I bet you read that title and expect the secret to be some let down like, “just go out and run!”
Telling someone starting out on a running plan or into the world of health and fitness, overwhelmed with the prospect of completely revamping their entire life and diet to fit whatever fad they were told would “absolutely drop those problem pounds in weeks,” that they “just need to do it” – is about as useful as telling a person with chronic depression to “just give yourself permission to be happy.”
The typical result has that person thinking, “I give you permission to go fuck yourself” and moving on, feeling hopeless, or lost, or overwhelmed…. Basically, still feeling whatever emotion they were in when they came to you for the secret of running. “Just do it” makes for a great slogan for a clothing company that already has athletes lined up to buy from them. It’s solid advice, if you’re wavering on whether to run that morning or not. But what if you’re not wavering? What if you’re looking for someone to help make it less overwhelming? What if what you needed was someone to tell you you were right? That running is hard. That it is boring. That it’s uncomfortable and takes up time? It’s not such useful advice then. It’s dismissive. Just like telling someone who has hit rock bottom that they chose that. It makes everything that person’s fault and washes you, the one they came to, of any responsibility. Even the responsibility of helping them. The things is: They know its their fault they are in this position. They don’t need the reminder. The depressed and the new fitness seeker. They know their situation. They just also know they are unable to do it alone. They’ve come for help.
Just go run. Pah!
It’s bullshit. And anyone who remembers their first endeavors into the running realm should know it. It’s not about just doing it when you first start. Its about all the fears (What if my heart gives out? What if I get hit by a car, or hurt? How do I know how far I’ve gone? How do I carry water? What if I have to poop? How long can I trust my kids not to burn down the house?).
Tell them the truth fellow runners! Tell your friends and coworkers and neighbors who come to you to find out the secret to running: The. Actual. Real. Secret to how you keep going out to run! Tell them what it really is. Tell them what you really do to get through the struggle. “Just go run” is the outcome of your struggle. It’s habit for you now. Tell them how you got to that point.
The secret is the same for everyone. Sure, motivations are different (Weight loss, depression, addiction, boredom, a dare, jobs, competition, scholarships…) What pushed them through that starting phase, and even a tough phase later on, is going to be the same for 96% of the runners out there.
I only throw that 96% in there because I’m certain that it’s true for the large majority of runners, but I know outliers always exist and those jerks can just….go… stop …showing off ….. yeah.
A lot of runners got there because they competed in school. For them, they had the secret to running pushed on them all the time, every time. They probably won’t recognize it for what it was. If you ask runners who started running later in life – not for school, you’ll likely get to the real secret a lot faster.
The secret is community.
Well… Friends. A support system. And participation in running clubs or groups.
It’s having people to join you on those runs – even when they’re the hardest. It’s having people who don’t run, but who care about your goals enough to call and make sure you got out there, to be proud when your runs do go well, and to be impressed when your runs sucked but you got it done anyway. It’s the people around you, who make the run manageable. Its making some friends and connecting with someone as you suffer through the miles together. Its having someone that you can look at while you’re training and ask questions… Questions like: “Has your foot ever hurt like…?” Or, “I always feel so wiped out by mile five…what works for you?” It’s having someone willing to check in with you. To care how your running is going. And then, broadening that, to include more runners.
And, really, lets be honest. There’s a lot of truth to the concept of “misery loves company”.
Its about having the support you need to keep doing it. Even if you skipped three runs last week. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing. Even if you start a run, get about a mile in, and then quit because it was just not working for you. Even if you have to stop running for three months because of a serious injury. Having someone who gets it to talk to about it makes the difference.
And don’t tell me that it’s not like that for introverts. Don’t tell me, “Introverts need to run alone.” Lies. Even an introverted person enjoys having someone running beside them. They don’t need to chatter through the miles. Just being there with the group, words flowing around them, as everyone else chatters makes a difference. The run doesn’t require social participation, but the run is made easier by it. Having people recognize you and call to you as you run a local race makes you feel like a rock star. Feeling like a rock star is part of the drug of running that makes going back to it day after day so much easier.
If you’re looking for the secret of running because you’re trying to get started in it, but it’s just so damn boring? I’m here to tell you, yes. It’s boring as hell. But it can also be the best hour or two of your day. Music, audio books, pod-casts…. these things all help, but sometimes they’re not enough. Sometimes, it takes practice to be able to focus on your run and listen to the audio book. Its the aspect of engaging in conversation, or being around the conversation – and letting someone else handle the route – that can be the fix you need for making running more interesting.
And feeling motivated to go to races – because races are automatically interesting. You don’t have to compete… just go to experience it! Seriously. 5k’s are a blast, especially if you get the right ones. They don’t take all day, there’s a good community around them, and nearly every “big” race (ie; Marathons) has one! Find the costumed races near you. Find the races in parks or that have good parties afterward. Find them for causes you are supportive toward. Go for the 5k, stay to cheer on your friends running the longer distances. Go have a day!
You should train to run, especially if you’re thinking about doing races – that’s a given. And to make that more interesting, I say:
Go find your local running clubs, groups, training groups, neighbor, coworker, or friends – and join them. And remember my advice from a while ago: Stop saying no to running with your “fast” friends!
Its time that you jumped into the real secret of running. Stop wavering. All of your reasons to hate running are true. Come try the reasons runners love running.