The average person calls us crazy.
Cars pass us on the road, and their drivers wonderÂ why on earth we are outside, putting one foot in front of the other before the sun is up, when most people arenâ€™t even out of bed.
Honestly, I used to be one of those critical people. I thought runners were an insane breed whoÂ lived for fitness, only ate health food and wore size zero clothing.
I would see them participating in their sport on the shoulder of the road, covered with sweat, looking like they were in complete agony. My sister had been a runner since as far back as I could remember, while my idea of physical fitness was a casual swim in the backyard pool. I hated to sweat and was average weight, so I had no desire to try something as difficult as running.
Suddenly I found myself in my mid-30s, living the life of a stay-at-home mom, raising three girls. The highlight of my week was going to the grocery store alone. I was lonely and often frustrated with the behavior of my children. I was constantly feeling stressed out, with no way to vent my anger for any type of relief. With constant headaches and a doctorâ€™s diagnosis of anxiety disorder, I realizedÂ something needed to change.
But what could I do? The prescribed medication made me tired, and drinking alcohol for breakfast is frowned upon—I needed to come up with a plan.
It was then that I remembered my sister telling me how great she felt after she went for a run. She claimed that it cleared her mind, and often left her with more energy—both things that I needed desperately in my life.
So I decided to rustle through my closet in search of a pair of shoes that could be used for exercise. I found an old pair of shorts, told my husband to make sure that the girls were taken care of for a few minutes, and I headed out the door for a “quick” mile run. I mean people do this all of the time so how hard could it be?
After about 12 steps down the road, I realized that this running thing was no joke. My breathing had already turned into the panting sounds of a giant dog, and I could still clearly see my driveway, meaning that I’d barely even started on this venture.
Wanting to stop immediately, but being super stubborn and desperate for relief, I made myself continue the torture until I had reached the half-mile mark. It was at this point that I realized my legs had gone numb, and my face was a deep shade of crimson. Wondering if I was in the middle of a heart attack, I decided to walk back home. That “quick” mile pace ended up being one of the slowest on record.
Getting out of bed the next morning was next to impossible. I was sore in places that I didnâ€™t even know existed. Even with that burden, I decided to continue on this quest and once again attempted the dreaded mile that afternoon. Unfortunately it wasnâ€™t any easier.
It took several weeks before I conquered the full mile. Although it was still incredibly difficult, I realized that (over time) somehow this had become the time of day that I most looked forward to. Even though most days I still felt near death, it took all of my anger and drastically helped with my anxiety. Once my run was completed I seemed to feel inner peace—as though I was one with the world. Instead of wanting to be up and running errands all day, my head seemed calmer, making it possible to relax with my family like a “normal” person.
Itâ€™s been over 10 years since I first laced up those running shoes. Since that time, I have worn through hundreds of shoes and run thousands of miles. Although my kids are grown now, the stresses of life are still always at my back, and running continues to ease all tensions and help my anxiety. Most days I have to make myself get up and get out on the road, but I never regret it after I do.
Iâ€™ve gone from being unable to complete a mile to running over 10 miles every day. This sport that I once deemed as insane has helped me in more ways that I can count. I no longer need daily medication, my blood pressure is lower than most women my age, and I never have to worry about my diet.
Over the years, I have discovered that runners come in all shapes and sizes. Some run for speed, while others run for distance. Some people love to run in groups, and others prefer to take on the quest solo—using that time for peace and tranquility. That is what makes this such a great sport. Everyone can take what they want from it, making it their very own.
There is no such thing as being a “newbie” runner. Yes, you may be new to the sport and have dozens of questions—but whether you are struggling to complete your first mile or pushing yourself through marathon training, running teaches you that everyday is completely different. One day I can feel like a million bucksÂ after completing a 15-mile run, and the very next day I feel like I need a walker just to finish a short three-mile jaunt.
I had the opportunity once to talk with a man who had run a marathon in every state in the nation. During our talk, he told me that even he struggles sometimes with small runs—never knowing when he starts out how the day will be. His advice was for each person to find their niche, or what works best for them, and go with it.
If you are a morning person, run in the morning. If you have a difficult work schedule, run whenever possible. He taught me that the act of running—putting one foot in front of the other—was an easy task, but the act of running is just as much mental as it is physical. When your body wants to quit, your mind must take over and make you finish. That mental act—when you shut out the rest of the world and solely concentrate on running—is “the zone.”
I will always struggle during the middle of my runs, having to put myself into “the zone” in order to complete them, but what running has given me outweighs everything. Iâ€™m grateful everyday that I get to exercise, and I now proudly wear the “crazy” person title, like all of the other runners that I used to scowl at. It gave me a new lease on life, as Iâ€™m guessing it has done with the thousands of other runners of the world.
I think that the number one lesson running has taught me is to never give up.
On those difficult days—when my body seems to struggle with every step, and my mind and heart donâ€™t seem to be into it—I have to remember how far I have come, and remind myself that itâ€™s okay to slow down and walk if need be. It’s okay to have off days. I tell myself that tomorrow is a new day and a new run. That is what gets me out the door daily, continuing the quest that I never imagined would become the time that I dread but also crave.
Author:Â Jill Carr
Image: Unsplash/Clem Onojeghuo Â
Editor:Â Yoli Ramazzina