Distance running is a solitary act. The reason I run distance is because the state of mind I am trying to achieve is only found after several miles of intense, uninterrupted running..when the body adjusts to the stresses of a faster pace carried out over an extended distance. That level of clarity is specific to those moments during a run..when your consciousness detaches from your legs, heart and lungs. When you are inside looking out at a body acting on its own..you don’t have to think about breathing or moving your legs or how your foot strikes the pavement. Someone else is driving..you are left free to explore your mind. It is in achieving this level of consciousness that my passion for distance running was spawned. Everyone, at some point in their life, should make an effort to reach this state of clarity.
When I started running I was trying to lose weight. In my early 20s I was about 250lbs and was weight lifting like crazy. I was trying to get up to 260lbs. My eating habits were horrible. I lifted weights for the sole purpose of being able to eat whatever I wanted, and justified it by claiming to be building up muscle mass. Truth is, you cannot out-train a poor diet. I had never ran outside of the laps I was given during high school soccer practice as punishment for fucking off.
I went to my doctor’s for a physical around this time, I was recently enrolled in F.I.T. in Manhattan. A physical was required as I was going back to school for a second degree in Computer Animation. Health-wise I was expecting to hear positive things from my doctor..considering I was benching about 300lbs and working out so frequently. My doctor was kind enough to deliver a reality check. She told me I had so much fat residing in between my organs that I was at risk for some serious health issues later in life if I did not change my ways. I remember her poking my naked belly-fat-rolls with her cold ass finger, and bitchily saying “this..is NOT lean and mean”.
But she was right. So the visit to her office that day was successful in changing my mentality and how I approached fitness and diet. Running enters the picture on the car ride home, as I consider what body type I would want to have..if not a big muscular lifter of weights. So I started running.
In no particular order..some things I wish I knew when I started:
1. I wish I knew that once I got over the hurdle of my body adjusting to the act of running, that the things I would experience as a result of running would change my life forever. I don’t like to do things I am not very good at already. Starting to run in the context of other people that already have been running for some time is a great way to kill your motivation..or ignite it. The first time I ever ran, to run, was with a friend of mine that was a track and field athlete in high school. He was in great shape with tons of natural athletic ability..and he was only 19 or so at the time of our first run together. I was a smoker and had logged zero miles as a runner, and had about 5 years of unhealthiness over him. He kicked my ass with almost no effort, but he inspired me to get better..which i did..but only after months and months of consistent easy running. If you realize you are going to suck at running before you start (especially if your comparing yourself to other runners that have surpassed your current level of fitness), you can allow yourself the time it takes to patiently improve without setting yourself up for disappointments, as a result of setting your expectations to high. You have to start slow, a few miles at conversational pace for a couple weeks. Then build. Be ok with this.
2. I wish I knew how much I would get out of reading about the physiology of running. It took me many years of running, and many injuries, to pick up my first book on human physiology and running. Being armed with the basic knowledge of whats going on inside my body as I progress through a run from beginning to end has allowed me to engineer my efforts more efficiently when I am in the context of a run. In turn, producing higher quality work outs with virtually no injury, in turn allowing me to improve faster and beyond my previous expectations. If you have a basic idea of what to expect and how to train the body to adapt to specific types of stresses you can improve and run more efficiently.
3. I wish I knew how beneficial it is to run with other people. As an organizer of weekly runs, and some races, I have had the benefit of meeting and running with thousands of people. The advantage this gives me is the benefit of all of the experiences of all these different individuals. Social element aside, the benefit of running groups is the accessibility you have to information, experiences and knowledge exceeding your own. The reason we go to An Choi after we run isn’t to get wasted, it is to exchange information. It is to learn and to teach each other about the experiences we just shared..because although we were in it together, each point of view is very different. The shared route allows for a common ground, it gives each of us the ability to compare and contrast..in context of each other.
4. I wish I knew how beneficial it is to run alone. As an individual, running alone allows you the time spent running undistracted by others to discover your natural pace, how your body adjusts to distance, terrain and all the other variables you encounter on any given run. You can then find where you are at, which makes it easier to determine where you want to go..figuratively and literally. “Alone” also assumes without a watch.
5. I wish I stretched more. Youth allows for a runner to be lazy. I would run 15mi a day 5x a week and never stretch in my 20s. Never got injured. That shits over. I have to do a lot of maintenance now in order to keep my mileage up. Had I started earlier in my life I would be better equipped now. Start doing the right things when you start running. You will last longer and have more quality running experiences.