I know this is a tough time, a terribly time really, in world history. The COVID-19 outbreak will be remembered like the Spanish Flu in 1918 and like other pandemics before that. It’s affecting millions of human beings around the globe, not just those who are sick or who have lost loved ones, but also those who have lost their jobs, had their businesses closed, their wages cut, etc. So I am aware of the need to tread lightly as we look for silver linings, if you can even call them that, during this period.
However, I personally think it’s important to do so. That’s what I’m choosing to do anyway. And in our world (meaning the running world), I do see a few silver linings, but one big one in particular; people are trying out running for the first time!
In my past life, I co-owned a run-specialty store in Saint Louis, Mo.– Big River Running Company. My business partner and I opened our doors in August of 2006, in the thick of the second running boom. We were getting new runners coming in each and every day. Of course, they often didn’t think of themselves as such.
I cannot tell you how many customer interactions went exactly like this:
I’m not a runner.
Do you run?
Then you’re a runner.
And I really meant it. The conversations would go on from there and I’d go on to tell them a little bit about our running community at Big River; about our group runs, and our speed workouts, and our racing series…and how all of it was for ANYONE. If that customer showed up at our next group run I knew I had done my job, because, from there, Big River Nation would take over. Runners are awesome people and, for my money, are the most welcoming folks you’ll ever encounter. Doctors, and lawyers, and contractors, and paper salesmen, and teachers, and servers, and the list goes on, forged lifelong friendships at our events. We even had couples get married who met at our group run!
So here’s the deal; even though we can’t run together right now, I know that day will come. So I wanted to say a few words to those of you who have taken up running during this time; whether as stress relief, or to stay in shape, or to lose weight–whatever the reason–about just how cool this sport really is and how, if you stick with it, it can become an incredibly positive, and important, piece of your life. Here goes:
First of all, I am not going to lie to you. Running is hard at first. If you’ve never really done it, the first three or four weeks are going to be tough. You’ll be sore. You’ll be super tired afterward. You may just flat not like it very much. HOWEVER, I promise you’ll come around. Human beings were made to run. Look at our design. We’re bipedal animals. Our ancestors survived by outrunning the rest of the natural world. And hey, if Oprah and Will Ferrell and PDiddy can do it, so can you.
Second, while I hope running can be everything you want, and need, it to be during this time of crisis, I also want you to stick with it long after the Coronavirus is behind us. And not for selfish reasons so you can buy HOKA ONE ONE shoes for years to come! I want it for YOU. So here are a few traits/tips from runners that I’ve seen make the transition from, “I’m not a runner,” to, “Running is a part of my life forever.”
(Not saying you have to do every single of these by the way. Try what sounds like it might work for you)
1) Set a (realistic) goal. And be corny. Write it on your mirror. Stick it on your nightstand. It doesn’t have to be crazy. If you’re just getting started and your first run was five minutes, make a goal to run for 30 straight minutes by the end of the month. The sooner you get used to goal-setting being a part of your running routine, the better. It’ll come in handy down the road.
2) Find a partner/partners/group. Okay- I know we can’t do this one yet–not exactly. However, there are plenty of running communities all over the world that are continuing to operate virtually. Join your local running store’s Facebook page. Converse with others. Ask for tips. I promise- they’ll be there for you. The running community always comes through. And when this is all behind us, you can meet up…and it will be awesome!
3) Sign up for a race. I know this one might sound crazy for those of you who just started running this week. And I know all races are cancelled for the next few months. But all the better reason to sign up for something in the fall. Signing up for a race does two things; it gives you a darn good reason (aka you paid money for the entry) to get out the door every day, and it gives you something to look forward to. We need the latter more than ever right now.
4) Find a training plan. Don’t worry. You don’t have to do this right away. But once you get through those first three to four weeks, it becomes super helpful to have a guide in terms of what to do. Like golfers need lessons from a golf pro if they want to improve, so too do runners need a helping hand from an expert. There are free plans. There are generic plans you can get for super cheap. And there are personal coaches you can pay to customize things specifically for you. But these things can be vital as you carve your own path in this sport.
5) Keep it Fun. I’ll end with this one. Once you’ve gotten past the grind and your body has become used to running, and you’ve joined a local running community, and you’ve signed up for a race, and run a race, and bought a training plan because you want to beat the time you just ran in that race; you’ll wake up one day and you will definitely feel like you are indeed, “a runnner.” And while this may seem impossible to imagine right now, you may even become a little obsessed with running. It happens. Just remember–this is supposed to be fun. Running is healthy. It’s a getaway from life’s many stresses. It shouldn’t be a stress. If you ever feel like that’s becoming the case, simply step back, and go out for a run in the prettiest surroundings you can find, without a watch, without a prescribed pace…and ENJOY IT.
Hope that can be of help to you as you begin this journey. Take it from someone whose seen it firsthand in his own life, and who’s been a witness to it for hundreds, if not thousands, of others. Running changes lives. From the sense of accomplishment we feel after crossing the finish line of a race, to the camaraderie we enjoy with our fellow runners, to the endorphins released as we run down the path on a sunny weekend morning, running gives us some of the most beautiful feelings we can possibly experience. So stick with it. I want you to experience all of these things for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
RUNNERS: Let’s work together!! Please share this with people in your circle who are trying out running for the first time.