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When you hit your 30s a few things happen – your loved up friends start getting married and having babies, your desperately single friends start hearing their biological clocks tick on a frequency usually reserved for canines and people start running marathons. In my mind, the first two make complete sense because they’re rooted in evolutionary logic, the third, however, is the worst idea I’ve ever heard.
To be honest, a big part of me has always wanted to run a marathon. Actually, I’ve always wanted to want to run a marathon and there is a difference. It’s easy to look at all the fund raising emails that come through from friends running 42 kms for (insert important cause here) and think ‘do I not care enough about (insert important cause here)?’ or, ‘Is there something wrong with me if I’d rather poke myself in the eye than run for five hours, even if it is for (insert important cause here)?’
My fear of pounding the pavement has always confused me because I LOVE to exercise. I always have. I lose my mind if I don’t got to the gym six to seven days a week but despite feeling that I really should love running, every time I’ve tried it, I’ve hated it.
So at the beginning of this year I set myself a goal: to learn how to not hate running. And here’s how I did it…
1. Get off the treadmill
Not only is it a metaphor for slogging your guts out in life and going absolutely nowhere, running on a treadmill is capital B for BORING. I don’t know what happens to the space-time continuum when you’re on one of these things but I’ll run for what feels like four days, look down and see a demoralising ‘2.5 min’ has elapsed. How are people lining up for this torture during peak hour at the gym?
Treadmill running is for me, a run of last resort: Trapped inside your apartment building in a blizzard? Hit the treadmill. Trying to get some exercise in a war zone? Hit the treadmill. Want to actually enjoy running? Then you’ve got to be going somewhere and that means getting outside.
2. Write off the first 5 minutes
Anyone who takes their first stride and thinks ‘well, this is just glorious’ is either lying or deserves a punch in the face. I’m usually pretty underwhelmed by the whole experience for at least the first five minutes, but when I start running, I remind myself of that and know that once I’ve pushed through the initial ‘why am I doing this?’ stage it’ll feel better… and it always does.
Plus, with each run, the time it takes to get to that point gets shorter and shorter. Your muscles and joints just need a chance to scream ‘you’re introducing us to this at 33?!’ but they’ll come around eventually.
3. Trick yourself
When I first started running, I set myself a goal of 20 minutes and I made it to 30. The sense of achievement I felt was overwhelming and that last 10 minutes was genuinely enjoyable because I thought I was gaining something with every second I hadn’t anticipated. After that I made the mistake of thinking I had to beat the time of my previous run and when you’re starting out, that’s just ridiculous. Somedays you’ll run for 45minutes and feel you can do 40 more. Other days, you’ll run for seven minutes and think ‘if I just run directly into the water, Virginia Woolf style, maybe someone will call the police and I’ll have a valid excuse to stop?’