I would like to share a paper that I wrote this past semester about my running. The prompt was "write about something that you used to hate, and now love". The first thing I thought to write about was running: I used to hate it! Something changed over the past year, and now I genuinely love it! Writing this paper made me reflect on how my mentality towards running changed. It's a bit long, so I'll post it in three parts. Enjoy :)
The Road to Running
I was in 7th grade, in physical education class, and we were doing fitness tests all week. How long could I hold a chin-up, how fast could I sprint 50 meters, how far could I stretch towards my toes? I considered myself pretty athletic, not particularly fast, but I enjoyed sports and physical activity. The most dreaded test, however, was the timed one-mile run. One mile seemed so long, and the minutes always seemed to drag on when doing a physically painful activity such as running. Within a minute, my breathing would become labored, my feet felt heavy, and I still had three and a half laps around the soccer field to go. At the end, my lungs felt like they were burning inside, and I would be breathless. My PE teacher told me I had 10 minutes to run the mile. I ran and walked it in twelve, and I didn’t care. I just wasn’t a runner.
Although I probably seemed incredibly unfit when I was in middle school, I actually wasn’t. Throughout my childhood, I spent a lot of time outdoors doing the things I loved: mountain biking, rollerblading, skiing, and hiking. My dad taught me how to ride a two-wheeler by the time I was three years old, and I have a photograph of myself sitting on a bike, smiling with squinty eyes and dimples, with a bandage on my nose from a scrape that I probably got from falling off. I just got right back on and kept going. I loved playing outside, expending my endless energy riding my bike or rollerblading around the neighborhood, and exploring the woods with my friends. As a child, I never thought about exercising; playing was my exercise. It was sheer joy, and it came effortlessly.
In high school, I tried out for the girls’ volleyball team, made junior varsity, and found a new sport to love. Before then, I had never played a team sport, or any competitive sport for that matter. I had a great coach who was very strict, and she would make us run as punishment. If one teammate was late to practice, the rest of us had to run around the gym until she showed up, and then run some more while the tardy teammate watched. For conditioning, and occasionally as punishment, we had to run up a large hill near our school. Everyone dreaded hills; our thighs would start to ache halfway up, and at the top, we had to do pushups, squats, or block jumps, then walk (or hobble) back down, and do it again and again. When our legs felt like lead as we gasped for breath near the top of the hill, I always plastered a smile on my face and gasped “Keep it up!” to my teammates. Although I dreaded the pain, I kept a good attitude to pump up my teammates and told everyone I loved running hills. They thought I was crazy for being so enthusiastic, but as the team captain, I was motivated to pour all my effort into the workouts, hoping to support my teammates with my energy. By the end of practice, my muscles would feel so fatigued that I could barely walk, but I always felt a great sense of accomplishment after a hard workout. Playing junior varsity and varsity volleyball in high school taught me to be disciplined, tolerate pain and find reward in pushing my physical limits.
I still hated running, though. When I went to college, I didn’t play any sports and barely exercised. Although I had a gym membership, I rarely went to the gym. I hated exercise for the sake of exercise. When I am playing a sport, it is fun because there is a goal other than exercising. Running on a treadmill or an elliptical seemed so monotonous. The few times I dragged myself to the gym, I stared at the clock the whole time, wondering why time was going so slowly. I felt good about myself afterwards, but that wasn’t enough motivation for me to go to the gym regularly. Living on a college campus and in close proximity to one of the largest urban parks in the nation, I regularly saw people running. I secretly wished that I could be a runner, that I could have the willpower to exercise and run on a regular basis, not just when a coach was yelling at me. I tried running around the neighborhood a few times, especially on the gorgeous spring days in St. Louis, but the habit just didn’t stick. I still had a mental block that kept me from putting on my shoes and pushing myself out the door.
Once, when I was studying abroad, living in Germany, I asked my roommate why she ran. A few times a week, my roommate would go out for a run in the evenings, while I just opted to go for a walk when I felt like it. My roommate’s answer surprised me for some reason: she actually hated to run, but made herself do it anyways to prevent gaining weight. I shouldn’t have been surprised since a lot of people run for this reason, but I couldn’t help thinking that if you hate something so much, why make yourself do it? Wouldn’t finding something that you find more enjoyable be more effective as a weight-loss tool? Some may call it laziness, but I wouldn’t force myself to do something that I hated if it were only a means to an end.