Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Running is Awesome

Running is great! Running is fun! Running is awesome!

This was the refrain going through my head as I struggled during yet another run. Just as I was starting to feel good about running, everything has suddenly become incredibly difficult again. I don't know what is wrong with me, but all of my recent runs have been a real struggle. It has been a struggle to wake up early and get out the door. Forcing myself to keep moving forward has been a struggle. Even distances I thought were easy a month ago have been a struggle.

I'm have to keep reminding myself why I run. 

I've started trying to find new routes to keep things interesting.
I'm still new to running. I started running after I woke up one day and realized I was sick and tired of the way I had been treating my body. I was tired of getting winded from climbing the stairs at the train stop. I was tired of taking the bus just a few blocks. I was tired of being the fat girl that everyone assumed couldn't do things like run. I had already been working on cleaning up my diet for several years and had gotten better about eating healthier, now it was time to also work on getting fitter. One night after work, I threw on an old pair of gym shoes and an old college t-shirt and set out for my first run.

It was AWFUL! I think I managed to run one block before I wanted to die. Everything hurt. Everything burned. It was not good. 

But I refused to give up! I looked up some training plans for beginners. I found a bunch of different simple, easy to follow instructions on how to start running - they all including a combination of running and walking, with the amount of running slowly increasing and the amount of walking slowly decreasing over a series of weeks. I chose one that looked good to me, and I started. Initially I was only running 15 seconds at a time, but within two months I was able to run 30 minutes without stopping. The more I ran, the easier it became. Before too long, it became something I enjoyed and looked forward to instead of something that I dreaded.

Putting my shoes right in front of my door helps me get moving in the morning.
Running has become an escape for me. It allows me to just be me, away from the phone calls and emails and other "conveniences" that make me a little crazy. Running allows me to step away from work and the noise of our modern world. I don't have to worry about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. I get to be outside and enjoy my city.

Oh, Chicago. You are so pretty, sometimes.
Running is cheap. You don't need a gym membership. You don't need fancy equipment. You just need a pair of shoes and the will to do it, so it fits nicely into my limited budget. I did save up to buy some better running gear, including a good pair of running shoes, but you don't NEED any special gear to run. Sure, all that specialty clothing and accessories can make running slightly more comfortable or more fun (I love listening to music when I run), but none of that is necessary.

There are some great trails both in the city and in the surrounding suburbs. 
When I first started running, I would wear old t-shirts and sweatpants. Once, I even went running in a pair of pajama pants. Guess what? I was still able to run, even without all the fancy equipment and gear. Now, I have some better stuff specifically made for running, and while it does make my runs more comfortable (no chaffing!), it isn't necessary. I acquired my gear slowly and after many long searches for the best price possible. 

I occasionally run races, though I run them for fun instead of running them to win. I'm simply not fast enough to be competitive with anyone other than myself. I try to choose races that benefit local charities. It helps make me feel a little bit better about paying the entry fees. And I do have to budget for entry fees, which is why I usually stick to shorter races (my last 5k was much more affordable than my upcoming half marathon) and sign up as early as I can (there is usually a price break on entry fees for folks who register far enough in advance).

Me at my first race - The 2013 Grant Park Turkey Trot. I was super excited.
There are a bunch of races that I would like to run, but I can't afford them all. Sometimes, I can't afford any of them. If the choice is between running a race or buying groceries one month, then the choice is pretty easy to make. Groceries will always win. Although, there are always snacks at races. Snacks are good.

There are also a ton of things I wish I could do that my budget won't allow. I would love to run with the women's running group that meets at my local running store on Wednesday nights, but I can't just take the night off from work to go for a run. I would love to sign up for one of the training programs associated with any of the races I enter. My upcoming half marathon is slightly terrifying, and I'm genuinely worried about being able to complete the race. There is a half marathon training program available, but it costs money I don't have, so I'm trying to train on my own. I would love to have the cute running outfits I see other women wearing, but my oddly mismatched running gear cobbled together from the sale and clearance racks will just have to do. I'd love a heavy duty sports bra made for running, but until I have the cash handy (which may be never), I'll just keep getting the support I need by wearing two or three sports bras layered on top of each other.

The one thing you will always find at a race, besides runners, is bananas.
Finally, I don't have what others think of as a "runner's body". I have boobs and hips, and my butt and thighs jiggle when I run. You know what? Who cares!?! The whole concept of a runner's body, quite frankly, is bullshit. Everybody that runs has a runner's body. And everybody that runs is a runner. It really is that simple. It doesn't matter how far you run or what your pace is. I run incredibly slowly by most people's standards. But I still run.

And runners, as a community, are pretty awesome. I've gotten more smiles, hellos, waves, and even high fives from other runners when I'm trudging along on my morning runs than I've ever gotten at any other time in my life. At the Ravenswood Run this year (a neighborhood 5k here in Chicago), I had an hour long conversation with a complete stranger after the race, as we sat down to enjoy our post race snacks. The only thing we had in common was that we were both runners. It was pretty awesome. At the Proud to Run 5k & 10k, I was feeling ill, but I got so much support from the volunteers and other runners that I was able to finish the 5k instead of just walking off the course and going home.

The 2014 Ravenswood Run 5k. Thousands of people came together to run.
I have spent my whole life hating my body for all of its flaws. I'm still not a fan of what I look like. I probably never will be. And I have a whole slew of self esteem issues stemming from my own personal body issues. When I'm running I can focus on how my body works instead of what it looks like. Every run, even the not so good ones, leave me with a feeling of accomplishment. I may not be thin. I may not be pretty. But I can still run. 

This is a version of a post I made on my other blog, Full Belly, Small Budget, on June 4, 2014. One of my reasons for starting I Think I Will Run Today is because I had some comments that the post wasn't really in keeping with what the other blog is about, so I started a blog to talk about my running. My other blog is mostly about cooking and food, because food is awesome. 

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