I started running a year ago. I had just begun a new job after leaving my own startup. I was tired of being a founder and desperately needed a break. I wanted to have a calmer lifestyle and I wanted a hobby. Running seemed like a great choice for a hobby. As a computer programmer, my brain gets a great workout but my butt sits in a computer chair all day. I thought that a little bit of exercise would balance it out.
I didn’t entirely start from scratch. In the past I had jogged every once in a while, maybe once a month. I had a pair of Nike running shoes that my parents had bought me for Christmas and some grungy workout clothes. On the recommendation of my coworkers, I downloaded the free Nike+ running app for my iPhone. My first run was just 3km at 7 minutes per kilometre. That’s pretty slow. However, for a non-athlete I felt fairly good about it. I jogged a couple more times that week. After a couple weeks of regular jogging, I set a goal for myself:
I knew I would never be fast enough to impress anybody so it didn’t make sense to make speed my goal. I could have picked a race to train for, a 5K or half miler, but I knew how those ended. Everyone seems to quit running right after their big race. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to not quit. My goal involved not going too long between runs. If I skipped more than a couple days, wouldn’t that be quitting? So I started running four and five days a week. The longest I went between runs was three days when I was in Hawaii on holidays.
My goal made all the difference. I was still slow, but I could at least feel good that I was running a lot. I’d have good days where I would run fast and feel great but I also had lots of bad days where I was tired and just didn’t feel like running. In retrospect those days were almost better than the good days because they reinforced my goal -- I didn’t quit.
I ran my first 5K on Halloween, nearly five months after I had taken up running as a hobby. I wore a costume -- fairy wings -- and tried to keep up with a random guy with an owl on his head. I finished in 28 minutes and was super happy. I learned that racing wasn’t always about being the fastest, but doing my personal best.
I also learned that there are lots of kinds of runners. I’m definitely a certain kind -- the 30-year-old woman who wants to stay fit. There’s also the 20-somethings who ran in university, the middle-aged dads and mums, the older runners, and even little kids. During my next 5K race, my primary goal was keeping up with the 10-year old boy running next to me.
There’s lots of good things about running. I run outdoors so I get some fresh air and occasionally some sunshine (lots of fog here in San Francisco). My favourite part about running is when I do long runs on Sundays. I sometimes pick a cool or weird place to explore and run to that place. I’ve seen the Seward St slides, the tiled steps at Moraga and 16th, the Wind Harp tower, and nearly all of Golden Gate park. Did you know there are two windmills in Golden Gate park? I thought I imagined them after running 10km to get there. Running also gave me a new perspective on my body. I’ve always been so focused on my mind and my body was just something that I lived in. I finally felt that my body had a purpose -- to run.
There are lots of downsides to running as well. I sweat a lot when I run. A LOT. I’d come back to the office after a run and the office dog would run up and lick my sweaty legs. I had to stop caring if people saw me all sweaty and gross. Thanks to my slow pace, I haven’t really been injured yet. I have tripped and scraped my knees, more than once. I’ve also lost a couple toenails after long runs and big hills. I’ve learned to keep my toenails short and watch out for gaps in the footpath.
My one-year running anniversary was Saturday, June 8. I had signed up to run a race on the exact day of my first run. Sadly, I never got to run that race, it was cancelled shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings. Instead of running a race on my anniversary, I signed up to run a full marathon in December, hired a running coach and set a regular running schedule. I’ve started to think of myself as a runner.
If you would have told me a year ago that I would be working out almost every day and running 160km a month I would never have believed you. Running really snuck up on me. I had modest aspirations and didn’t really care if I was great at running. I just wanted to stick to my one goal.
I ran for a year [Medium]
Leah Culver is an iOS and Python developer, and former co-founder of Pownce, Grove and Convore. Follow her on Twitter @leahculver.
This article has been updated since its original publication.