At least three times a week, I lace up my teal Nike’s and hit the pavement. In the past, it’s been to walk at least 2 1/2 miles. But now, it’s to run.
I’m not a good runner. I’m not a fast runner. In fact, I’m a pretty awful runner. But for the first time in my life, I’m comfortable with calling myself a runner. I’m not running for a full 30 minutes yet, but I will be. I’m learning to run.
I re-started Active.com’s Couch to 5K program after suffering from a 6 month long overuse injury in which I had numerous diagnoses. First, metatarsalgia. Second, a stress fracture of the navicular bone in which I was booted from September 2013 until November 2013, and finally, after switching doctors, and undergoing 5 weeks of physical therapy and a cortisone shot, synovitis. It is something I will forever have to deal with now. I’ve always been the type to shy away from activities when I’ve had a past injury because I don’t want to get re-injured.
But now, I’m refusing to let it stop me. Sure, it’s still bruising and swelling and yes, it aches from time to time, but I’m not letting this injury win. I’ve been determined to be a runner for the last 5 years, and this time, I will be.
So why do I run? Because I want too. I want to lace up my shoes and run for miles. I want to feel that runner’s high. I want to cross that finish line of my first 5K and bask in the glory of success.
I’m not a good runner. I’m definitely not naturally gifted when it comes to running. I can’t figure out how to get my breathing under control and I land on my feet awkwardly. The whole idea of learning to run is a funny one to me because as humans, one would think we’d all have the gift of running. That’s most certainly not the case, at least for me.
But I’m learning to run. I read, I watch videos, and I talk to people. My legs ache as I work to make sure I’m landing on the mid-point and heel of my foot, instead of the ball and toes, so I don’t hurt myself. I try not to think too hard about my breathing because when I do, I start to panic about it and then I actually can’t breathe and then the dreaded side stitch happens. When I do think about it, the same thing happens. So I’m learning to find a happy medium. Good music helps.
I’m slow. Like really slow. Like barely faster than my speed-walking speed. But if I go too fast, I can’t breathe, and my lungs feel like they might explode. It’s frustrating. Especially reading about those who are running 8, 9, or 10 minute miles. But then I step back and remind myself that I’m learning to run. This is new to me. And just like anything that’s new, there is a learning curve.
I’m self-conscious. I hate running by other runners who have been doing this forever. In my head, all I can think is that they are looking at me going ‘What in the world is she doing?’. I won’t make eye contact with them as they pass by. I’m not being rude. I’m trying to focus. I need to zone out to my music and stare straight ahead so that I can concentrate on what I’m doing.
But what I have found in my short time learning to run so far, is that seasoned runners are always up for helping new runners. Whether it’s helping with footfalls, with breathing, or with position, they are willing to help.
I may not be a seasoned runner, but I am determined to get there. I’ve never wanted to run more in my life than I do now. The second I feel that stitch coming on, I slow my pace down and breathe. Instead of shying away and walking up a steep heel, I charge up it, completely winded at the top, but knowing that I climbed it.
Each time I lace up, put in my earbuds, and launch my apps (MapMyFitness, Active.com’s Couch to 5K and music), I know that I’m one day closer to being a distance runner. And that one day, I’ll no longer be learning to run. I’ll just be running.