I am an athlete. Well, that’s mostly untrue, but I subscribe to the “fake it ‘till you make it” theory, so maybe one day I won’t be completely lying.
After being picked last during my entire school career, I had no choice but to develop a healthy disdain for team sports. After all, you have to be a dependent sheep of a person to participate in activities that require you to work well with others. I am far too independent and uncoordinated to have the desire to play on any kind of recreational team, but I do run. Some elitists may not consider running a sport, but for me, I’d rather be the best at exercise than deal with annoying aspects of sports, like teammates.
By no means do I have a runner’s body or the ability to actually move quickly, but I improve bit by bit each year so it doesn’t feel like my efforts are for naught. You have to keep perspective when it comes to running because you’re only competing against yourself. If you compare your progress to other people and don’t get depressed, well, you must have levels of denial undreamed of by the human imagination.
When I go home to visit my parents, I like to keep my dad abreast of my progress. When I brag about beating my 40-minute mile pace, my father is always supportive, even after he finished a 20-mile training run for his next marathon without breaking a sweat. Personally, I would be embarrassed if my kid had my kind of work ethic when it comes to running, but fortunately for my family, I have a different last name and live out of state.
I’ve spent plenty of time around real runners, heard their stories and even read some of their books. It seems to me that they have it mostly wrong and if they followed my prescription, they’d feel better. Forget the saying “no pain, no gain.” Pain is bad. You’d have to be crazy to take up an activity because you enjoy feeling your body fall apart like you’re some kind of rotting Picasso. That’s why I give myself a month or two to recover from each run. If I keep this up, I’ll shave off a minute from my pace by the time I’m able to retire.
To ensure I maintain an interest in running, I created the 40/85 Rule: Thou shalt not run when it’s colder than 40 degrees or warmer than 85. Basically, only run from March through May and September through November. I run for comfort.
Nothing is more uncomfortable than running when it’s cold. I end up sweating and freezing at the same time, and my nose feels like it’s going to fall off from inhaling so much cold air. I’ve been told I’d look too menacing running around wearing a knit ski mask. As long as I don’t take a route near a bank, I should be fine, right? Even when I go back inside, I feel like someone just punched me in the face, since Mother Nature will make sure your extremities come as close to freezing solid as possible.
When it’s 85 degrees, you’ll feel like it’s 105 and those temperatures are found in heat waves. If you can break a sweat just by sitting and breathing, why on earth would you push yourself further to move? No matter how little clothing you wear, it’ll still feel like you’re wearing a down parka. Anyone willing to throw on a pair of sneakers can be considered a runner and no one needs to see them scantily clad to stay cool. Normal people have way too many parts that flop around when they move.
You may think, “..but don’t real runners train all year-round, despite the weather?” You’re probably right, but I never made my goal to become a real runner. The more you run the more likely you are to hurt yourself. Real runners go to chiropractors and podiatrists, while I have all my joints in tact. I think future 75-year old Kristen will thank me. Besides, the less you run, the longer your sneakers will last. Good running shoes are expensive, so you want them to survive as long as possible.
Music is a must when you’re running. It’ll help you keep your pace and, instead of being alone with your thoughts to contemplate why you can’t kick your addiction to mayonnaise, music provides entertainment. Most importantly, music will drown out your wheezing and heavy breathing because running can be friggin’ hard. If you can’t hear your strained breath, maybe no one else can hear the sound of your lungs being ripped from the inside.
Running isn’t only a physical activity, it’s mostly mental. As much as you need to train your body to physically endure it, you need to train your mind to accept it as your new passion. You’re brain will fight you. It will tell you that it’s too hard or you’re too slow. First, it’ll try to talk you out of continuing. Be warned, if you ignore that nagging voice in your head, your brain will physically make you stop by pulling the emergency brake, giving you a Charlie horse until you comply. That’s why you need to ease into the activity.
Trainers always talk about the mind/muscle connection, so think about running before you start a routine. I think about running long and hard, almost everyday. I imagine the wind blowing my hair, my feet gracefully landing with each step while Carl Lewis and Steve Prefontaine watch me whiz by, both shedding a single tear of awe as they look to me for inspiration.
You can visualize whatever you like – I prefer to remain humble.
If Kristen Tornoe were an object, she’d be a breath of fresh air.