Like a nightmare synopsis for a teenage chick flick, I started my freshman year of high school as the “new girl.” No lie. It was pretty horrible – especially at lunch on the first day when I am scouring through the entire cafeteria for a familiar face in order to assimilate into the social caste system. Luckily, I was saved from the new kids table for two by a girl in my world history class whose circle of friends became mine. With my core group of friends established, I guess I wanted to expand my social circle a bit and interact more with the other students in the school.
I joined the cross-country team on a whim mid-season. Even at the time I joined, I didn’t even really know what cross-country was. I was familiar with the phrase because one of my sister’s friends had been on the team while she was in high school. Ironically, I definitely did not realize the amount of running it involved.
Even though I was athletic, I had not run more than the occasional mile for fitness tests in PE class. On the first day when the coach announced that today would be an “easy day” of 3 miles, I died, to say the least. As opposed to the midwest or the coast, there are no flat stretches of roads in southwest Virginia, only hills. So, 3 miles for a girl from suburban California, was unthinkable.
One girl on the team became (or was assigned, as I later I found out) my running buddy that day, and we started off on the jog at the back to the group. As I watched the girls, like ducklings, follow the coach’s tall lanky figure and disappear into the distance within the first mile, I instantly had awe for everyone on the team…and self-hate for why I had decided to do this.
After the first day of my practice, I remember that I told my parents I wanted to quit. Despite my anguish and dread, I ended up returning to practice because of my running buddy, with whom I exchanged an earnest “see you tomorrow.” I waited in the cafeteria watching the buses load up and depart (including mine), which meant I had no choice but to go to my second day of practice or spend the next 3 hours sitting at school.
Thank goodness that track and cross-country were the only sports teams without try-outs because I certainly wouldn’t have made the cut! Gradually, within the season, I improved to even run on the varsity team next year! Whatever the initial motivation was, thank you, 14-year-old self.
Now a ghastly 10 years since I got my start, I still love running and do so outside rather regularly -even in the winter. Yes, I am one of those crazies waddling and tip-toeing carefully to avoid patches of ice. Why am I not normal and going to the gym? Simple. I just hate everything about it. There are so many mirrors. Everyone is watching you. The air always feels so musty. Much like the 1-3-5 urinal rule for guys, it’s oddly uncomfortable when someone uses the machine right next to you (and goes much faster). Plus, I simply cannot run on a treadmill or a track with no change in scenery to confirm that you’ve actually been moving.
As opposed to the countryside of Virginia, running outdoors in the city is a challenge -even in the other three seasons. Depending on the hour, there are crowds of people claiming the sidewalk as their own. I often feel like the one fish in the school going the opposite direction in the aquarium tank.
Regardless of where I am running, the bigger problem I encounter is that I end my runs early not necessarily because I am tired but rather because I am bored. Through my running experience, I’ve found a few ways to help me work on my endurance…including a few games to play in my head (I am a huge dork!).
11 Things I Have Tried and Vouch For or Imagine Would Be Effective to Make Running a Bit More Entertaining: (Zoolander’s school, anyone?)
1. Run with music
This is an obvious one. I have an iPod, but I also like to be aware of my surroundings. Plus, have you ever paid attention to how loud you have your iPod while running when you step into your house? I already have gone to too many concerts. I save my eardrums from the decibels until I really want to destroy my hearing.
2. Run with a friend
Another obvious one. (I promise there are more creative ways below. Just keep reading). Oftentimes, though, especially for busy DC-ers, coordinating schedules is a challenge. I’m sure everyone can relate to this.
3. Race buses
This is best for your ego if done in rush hour traffic. Plus, people on the bus will be amazed.
4. Find another runner and stalk them until you pass them or find another runner to stalk.
My personal favorite! I’m excited to play it now that people who went to the gym in the winter are coming back outside. FYI- For my stalking victim: If you get a feeling that the runner behind you is following you and you run in a circle to test your theory, don’t freak out if the runner is playing this game. Just let him/her pass you. HOWEVER, if they’re not….. shoot….good luck.
5. Run only on busy roads with lots of cars
….because I don’t ever want to stop in front of them and give away the fact that I’m actually tired! Duck into an alley way if you must!
6. Do a hash.
I’ve never done it. Too low of a tolerance. Plus, the thought of running on a stomach full of bubbly beer while everyone taunts you in the beginning for being a (hash) virgin does not sound like a great time. My friends have done several and love it.
7. Don’t plan a route. Let it choose itself.
At every intersection, run in the direction that has a green light.
8. Don’t register for a race and run with the crowd.
I ran on the sidewalk alongside marathoners for 7 miles. People stared at me trying to figure out whether they should report me for cheating when I strayed from the crowd.
Also, waking up early and standing among hundreds of people, you can get the same adrenaline rush from races without paying $30+ for a T-shirt. You can actually buy a really fancy T-shirt with the money you saved for a memorabilia one. Or a self-congratulatory brunch.
P.S. To DC-ers, There are tons of weekly runs with the Capital Striders meetup group. Check them out!
9. Be a broken record
Like spelling the word banana, I would start singing a tune subconsciously to create a steady breathing rhythm but not actually pay attention to verses. Next thing I know, I find myself finishing a 30 minute run having sung the tune on repeat. I used to do this with Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle (remember that?) during cross country meets since I never bothered to learn the words of the verses.
10. Run with your pet dog
I can only imagine what this is like. I have been deprived of a childhood and never had a pet. Sigh…..
Ok, I’m 25. I should stop blaming my parents. I should get my own dog if I wanted.
11. Run with a destination in mind
Sometimes, I raced to return video rentals and drop off mail at the post office to avoid late fees and before it closed for the weekend respectively. Be prepared for some looks though. I guess it’s unusual to see people running with a book in their hands.
Have any other ways to make running more enjoyable? Let me know!