I first started running the way most of us probably did – being forced to run the mile in elementary school gym class. I was always out of breath and one of the last to finish besides the walkers, but I always tried my best. From this early on there was something about running that really made me want to be good at it.
I never pushed much further than a mile until I joined cross-country in middle school. The main reason for joining CC was that I was a very impressionable middle-schooler trying to fit in and for some reason a few friends joined so naturally I did too. I began to realize running farther than a mile really felt GOOD. Then I saw the incredible results of all these after school practices when I lost a bunch of weight. As a chubby kid weighed down (pun intended) by all the pressures of the media to look a certain way, this had a major impression on me.
I’ve never stopped running since. However, I didn’t go from the ~2 mile middle school races to 10 miles easily or quickly. I began just running on my own all throughout high school and ran my first 5k when I was a sophomore in college. I did another 5k as a junior but I never really thought of running as a serious thing I do – I just felt like it was something I could do for charity/good causes/a way to bond with people around me. (I did one of these 5k’s with my boss at the time who has completed an Iron Man race!!! I did not keep pace with him whatsoever haha but it was a cool bonding experience).
Over the next few years (end of college & post-grad), it became therapeutic for me but still casual. It was just something I do that I never really thought about. I did gradually begin to run longer distances (4-5 miles).
In 2017, when I moved to Thailand, it became essential for my mental well being – it was my way of dealing with the stresses of being in a foreign country, the everyday misunderstandings and exhaustion, the worry about being far from home, etc. It became a lot harder for me due to the heat and humid weather so I went back to 2-3 mile runs. (I did have a gym at my apartment building but it didn’t have AC so I’d usually just run on this path by a river since it was a nicer view.) It also became harder to fit running into my schedule since I was working full-time for the very first time, but since it was my main source of stress relief, I made it work.
In 2018, running became something much more to me. It became proof of what I can do – what I can set my mind to. It became a love and a passion that I believe will last for life. It is so many things to me. I began running 5-7 miles each time I would go. I experimented a lot more by starting to take different paths or running in the early morning instead of the afternoon and in different weather conditions.
I ran an 8k in March (Shamrock Shuffle), a 10k in July (Chicago 10k) and just completed a 10 mile race (Chicago 10 mile) in September. I hope to complete a half marathon next!
When I run a race now, it’s a completely personal experience – I observe what thoughts cross my mind in a meditative manner and I feel myself working things out and processing emotions I didn’t even realize were there much more efficiently and methodically. At the same time it’s a completely collective experience, as I’m passing others and as others pass me, there’s this sense that we all know running is freaking hard and therefore we’re all cheering for each other. We’re proud of each other for putting our bodies through this, for being so brave to challenge ourselves to our very core and we all want every single person there to win, to cross that line, to share that adrenaline rush of emotion when you’ve completed a goal that at one time seemed impossible.
In honor of completing my 10-mile race last weekend I wanted to document the way I got there. When I first set out to write this I planned to list physical steps I took (see below) but then I started writing and everything above just flowed onto the page because running is so many things to me now: it’s individual, it’s collective, it’s mental and physical, it’s pain and it’s pleasure. If this article helps or motivates even one other person in the world I will feel that I’ve accomplished something great because running can truly change your perspective about the world, about what you’re capable of and changing a simple way you think can change your life and so much more.
Here’s what I do:
I run every other day because that’s what I found works best for me personally. I do a hard run and then take one recovery day. I might work on my upper body or core the next day because balance is important but I give my legs at least one day’s rest.
Pay attention your pace & keep checking in to make sure you haven’t strayed– I think this is the biggest problem most people run into because people will start out too fast at the beginning and wear themselves out before they get very far or speed up when the adrenaline/pre-workout is really kicking in and use up those energy reserves too early on. This is especially easy to do during races because people either get competitive and want to pass others so they pick up the pace or if you find yourself running next to someone else you might just naturally adjust to their pace without thinking about it. So my biggest tip is to try to constantly stay conscious of your pace throughout. (If you listen to music, you can try to pick songs with a tempo that matches your personal pace to make it a little easier on yourself).
I use the Nike Plus app to keep track of my runs, distances, pace, etc. I really like the badges feature so there are always new goals to complete. It also lets you know every time you’ve broken your own record times/distances.
Diet: I maintain a pretty healthy diet the majority of the time. That could be another whole post in itself so I’ll just say what I do before/after a run. Before a run I try to stick with veggies/carbs because they digest much faster than protein. Protein is definitely needed after a run though so your muscles can repair. I also like a natural version of Gatorade to hydrate and make sure you’re getting your electrolytes back (listed below). Finally, running is so good for you but causes a lot of inflammation in the body so I take turmeric tablets to try to counteract some of that. (There’s a ton of good recipes for adding turmeric powder to food/smoothies too if you don’t like tablets).
(Everyone that knows me knows I’m really into NATURAL health supplements and prefer vegan when possible- so here’s what I use.)
(VEGAN, GF) My personal favorite energizing pre-run supplement: https://ommushrooms.com/product/energy
(VEGAN, GF) Post- run electrolytes (tropical fruit is the best flavor): https://nuunlife.com/shop/nuun-electrolytes/
(VEGAN, GF) Post-run Vega protein: https://myvega.com/collections/protein-powders/products/vega-sport-protein-1
(GF) Turmeric tablets: http://youtheory.com/shop/turmeric/
*may add to this post if I think of any other useful info*