Running is a sport that offers almost zero immediate gratification. It’s difficult getting started, and it’s never gets easy after that. So, why do we do it? And, how on earth can an activity as boring and arduous as running be so popular?
I was first introduced to running as a first grade student. I was six years old, and my parents were into the healthy eating, run-every-day craze that took hold in the late seventies. I ran a few short road races and decided I had better things to do. It was no fun, and I liked real sports that involved scoring and cheering fans.
When I was a 4th grader, my basketball coach taught us to think of running as punishment for poor shooting or poor behavior. We ran laps every time things got too wild or we lost our concentration. As you can imagine, this happened quite a bit.
I was captain of our track team in high school. I ran the 800m in 2:11 as a sophomore and showed some promise. By the time I was a senior I had discovered that throwing things was easier than running. I qualified for the state meet in the discus and watched the runners suffer with no desire to join them.
It wasn’t until I was an overweight, 40 year-old father that I decided to give running another chance. I hoped to lose a few pounds and get in shape so that I could enjoy a full life and stop buying larger pants every fall. So, I bought some running shoes and I went for a run.
A very short run.
It was less than half a mile, and it hurt. But, it sparked something in me. I was frustrated by my lack of fitness and used that to get myself out the door each day. I made a promise that I would put on my running gear and do something. Some days I would run. Other days I would walk.
After a few weeks, my running became a habit. I looked forward to that time each day that was just for me. My runs looked like something that more closely resembled actual running! I managed to run two miles. Then I completed three miles. And, I still remember the pride I felt after running my first 8-minute mile in over twenty years.
From that point on, things seemed to happen quickly. I entered a 5K race, I bought a GPS watch, and I started dreaming about longer race distances. My habit had become a lifestyle. I was a runner, and it felt really good.
Almost five years later I’m still a runner. I’ve lost 55 pounds, run two marathons, and become a better version of my old self. I learned that running is like a relationship. It requires dedication, consistency, honesty, and passion. Running was always there waiting for me to be ready, and it’s waiting for you too.
This article first appeared on RunHaven as a guest post.