long, and not being able to run that long. If it is something you really want to do, and you are willing to devote the time to train, ultramarathons can happen. If you have no interest in that, the good news is you will save money on shoes, groceries, and entry fees. If you are a person that just wants to run 2 miles a couple times a week, well good for you! If that is what makes you happy, then keep running your 2 miles. And to my wonderful friend that belittled herself because of how much longer my runs are than hers, let me say the fact that I just ran 30 miles and you ran 8 miles, does not make your 8 miles any less of an accomplishment.
Not everybody needs to go out and run long distances. I think it is easy to be around people that you perceive to be “better runners” than you, and feel like you are less of an athlete. The day after my Run Rabbit Run 50 miler, I went to soak at Strawberry Hot Springs along with a lot of the runners. When people asked if I had done the 100 miler, I would respond with “No, just the 50.” Just the 50. Like running 50 miles wasn’t a huge accomplishment. I distinctly remember one guy telling me “Don’t worry, you’ll get to 100 someday.” After I got home, so many of my friends and family told me how incredible it was that I ran 50 miles! And you know what? They were right. It was incredible! What I realized is that there will always be someone running farther and faster than you, but that in no way diminishes what you have done.
I’m (unfortunately) an expert in rehabilitation, and have started running from zero way too many times now. Sure I’ve run a 50 miler, and I’m training to run 100 miles, but I can tell you that when you are starting from zero, a long run is always hard, no matter the distance. I have had that humbling reminder over and over again. Not that I wish injury upon any ultrarunners, but for those that have never had major setbacks, I think it is easy to forget how hard it is to start. It doesn’t make a difference if your long run is 3 miles or if it is 30 miles. When you are pushing your limits, it is hard. After recovering from hip surgery, various illnesses or injuries, and now a TBI, I’ve always been incredibly excited when I have finally been able to run an entire mile again without stopping. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. Be proud of what YOU can do. Remember that we are out there for different reasons – to relax, to escape, to stay fit, to think, to be alone, to be social, to be outside, to get faster, to go further, to heal. But the biggest reason for most of us, is to have fun. If we lose sight of that, then what is the point? So let’s all get out there and run without judgement of ourselves or others. Run to get what you need. This is supposed to be fun, not life or death. Just run and be happy.