In my last post, I discussed how I managed to find one new hobby several years back. What makes running so singular? Well, not only did I decide that this was a good hobby that fit into my life, but I have somehow also found that I haven’t grown weary of it yet. Why does running fit so well into my life? What distinguishes it from the dozens of other hobbies I’ve contemplated taking up in my adult life? After all, it’s sweaty. And it hurts. And although it takes you lots of places, you eventually end up right back where you started.
As I mentioned before, I hadn’t planned on becoming a runner. I did, however, feel the need to get my butt off the couch. I’ve tried a variety of other forms of physical activity, of course, but nothing seemed to work for me quite as well.
- Team Sports — All completely out with my schedule. I used to barely find time to show up for meals much less a practice or game. Pshaw.
- Martial Arts — Awesome. Amazing. But again, you have to show up for a class and learn from an actual teacher. And you get your ass — literally –kicked if you don’t work at it every day.
- Strength Training — Now into this, I have put some sincere effort. I’ve even worked regularly with the always-fun Trainer Mike in an attempt to pretend that I actually like standing around lifting weights, teetering on balance balls and strapping myself into metal contraptions in a smelly gym for a dozen reps at a time. But I don’t. I really don’t. That’s probably why I’ve always needed a trainer to motivate me… No matter what I do to convince myself to get out there and train, I always find something better to do.
- Yoga — Oh, now this is a new love for me. It’s been a slow and very specific process, but I’m starting to really enjoy some forms of yoga. More on that later…
- Pilates — Like strength training, I have trained for some time with Miss Cassie, my lovely little pilates guru. She kicks my abs when we work out. And I must say that pilates has probably been the most effective form of exercise that my body has found. However, scheduling sessions has proved problematic just due to time constraints in life, so my study of this fabulous little sport remains spotty.
Running was something I could do by myself whenever I found some free time. At first, I pretty much stayed on the treadmill. Once my eating/sleeping schedule caught up and my chances of getting stranded on a roadside due to exhaustion diminished, I headed outside and took to the local parks with gusto. And while I personally have spent far too much money on running gear over the years, all you really need is a good pair of shoes.
I also found that running allowed me to use my goal-oriented personality to stay on track. After all, there are races! And you have to train for them! And that means you have to find a training plan that works for you and follow it! For a master planner like myself, this was like giving me the keys to heaven… or at least a fabulously detailed map. 🙂
That first 5K proved to me that I could run a legitimate race. After that, my competitive streak kicked in. I watched paces, PRs and heart rates like a pro. I did metabolic testing. I tried different types of training plans. I changed shoes. I also started increasing my distances. I saw a NOVA episode on PBS called “Marathon Challenge” [still on YouTube –> https://youtu.be/UjIkkwF2JaI] that inspired me to think that I could actually run the legendary Boston Marathon if I just trained smart enough…
Okay. I’m not that speedy. It’s still a goal. But I love goals! I love figuring out the steps that I need to take to get to my final destination. It’s like a hobby unto itself! But that particular goal is still up in the air for me. In the meantime, however, I done dozens of smaller races, including several half marathons and three full marathons. I never get tired of it. It never gets old. I cringe when my alarm goes off on race morning, but by the time I cross that finish line, I’m already deciding what my next racing move will be…
So I’ll spare you the actual details of races for now. But I will summarize by saying that running has become a hobby that has made me healthier, less stressed and less judgmental. Yes, less judgmental. After years of racing, I’ve come to realize that it’s more about that journey, not the destination. If you run every race to beat your last PR, you will miss the sights and sounds that make a race special. Yes, you want to do your best, but some races need to be enjoyed. Sometimes you run them to be a part of the community. If you smoke your friends right off the start line, you may get a great race time… but what about your slower friend who ends up running the race by herself? Or your running partner who is wearing the crazy hat and having the time of his life? Heck, I can run a really fast 5K at my local park without having to pay $50 for an early morning start and another gaudy race shirt. Sometimes, you just have to run a race to be a part of the experience.
And sometimes you just really need to smoke that guy ahead of you who’s wearing a banana suit…
“Remember,” my dad told me before my first 26.2, “it’s not a race. It’s a marathon.”
For a guy who hates running, I have to admit that he had a great point. 🙂