At the peak of my running habit, I was at every event and always in the newest gear. I built an impressive collection of racing bibs and medals along with the incredible stories that went with them. Then I got hurt.
My injury resulted in two knee surgeries and 18 months of physical therapy. By the time I recovered, I had no idea how to find my way back. A week without running turned into a month, then a year and then 10 years. I got married, divorced, married again and had two babies, spending that decade keeping myself so busy with life that I had no time to even think about running, all the while perfecting excuses as to why I was too busy, tired and out of shape to consider going to for a run.
It took 10 years before I was ready to get back out on the road. It was harder than I remembered:hard on the body I'd spent 10 years letting go and hard on the mind that had built up 10 years of excuses. Running is an incredible teacher and in my journey back, I was able to relearn these four truths every new runner should know:
1. Running is honest.
Running is one of the most honest activities you can do. No one can run for you and you uniquely own every single run. Your body will not lie to you — train smartly and efficiently, and your body will respond with gains in speed and endurance. Take shortcuts in training and nutrition, and your body will punish you with injuries and ailments along the way.
Running is a measure of what you put into it. You have no one to congratulate for your successes and no one to be disappointed in when you don't meet your goals other than yourself.
At the hardest moments, the honesty running demands from you will overwhelm you and probably scare you. But in the sweetest moments, it will take you places inside yourself you never knew existed.
2. There's a good chance you're built like a runner, despite what you may think.
I signed up for a race shortly after my reintroduction to running and did well for my age division. When a stranger congratulated me, I thanked him and told him how impressed I was by my running because I wasn't built like a runner. He smiled and said, "sweetheart, you have two feet, two legs, two lungs and a heart. You are built just like the very best runner."
Never discredit all your body has to offer you. Never count yourself out.
3. Running is a solo activity that's built on community.
I love running alone. In fact, it's one of the only times I'm ever alone in this world, free from the demands of everything else in life. It's an escape.
However, there's something undeniable about running alone while simultaneously surrounded by other runners. The running community loves other runners. They welcomed me back, just as they welcome every runner regardless of skill level with stories of encouragement, motivational tales and high-fives at every finish line and at the end of every training run.
4. Running is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.
Before I started running again, I researched and prepared the most effective running plans I could find. I had a collection of "couch to 5k" and "beginner training" programs I was sure would help ease me back into running. I spent so much time prepping to make the right running decision that a month had gone by and I hadn't even set foot outside the door. When I realized this, I set all the plans and programs aside, laced up my shoes and never looked back.
The truth is, the simplest plan for a beginner is to put one foot in front of the other and listen to your body along the way.