I saw in Runner’s World the other day that 101-year-old Julia Hawkins recently set a world record for the 100-yard dash with a time of 39.62 seconds at this year’s National Senior Olympic Games. While I find a 101-year-old runner remarkable, perhaps even more inspiring is the fact that she only just started running at age 100. Hawkins explained that if she’s active enough to run to answer the phone, she may as well expand on that.
I enjoy this story and other “how I started running” stories so much. There are so many ways and reasons to start, and they are invariably positive, usually centered on the theme of taking control of one’s health.
In my own narrative, it rolled out something like this: I quit a serious cigarette habit when I got married — a promise I made to my fiancé and to myself. I tried out running to deal with the stress, weight gain and just general “gaaahh.” A two-pack a day habit is a big monkey, and I wanted it off of my back.
I really can’t say that I loved running when I started. After each of my pregnancies, restarting was frustrating, not least because with small children, it grew increasingly hard to carve out time for it. But somewhere in there, I discovered that no matter how hard it was to start, I always felt better after the run. That feeling stuck.
There are as many types of runners as there are reasons to run. It would be a mistake to judge that runners should all share the same goals, methods, motivations and abilities – just as it would be absurd for all cooks to aspire to create like Emeril or Giada or Jacques Pepin; should all cook the same cuisine and use the same seasonings.
Running isn’t one-size-fits-all. In fact, nowhere is it written that everybody should do it. I’m a personal believer that everyone should find activities that help them feel the best they can. Hey, we only get one body so it’s in our own best interests to take care of it.
For me, the four legs of that table consist of:
Getting my heart rate up (running, yea!)
Strength work (less fun, still satisfying)
Balance – flexibility – recovery (yea, foam rolling, yea, sleeping!)
Oh, yeah—(trying to) eat sensibly
Running feeds my body and soul. I enjoy putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, sometimes alone and more often in company with others.
I didn’t start running until I was 30, so I have no history of youthful accomplishments. I’m not athletically gifted, but the beauty of this sport is that one does not have to compete with the elites in the crowd in order to find satisfaction. We middle-packers can compete with ourselves by simply striving to improve. Whether it’s finding better form, speed, going a little farther, trying out a new venue, (trails, yes!), we can define success in our own right.
Just consistently hauling it out of bed and out the door day after day, week after week, until running finally becomes a routine is wonderful.
That ritual embodies one of my favorite slogans: “It’s okay; I ran today.” … then you know, you’re hooked.