With fourteen years of soccer playing and tennis all throughout high school under my belt, getting to college was kind of a shocker to the sport side of me. Gone where the days where I could find time to kick around the ball or rally for hours on end, or have 7-7 tiebreaker matches. Or even sleep.
I was determined not to be another victim in the freshman fifteen statistic. So I took up running. First unexpected thing – I was not very good at it. I had self-righteously believed that my athleticism would be enough for me to able to run carefree miles all over the streets of my hometown.
I may have been in relatively good shape, but I underestimated the mental aspect of running. It’s not sprinting to one side of the court and back or doing a penalty kick. It’s you, wrapped in your own thoughts, seeing how far your feet can take you.
So for the past year or so, I ran intermittently when I could find the time. But a few weeks ago, the competitive part of me kicked in, and I decided to start training for a half marathon, because having a goal is a motivator. There were a lot of things that having that goal entailed that I didn’t expect.
I didn’t expect the running community to be so wonderful.
Heck, I didn’t even know there was a running community. But I have yet to go on a run where I pass at least one other running person, they smile broadly, do a fist pump, or shout words of encouragement. One day I will concoct my own unique running encouragement for passersby, but for now I stick to a smile and wave because I’m too much of a newbie.
My favorite instance of this phenomenon of community motivation was when I went running with my brother across a bridge with two sides where people frequently set their running paths in my town. From all the way across four lanes of busy traffic, a guy screamed out, “Yeah running for life!” at us as he ran by. Yeah, running for life. If I wasn’t convinced before, he convinced me now.
I didn’t expect the lack of self-consciousness.
Running all over the streets looking sweaty and gross, I thought I would be at least a little freaked out that people driving by in their cars were going to see me and judge, or I was going to have to activate spy-ninja running mode in case I saw someone out and about that I knew. Then I realized I was looking at it completely wrong. Those people sitting in their cars, much like the running community, are more often than not thinking “good for you” or “keep it up!” Either that, or they’re silently hating you for taking the initiative to be healthy while they are stuck in their cars. Either way, with your heart pounding and music pumping in your ears, you learn not to care.
I didn’t expect the decrease in appetite.
More proud than embarrassed that in my prime I can down three cheeseburgers from in’n’out and my idea of a personal pizza is just a regular pizza you order for yourself, I never expected that running would make me less hungry in general. There are studies that both prove and disprove this point, so the actual scientific evidence to the fact that running results in appetite suppression is fairly inconclusive, but personally I have felt the effects. I used to think that when I got home from a five or six mile run, I’d want to stuff my face with any food I could find in my pantry. Surprisingly, if I want to eat at all, the cravings I get are usually for smaller portions of healthier food. Personally I feel like it’s my body thinking, “oh boy, if we have to do that all over again, let’s not crave an entire bag of Doritos” because healthier eating means better running.
I didn’t expect the sometimes crippling boredom.
This is one of the admitted downsides, at least for people like me who cannot switch off their brains. There are those commercials on TV that you look at with people running on beautiful beaches or through the mountains and they look super happy and carefree. Well, I’m sure they are, but they’re also still probably thinking, “Am I done yet?” This is where the mental aspect of running hits – after nearly an hour of jamming to your playlist or trying to pay attention to a book on tape, it’s nearly impossible not to wonder when you’re going to be able to stop running and go home and take a shower. You think you’ve run for another solid ten minutes, and thirty seconds have passed. Running in new places always helps, but it’s still something to keep working on.
I didn’t expect the shocked reactions from people when I tell them how many miles I go.
I expected a pat on the shoulder and people to say “oh that’s cool.” I didn’t expect them to practically flip a table and yell “Eight miles? You’re nuts!” I didn’t think I’d be telling people much about my running distances, but the reactions are too much fun to pass up.
I didn’t expect that I could actually do it.
Each time I lace up my shoes, sometimes reluctantly, I think about how far it is I’m actually going to go, and it seems a little overwhelming. But the feeling of accomplishment that comes after the run is complete make it worth it.
Anyone can do it, all it takes is a little dedication. I didn’t expect that I actually can.
photo source: blogs.discovery.com