I was a non-sportive 8th grader living in a Dallas suburb that fateful summer morning I decided to try running. As all runners know, “running” is a very loose term for putting one foot in front of the other. I remember that run vividly – my sweaty palms grasping my walkman as the sun rose above the gravel shingled rooftops. I think I ran three blocks, gasping for thick humid air, my baggy shorts crawling up between my legs.
This scenario has repeated itself again and again as I pick up running postpartum, post-moving or simply post not-running. Two weeks ago I dug through my drawer of workout clothes and pulled on the same trusty running capris that have served me well training and running races after the birth of my first two children. It’s time to begin again. I am a beginner. . . again.
Do you need some motivation to just start running? Here are five things that motivate me to take that first step after a long hiatus. This list was originally posted after the birth of my second child, but now, after the birth of my third, I need to be reminded of it.
1. You don’t have to commit. We’ve all met that person who is a “real runner.” For 30 years they have run five times a week. They ran cross country in high school. They have 47 T-shirts from a handfull of major city marathons, half-marathons, the local Thanksgiving turkey trot, the cancer fundraiser 5-k. That’s not me and it’s probably not you. But I am committed to running. Whether it’s once this week or tentatively planning to train for a half-marathon later this year or hoping to just work in six runs to prepare for a 5-k this fall. That’s the beauty of running – run when you want to and when you are able. Your run is yours. To be a runner does not mean you have to be a crazy person with a 100-day running streak. I’m a runner, but I’ve certainly had my share of 100-day non-running streaks.
2. Cheer someone on. When I was in college a friend ran a marathon. She was the first person I knew who ran one. That was back in the day when I thought a marathon was just a really long run. I mean, it had to be at least 10 miles, right? Ha! 26.2 to be exact. Pressing through the throngs of people and stretching my neck to catch a glimpse of my friend running the Chicago Marathon, I realized she was a part of something big. There were people of all shapes, ages and sizes running at various paces along the course. Some even walked. If they could do it, maybe this is something I could do someday! Find a friend who’s running a race and go cheer them on. You’ll be surprised. All those smiling people at the end of the race surely must be happy. They couldn’t all be fakers. It looks like fun. Fun? Yes, true. Sometimes fun does involve effort and pain, but it’s still amazing. Your friend’s elation will motivate you. My friend’s joy at completing her marathon was an inspiration to me. It was then that I put “run a marathon” on my bucket list.
3. Volunteer at a race. There’s more to volunteering at a race than handing out water along the route and then raking up hundreds of squashed paper cups at the end. My dad, my brother and I volunteered for the Pike’s Peak Ascent one year. We met the driver of a van early in the morning, coffee and donuts in hand. He drove us up Pike’s Peak along the treacherous dirt road as the sun rose. We warmed ourselves in a hut, then ventured out and prepared the “bag pick-up” area to receive finishers. For a couple hours, we watched, cheered, and returned runners’ belongings as they completed the extreme ascent. It was very motivating indeed. That’s not to say I was motivated to run that particular race. Run is actually a misnomer for the Ascent. It’s more like a power hike for most of the participants; but what a glorious setting to volunteer our time and receive a little inspiration from some hardcore ascenters.
4. Map a run. The first time I ran – walked with some jogging and with lots of sweating – I had no idea how far I went. At some point, we drove the car around to gauge the distance, however accurate that was. This was back before the internet, as we like to say. Wow, times have changed. Websites like mapmyrun.com allow you to draw your route on google maps and then tells you all kinds of information like distance and elevation changes. When I’m looking for motivation to run, I map out a route online. I may not run it now, or ever. But it’s there, waiting for me to try it out when I wake up in time to lace up my shoes and step out the door before my husband goes to work.
5. Train the kids to cheer. Our girls love to go to a race and watch the runners. Once you’ve bitten the bullet and paid the fee for that first race, have your spouse or a friend bring the kids along to cheer. And if you walk the entire race because you’re too pooped (because you have kids and didn’t have time to train), at least run when you pass the children. It’s for the kids. They need to see your shining example of fitness. After you’ve turned the bend and they are out of sight, you can walk again. Hopefully they will pick up some of your motivation and, when they are teenagers, they will drag you out of the house and leave you in the dust on a family run. That’s what I hope for in our family. That’s my true motivation.