A Runners’ Creed, for Those Who Hate it

Runners' Creed

The first thing to be asked is: why run at all, if you hate it?

Well. It’s a sort of least-worst option thing. First, I want to keep rigorously applying chocolate cake to my mouth whenever the urge takes me. Second, it’s free and convenient: it starts outside my front door (or wherever else I might be), and a pair of trainers takes up much less room than a cross-trainer in the living room. In any case, how do you even use a cross-trainer; every time I climb on, one of my legs becomes mysteriously shorter than the other and I fall right off again.

I’ve been running on and off (mostly off) for a few years. I’m not particularly fast, and I’m not one of those joggers bounding like a spring lamb, filled with the joy of the chase. Honestly, I find running any distance h a r d. Not just a bit sweaty and tiring, but more like my-chest-hurts-my-breath-hurts-I’m-going-to-die-goodbye-sweet-world-I’m-going-to-die.ย I am scarlet-faced. My fringe looks like hair vomit. My lycra bulges in all the places I’d rather it didn’t. The expression on my face says nothing so much as ‘I curse the earth and all the inhabitants therein and wish only for the caress of the grave, and that right soon’.

Still. The chocolate cake thing. And it’s not just chocolate cake: I feel like now I’m on the other side of thirty (HAHA NO BUT REALLY), it’s more important to keep my body in good working order. Treat yo’self right, as well as treat yo’self, you know.ย So, since October I’ve persisted. I aim for three times a week but usually only make it out twice. I ran our local 5k ParkRun on Saturday for the first time, and survived to tell the tale.

This isn’t going to be one of those ‘I started jogging and now I run jubilant marathons’ stories. Clearly. But not everyone wants to be a marathon runner. If you just want to get started, and feel stupid doing it, I thought these might help you too:

Everything is an achievement

If I get up in the morning and think ‘today I’m going to run four miles without stopping’, I am overwhelmed with fear and chicken out. So I tell myself ‘today I’m going to go for a short run. And after I’ve run a little way, I’ll see how I feel’. By the time I’ve got to the end of the first mile, I usually feel like I can carry on some more. If it’s particularly hard that day, I might promise myself a few seconds’ walk at the end of every half-mile.

Sure, it’s not as good as running the whole way without stopping, but what does ‘good’ mean, anyway? It’s my exercise.

Running three miles with stops is better than running just one and going home.

Running at all is better than no running.

A brisk walk is better than a schlump on the sofa.

You are a hero just for putting on the workout clothes and going out of the door. It’s more than you were doing last month. Feel good about it. If you don’t feel good about it, you won’t keep doing it.

Bed it in

If you love your bed as much as I do, let’s face it: you’re never going to get up at 6am to run. You only make space for things you love or have to do. Likewise, I might go for the occasional jaunt before dinner if Tim gets home early, but realistically I’m never going to get the boys to bed, collapse in exhaustion and think ‘gosh, I fancy ripping my lungs to pieces for the next forty minutes’.

So you have to find a place in your schedule where it’s easy, or natural. Bed it in. I know I have to take H to nursery every morning, so it’s not too much of a step to put workout clothes on two mornings a week. I drop him off and then run with the pushchair from there.

Incidentally, I also find it easier to get out if I just think first about putting on the clothes. And then I do something else. And then, since I’ve already got the clothes on, I might’s well go for a run. It’s a lame psychological trick, but my lame psychology usually falls for it.

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It will get better, but I don’t mean easier. And that’s ok.

I will say it again: I find running h a r d. Really hard. I can’t say it’s become much easier since I started in October. It might be that way for you too.

But (and it’s a big but, not unlike the one I’m trying to tighten up a bit) my endurance has improved, so I can carry on finding it hard for a much longer period. At the beginning I used one of those Couch-to-5k apps, which I can highly recommend, and was only running for intervals of a minute. These days I run for forty+, with a few ten-second stops to cross the road and rescue T’s many escaping trains.

Sometimes you can only see how far you’ve come by looking back at where you started. I might still be slow and saggy, but I’m slow and saggy at SOME LENGTH. That’s worth something. If it’s hard, it means it’s working.
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Endorphins are a thing

I was always baffled byย the people who said they came back buzzing with good health and civility towards all men after a run. To some extent, I still am. All I want to do when I come back is drink two pints of juice and never be bothered by anyone again. But I have noticed, especially in the last few months, a soft glow of gratification settling on me as I wobble into the shower. I forget how terrible it was, and feel glad that I’ve done it. (In this respect, it’s a lot like childbirth.)

It might be endorphins, or it might be the natural satisfaction that comes whenever you do something you find difficult. Either way, it makes it easier to get out the next time.

A good place to run laps. They gave me a high five every time I went past.

A good place to run laps. They gave me a high five every time I went past.

Choose your entertainment

Tim is the sort of person who cycles 50 miles in a week, and thinks it was a jolly good lark. He runs listening to nothing but his own breath, so he can monitor his pace. I have endless admiration for him (in many more areas than this), but I know I’ll never be that hardcore. When I run I need 1) distraction from the existential horror of running, and 2) something to force my feet and breath into alignment.

So I’ve experimented: some days I listen to a comedy show for half of it, then switch to music that fits my running speed for the second half, when I’m tired. I find audiobooks and radio shows make the time go quicker, but if I want to actually run quicker, music is better.

Everyone’s different, so experiment with what works for you. My general rule is that if it makes me want to fist pump in the car, it’ll likely work on the road.

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I think I can say I’ll never be consumed with the desire to run a half-marathon. Who knows? I’m aiming for a 10k distance this year, which is so astronomically far from where I started it feels like landing on the moon. But hey, I’m building my own rocket. Twice a week. With stupid hair. I think I’ll get there in the end.

Let’s do this thing.

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13 thoughts on “A Runners’ Creed, for Those Who Hate it

  1. Hear hear. I was never an exercise person so it was very difficult initially to find the motivation to do anything, because I was thin and didn’t put on any fat no matter what I ate. But situations and body change with age, so I started running and exercising few years back. Ended up loving running more than any other form of exercise. Mostly because I find working out within four walls boring. But now it has become more difficult with the body catching up with age and any gap that I give in my exercising makes it difficult for me to get back.
    I agree with your endorphin logic, if not for them I’d probably not even try again.
    But as important exercising is, complementing it with good diet is that much more important. So I’d give the chocolate cake a rest for a few ๐Ÿ™‚
    And you’ve been at it consistently since October! I tip my hat to you.
    Yay for the 10k. All the best. Of course you’ll do it.

    • You are quite right about the chocolate cake ๐Ÿ™‚ I generally substitute healthier options for the boys and have slowly been training myself to do the same. Very slowly!

      Good for you for starting to love it! That’s my dream. Not sure it’ll ever happen ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I used to hate it when I started. I credit your brother-in-law with actually helping me learn to enjoy it. Some time, we should go running together: no pushchairs, just let the menfolk keep the boys and have a little jaunt together.

    • Ah, you’d think living with Tim would have helped there, but no joy so far ๐Ÿ™‚ I have not yet overcome my fear enough to run with others (I can only do it while imagining I’m in a world where no one can see me), but you’ll be the first person I call when I do!

  3. Great post, and so genuine. I really believe you hate running. I hate running too, but if you can do it, maybe I can do! Thanks for the inspiration. x

  4. Yes! Reading this makes me just want to give you a hug, post-run sweat and all! (Because Lord knows I’m even sweatier if I’ve run so much as a quarter mile). This post has inspired me to make a running (aka slow jogging) goal for the summer, thank you!

  5. This, this and thrice *this*! I was completely where you are and have been. Mind you, I never made it past 5k before grinding to a halt for several months, and then having to start all over again from scratch – so hard.
    Things that made it easier:
    – couch to 5k, which in turn, helped me accept that walking for a bit was OK
    – Running like a Girl by Alexandra Hemingsley – made me want to head out as soon as I’d read it (and stopped laughing)
    – running home from work – or finding a way to make it a part of my day, not a whole different thing I had to start when I got home
    – Parkrun

    Things that didn’t help:
    – stopping for any length of time made it so hard to restart. Now I’ve stopped since before I was pregnant, and I’m finding it so difficult to figure out how to get going again (especially with baby in tow)
    – setting ridiculous goals – you’re totally right that anything is an achievement, and just going out counts as a big win.
    – any number of miles per week targets, or competitions – just didn’t work as motivation. Not wanting to break a streak of going x weeks in a row did though.

    Keep on keeping on – it sounds like you’re doing so well! Oh, and Isles of Wonder, the Olympic games opening ceremony soundtrack, is a great running soundtrack, especially the second half. Bonus: you get to pretend you’re in the stadium at the end ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ah, brilliant comment, thanks so much! I love hearing what’s worked for other people and getting new ideas. Isles of Wonder is a GREAT idea ๐Ÿ™‚ I find the tracks I’m using stop working after a little while so I have to rotate.

      I will look up that book, too! x

  6. Oh Rachel. I have long attempted to become a runner, especially with the example of people who are awesome at it. Myself being naturally lousy at it, I have tried and failed an unnumbered amount of times. I am bookmarking this article to give me strength. For I am determined to give it another go…once the oppression of Virginian Summer is over.

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