I started running because I was too poor to afford to go to a gym and yoga courses were even more expensive. I started because I read an article in Self or Shape filled with the platitudes that women told themselves during their runs and they made me feel like an asshole for having a fully functioning body capable of running long distances and only using that capacity when I was late for my train.
“My body has done so many amazing things,” was one of those sayings and so when I started hitting the trail, instead of telling myself how terrible and unfit I was, I told myself that my body was capable of amazing things and that this one single kilometer was nothing in comparison to what it did just to keep me alive every day.
I was still married at the time, to a guy who had never done sports in his life but couldn’t gain weight to save his life, a guy who seems to prefer his women to be on the bigger side. It was never about looking good, for him or other men or for myself, not at first anyway. It wasn’t about weight or thinness, although admittedly, I did think of it as an ounce of prevention from becoming sick from overweight. My BMI has always tottered at the high end, and with an extra 5 pounds, I fall in the overweight category. Running, I knew, would likely tip the scales upward as I strengthened my leg muscles, not the opposite. I have not been proven wrong.
I started running because many of the women in my family were running marathons — aunts, cousins, my sister. I’ve got one cousin doing a 50-mile ultra next week, another who did an ironwoman; the annual family reunion over the last decade has included running the Chicago marathon. Last August, we all did a 5k together, including my uncle with Down’s and my retiree aunt and my cousin’s toddlers. Running has certainly helped my family find common ground.
I stopped running when I was pregnant. My world fell apart after Diva was born and when I started to finally piece it back together, I started running again. First with a goal of 10 minutes without a walk break. Then intervals to get my endurance up. Then 30 minutes nonstop. Now I’m up to 3 5k runs a week, with a 4th nearly hour-long run when I can. I run with friends or with music, always outside in the cold or the heat, the sun or the rain. I run for fun. For sanity. For my health. It makes me feel both bad and good, never indifferent. And that’s important: it helps prevent my apathy.
I’m not in training for anything — I injure too easily because of a broken bone in my foot — but I pretend I am in training to keep myself on a schedule. Because schedules are everything for me when it comes to running. I have to eat at a certain time to keep my belly happy. I have to schedule my run in to avoid having my run steamrolled by silly clients or bullshit arguments or a sick kid. I fit it in on days when there’s no yoga classes at the gym or at times I know the curl bros will have invaded the free weights section with their sweat and grunts.
I started running because I needed a break for my mental health. If I hadn’t started running, I would likely have spent every day the last three years looking like this:
And that’s in fact what my biggest fear was when we discovered my broken foot last year (and the injury chain that seemed to follow): that I’d stop running and lay down and never want to get up again. Mental health experts say exercise is one of the best ways to beat depression and I have to agree. I work out so much shit during my runs, it’s unbelievable. And those endorphins, man. They are addictive. So much so that I’m actually writing now about how many recovering addicts turn to running after getting sober so they can still get their fix. Because running clears your mind of the nonsense. It helps channel that rage. It gives you a goal with each run and a sense of accomplishment afterward. It may not make your belly flat but damned if you don’t look sexier after a run with that endorphin glow. And you can always talk about how amazing your body was for just doing *that.*
So yeah, Irish Berliner, it does get better. You might actually find yourself enjoying a new addiction soon.