Realizing running is awesome

How I went from the couch to running a marathon
Nov 2019
Benjamin
C.
Civil and Environmental Engineering

This is a story about me transitioning from occasional running to try and get fit, to becoming super into running. Only two years ago, I was struggling with the boredom and difficulty of exercise and could never sustain regular running for more than a month or two. Now, however, running is an integral part of my life. I did my first marathon a few months ago and now run 5 days a week, every week. My fitness is no longer the problem it used to be, and I’m enjoying the many psychological and health benefits of exercise. If you’ve also struggled with the boredom and difficulty of regular exercise, read on! Maybe something here will be helpful.

Getting started 

My inspiration came in the form of a reddit post about someone who had reached their goal and ran 365 miles in 2017, and for New Year’s resolution in 2018 I decided to give it a go. I wanted to become someone who just did regular exercise.

My first run was on a treadmill, and it was really really hard to reach 3 miles. It was so long and boring. Over the next few runs I started slacking off and was even just doing 1.5 miles (which was insufficient as I only wanted to run 3 times a week). I tried watching Netflix on my phone to relieve boredom, but this just increased my desire to stop running and go home to watch it there. This feeling changed when I tried running outside. Somehow, running 3 miles just felt way shorter and easier; it wasn’t this slow, long grind. I guess the change of scenery helps. I started building and reaching 7-10 miles a week with three or so runs (since I actually started in late Jan, I had some catching up to do).

Ramping up

Sometime in February, one of my crazy running friends essentially said “you’re not a real runner unless you run at least 20 miles per week” (she runs like 70). My competitive spirit was activated, and so I told myself, “I MUST BECOME A REAL RUNNER!” (at least for one week). Also, ramping up would have the added benefit of reaching my 365-mile goal faster. My regular running went from 3 to 4-5 runs per week, and I started doing runs that were 3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles, and 6 miles. I also started doing long runs on the weekend, 8 miles to 10 miles. After a couple of months, I shot past 20 miles per week and even peaked at a 35-mile week. I reached my 365-mile goal by the end of June (a day before the year’s halfway point).

Running isn’t so bad

Over the first few months of 2018, running was really hard, boring, and exhausting, especially after a long day. However, a few months in, it started to get rewarding: I was getting closer and closer to my goal of 365 miles, and this was the first time I had regularly exercised for more than, like, 3 months, ever. I started to see more and more positives, like winter not being horrible anymore because I go outside anyway, and running itself just became more enjoyable generally. So, after achieving my 365-mile goal at the end of June, I kept running anyway.

Running is great!

In the second half of 2018, a crazy thing happened: I actually started to enjoy running. I started going on some really cool runs: around the Bunker Hill monument, Fresh Pond, Mt Aubern Cemetery, along The Fens, and Pleasure bay. I couldn’t believe how much of Boston there was to explore and how awesome running was as a way to explore it. Even when I was just running my normal route around the Charles, I started to get much more pleasure out of it. I think a big part of this was changing my running form to decrease my step size, increase my step frequency, and engaging my upper body to maintain good posture. Running started to feel way more bouncy and fun, and I could start running faster! I still have a vivid memory of sprinting down a street and thinking, “wow running is actually fun!”.

Doing a marathon

Since I did so much running in 2018, I thought I might as well run a marathon. After a bit of a lull Dec-Feb (don’t worry, I didn’t stop running completely), I started my marathon training. I trained March, April and May and reached a peak of 70 miles in one week, around double my peak of last year. It’s crazy how motivated I am by random goals like this. Anyway, I did the marathon, beat my goal time of 3h and 30 mins by 45 seconds, and had a great weekend exploring the city of Burlington (another great perk of running is going on weekend trips for races!). Since then, I’ve been trying to get faster, doing interval training and tempo runs. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a much faster time when I run another marathon next year.

I took a few lessons from this experience: (1) running is awesome, (2) I really need goals, otherwise nothing will happen, (3) it’s worth experimenting with different strategies. In case you’re now inspired to start running, the most important things are to just get out there and give it a go, keep pushing, and try new approaches when it gets hard. There are many running clubs in the area, and many possible goals to give you motivation. I think a great goal is X mileage in a year, but you can also train for a race like a 5k (there are many in the area), or running a specific distance without stopping. So, get out there and give it a go!