I'm a terrible runner, too. Seriously. I'm painfully slow. Until a couple of months ago, I'd never even run a mountain trail. The closest I ever got was dodging strollers on suburban sidewalks. But this summer, I decided to try trail running.
It started when FAR Coordinator, Ashlee Sack, told me about her passion for trail running and suggested that I sign up for the Whitewater 5k. I knew I was out of shape and nowhere near ready for a race, but I signed up anyway. I'm not sure exactly why, but I think nostalgia was partly to blame.
Back in high school, I spent one season on the cross-country team. I was the worst runner we had, struggling to survive each practice, not to mention the races. But memories are sneaky and have a funny way of helping us forget stuff like that. So, when Ashlee suggested I run in the 5k, I didn't hesitate. I signed up right away.
Time to train
My "training" was pitiful. I'd run as far as I could (which wasn't much) and then walk for long stretches while I caught my breath. Then I'd repeat that cycle over and over, with more walking and less running each time, until I finally got to the end of the trail.
It was rough. I poured sweat and grimaced with every step. And even though I felt great after each run, I always struggled to leave the house and work at it. I wanted to quit a million times and came up with every excuse for why I should.
But I couldn't give up. I wouldn't let myself because I'd already registered for the race. Things were official. My name was on the list. My friends and family knew. Backing out wasn't an option.
The turning point
So I kept training. I got out there even when I didn't want to. I made myself run just a little bit further each time. And yeah, it was really hard...until it wasn't. Eventually, things got easier, and running became enjoyable.
I remember the day it happened. I was halfway through a run when I realized I hadn't walked yet. I was breathing hard but not nearly as winded as I used to get. And my legs didn't feel like cement blocks for once. There I was—actually running a trail—and it felt amazing!
Pressure can be a good thing
My progress began because I signed up for the Whitewater race. I committed myself, in writing, long before the big day. Completely out of shape and a terrible runner, the pressure was on. I stuck my neck out, and I'm so glad I did.
That pressure is what motivated me. It kept me going when I wanted to quit. And it can work for you, too. Take a chance, and put yourself out there. Who knows? You might discover that you love trail running.
I think that's what FAR is all about: enriching lives through outdoor recreation. That's why they host these great races—to provide us with opportunities to try new things, to enjoy our wonderful trails, and to share the experiences with others.
If there's even a tiny part of you that's ever considered trail running (or walking), I hope you'll sign up for the Point Alta Vista race. Commit yourself to the idea and start training. If you're anything like me, it'll be tough. But stick with it. Things will get easier in time.
And don't worry about being slow. We can collapse across the finish line together. Then we'll grab a beer at the post-race party and talk about how much fun we had.
Hope to see you there!