Growing up, there was nothing I hated more than running. I loved dancing, rollerblading, long walks, hiking – but running was associated with angry gym teachers and grinding out circles around a shoddy old track. Certainly not anything enjoyable.
For me the problem with running was that I saw it as an all-or-nothing affair. I either had to go at a full sprint, without stopping, for 20 minutes, or not at all. Needless to say it was never pleasant, nor particularly sustainable.
But growing up in the running-obsessed city of Vancouver, I had always been envious of runners – their incredible endurance, the joy on their faces, their ability to brag offhandedly about knocking out a 10K after work. They were so completely free, so unhindered by gym opening hours and yoga class schedules; restricted, in fact, by nothing but the stunning geography of the city. So a couple of years into my university career, I made the only New Year’s resolution that I’ve ever been able to keep: become a runner.
In an uncharacteristically optimistic move, I signed up for the Vancouver Sun Run, a hugely popular 10K run just four months away. And I signed up for a Sun Run training group, fortuitously being offered by my university, promising to get me to the finish line in one piece.
And so the run that I count as my first took place along a small loop on my university campus, with a wonderfully diverse mix of people, on a quiet and cool Tuesday night. One of the trainers kept up a chirpy stream of small talk as we ran down the tree-lined path, and as I braced myself for the exhaustion that I usually felt 5-minutes into a run, we stopped. Confused, I asked the trainer what was happening, and she explained the run-walk training method: that first day was run for one minute, walk for two minutes. I didn’t even realize that counted as running – but confident that they would deliver on their promise to get me through the race, I decided to go along with it. I finished the workout feeling great, exhilarated that it wasn’t nearly as dreadful as I expected.
I continued to run with that group faithfully twice a week, and their energy, enthusiasm, and my desire to not let them down kept me sticking to the solo runs in the plan as well. The training ramped up quickly and the group continued to stick together, through rain and wind, hill training and speedwork, reducing our walking intervals until we ran for an hour straight and I – incredulous – knew that I was ready for the race.
I finished the Sun Run in 56 minutes and I lived on the euphoria for a full week after that. And then I signed up for my next race. And the rest, as they say, is history. Several marathons and many, many training runs later, there is no decision I am happier about in my life than the one I made to sign up for that training group. It’s an experience I recommend to every beginning runner and I maintain that there is no better way to build the habit or to push yourself to the next level.
Written by Varia Makagonova.