Running is one of those things you either love or hate. I am one of those people with an on-again, off-again relationship. Now I am a sprinter by nature, but I am also a decent long distance runner. A year ago I absolutely despised the mile (or anything longer), and it was pretty normal in middle school to fear it. However, being the diligent person I am, I decided to learn to embrace long distance. In the sixth grade, I joined the after school running club. As you might expect, all we did was run the mile, maybe more, every week. Like anything you want to get better at, it requires long hours of practice and dedication. I decided to order a book about long distance running: Born to Run. It was through these weeks of tedious and exhausting running and reading that I started to see a change. My pacing, my breathing, and my form slowly progressed. It got to the point that a mile was only semi-challenging for me. It is in these brief moments of progression that I truly enjoy running.
There are two components that make up running: first and foremost, the physiology. When you are in the middle of your run, you can feel your lungs practically dying, and your legs are filled with that irritatingly lethargic lactic acid. You can feel the hot sweat on your face and you might just have a cramp. I usually want to give up at this point, but that is where the second and most important part comes in. Mentality. Every sport requires a focused and confident mindset. Half of my current knowledge on running comes from that book I mentioned earlier. In Christopher McDougall’s book, he details the lives of the “ultramarathon-running” Tarahumara tribe of Mexico. He also talks about his own struggles and how he overcame his running problems. I also learned quite a bit about our primitive ancestors that were adapted and pretty much made for running long distance. My running teacher told me never to run on your heels. Most injuries can be obviated by running on the balls of your feet like we are supposed to. While I happily die inside, I love to just relax. Let the air cool you down, look around at nature, think about how every individual muscle is working so flawlessly, and visualize yourself getting stronger and healthier. It is in these brief moments of contemplation that I truly enjoy running.
This now takes us to the present. Every now and then I will go running with my friend Kevin, an avid runner, around the hills. Kevin is my role model, for the enthusiasm, devotion, and pure enjoyment he brings to every run is inspiring. Often times he will go for a casual 5-10 mile run (awe-inspiring and concerning). I still smile every time I recall stopping amidst a run to walk off a cramp or to give my legs a rest only to have Kevin lecture me. While his words of encouragement and incessant passion do not always work, I realize how much Kevin cares about running. So even though my calves might fall off, I power over that last hill. Those thoughts of, “Give your calves a rest. That hill is too high,” subsided into determination and gratification. It is in these brief moments of hope that I truly enjoy running.
My former P.E. teacher and I go on runs once a week. Joseph is like my other Kevin. Because he helped me get into fitness, I look up to him as a teacher yet again. On our runs, we converse about science, specifically the questions I ask about the mechanics of running. The best part of his teaching is that he makes it feel as though I am talking to one of my friends, not a teacher. His community running club, which has yet to catch on, candidly speaks his intentions: Joseph wants so share his enjoyment of running and use it as a way to get the community together. He has recently run a couple of marathons and goes on hikes regularly to work on his running. Even when it was 90° outside, I still appreciated the run with him. It is in these brief moments of learning that I truly enjoy running.
You either hate it or love it unless it is that constant struggle between desperation and inspiration that keeps you going. Those failures that stop you along the way only make you more focused, more resilient, better than before. As my current P.E. teachers tell me, “You’re only racing against yourself.” As I write this article, I am now realizing why I love running, why I keep going despite the odds. This new birth has been a long, tortuous journey that has expanded my horizons and given me something new to improve on. I have decided to end this with my favorite Kevinism: “We da best.”
Special thanks to Kevin, Mr. S, and Ms. W for getting me to where I am today. I went from running an 11:30 mile to a 6:30 mile (5-minute difference)! I am so honored to have had such great role models. Without them, I would still hate the mile.
(*Very rarely will I upload a narrative)
For further reading: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (2009)