I was at a Rare Disease Event on Monday night in celebration of World Rare Disease Day (a post is forthcoming on this wonderful day). During the event, I had a few discussions about marathon running and running in general about which I though I would write.
Nearly 5 years ago, before my first half marathon; I really hated running. I ran for fitness not for pleasure. My typical distance was 3 miles with an occasional 5 miler thrown in. This regimen of 3 or 5 miles and an overall dislike of running has been a very common theme from many of my friends, family and co-workers over the years. In that time, I have really learned to love running and wanted to share some of how I got to this point with everyone.
At the start of my running career, spring of 2006; I was coerced by some of my co-workers to sign up for the Boston Half Marathon. I reluctantly agreed to participate under the condition that I would have a running partner for the entire spring in preparation for the race. I downloaded a 17-week half marathon training plan which basically started off with run/walk and I set out to complete my first half marathon. Over time, as the miles started to increase above 6 or 7, I started to get this feeling around mile 5 where I could practically feel the gears spinning in my head. I found that while running I was starting to solve problems that were eating at me to the point that I would literally run back to my desk before I showered and start typing all of my thoughts that occurred during the run. I started running at times when I had tough problems to solve, anticipating returning to the zone, or what I think of as my “runner’s high. Though “runner’s high” has no scientific definition, I found that the best explanation for “runner’s high” is provided by Sarah Willett; “I’ve been running for 25 years or so, and don’t know for sure what runner’s high is. On almost every run, and certainly the long ones, there are periods of contentment or reflection when one is on automatic pilot and the terrain goes past unnoticed”. I have often referred to it as a feeling like “I can run forever”.
I came to realize that at least for me, there is rarely a high under 3 or 4 miles. In fact, I still find running 3-4 miles to be unexciting and sometimes difficult. But when I am going to run 6+ miles, even though the first two may start out feeling tough and unexciting, I know in the back of my mind that I will work through this barrier and reach the zone, and it seldom fails me. It is this zone that has given me the “love of running”. This love of running has translated now to running 8 marathons including the Boston Marathon, NY Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon and Disney Marathon, and has opened up a new world for me in individual accomplishment, and making a difference for others (remember, I really hated running for nearly the first four decades of my life).
The experience has exponentially increased as I have become involved with raising awareness for rare diseases including being partnered with a very special patient partner, Rebecca.
So, if you are an occasional runner, who runs to stay fit, try out this 10 step plan:
- Ensure you are healthy enough to consider this, in other words, talk to your doctor.
- Sign up for a half marathon far enough in advance to complete a proper training plan, if possible, with a committed friend.
- Download or buy a half marathon training plan (or ask one of your runner friends for a recommendation, IE Hal Higdon, FIRST, Runner’s World). Make sure the plan is in line with your level of fitness!!!!
- Tell everyone you know about what you intend to do.
- Be patient, take it nice and slow for the first 3 weeks (plan for some days that don’t go so well)
- While running, when you feel like you can’t continue, start counting your strides. When you hit 100, reset back to zero. You will stop counting without realizing it, at which point you will have passed through the wall.
- Recognize the feel good moments when they present themselves. Go back to them in your mind during later runs when you hit a tough period.
- Celebrate the first time you recognize your “runner’s high”, trust me it will come.
- When asked what your goal is for your first half marathon, simply state… My goal is to learn The Love of Running!!..
- Find a way to make a difference with your new hobby (Genzyme team, Team in Training)