I used to hate running. I always cringed before doing sprints, I dreaded the ten-minute stairs exercises at gymnastics practice, and I mostly stuck to the elliptical when doing cardio. Post college, I took a liking to group exercise- more namely Les Mills Body Attack, Body Pump, and Yoga.
However, when I moved to Lille last summer, I was desperate to both find a way to fill my extra free time as well as positively channel and combat the negative energy in my life. At the time I wasn’t quite ready to bite the bullet on a gym membership, so I therefore grudgingly decided to try running in order to get to know the city better. Thankfully, Lille is overall quite flat, the summer temperatures are mild, and there are a ton of running trails throughout the Citadelle, making it a perfect place to run.
At first, I was running at almost 8 minutes per kilometer (or 12 minutes per mile, according to Map My Run), and could only do about 5-6K at a time. By the end of the summer, however, I had run just shy of 8K at about 7 minutes per kilometer, so I decided to sign up for the 10K Braderie run with my roommate, Paul.
Completing the 10K was difficult for me, but I did it, and it was definitely a milestone. I found that while I didn’t LOVE running, I had come to kind of crave it—more specifically, the satisfying feeling one gets during and after all of that hard work. By this time I had befriended Megan, a fellow American in Lille who also kind of liked running. The two of us decided to sign up for the half marathon in Paris.
We trained together through the fall and winter months (which was ESPECIALLY difficult around December and January); I kind of fell off the bandwagon for awhile, but thankfully Megan always pushed me to go when I thought I couldn’t.) I was especially feeling a bit discouraged in February– kicking myself that I hadn’t trained hard enough or run far enough. Even worse, as race day quickly approached, I was so turned off by always feeling like I HAD to run; by this time, I missed running just for me—for the fun of it.
Alas, on race day, the ambiance was really incredible in Paris, which made it that much more worthwhile. Even better, two of our good friends came to cheer us on, and brought us victory beer to chug at the finish line. I finished all 13 miles (26K) without walking in 2 hours and 27 minutes (about 6 minutes and 30 seconds per kilometer, or between 9-10 minutes per mile). It’s humbling to look back on the journey I took just under a year ago, when I struggled to finish 3 miles (5K) without walking, and ran at a much slower pace.
After the half, I took a month off from running. However, I picked it back up a few days ago and I easily completed 8K, and now I have the itch to perhaps try a marathon in the near future (or at least toy with the idea trying it.) I couldn’t even imagine myself saying that five years ago. Alas, sometimes I even come to surprise myself. Usually when I tell my running story, a common reaction I get from people is, “I hate running. I could never do that. I just physically couldn’t do that.” It’s a bit disheartening, because I used to think and say the same thing about myself. I remember being told by others that I wasn’t “really a runner.” But the truth is, you can do anything you set your mind to. There were over 40,000 runners at the Paris Half Marathon; you and me are not different from any one of them.
This isn’t to say that everyone should like running or take up running. But I think it’s important to remember that just because someone tells you that you can’t do something, or that something is impossible, it’s not always true. It’s important to continue discovering new things about yourself. You might just be surprised as to what you find.
Have you gone on a running journey (or any kind of journey in regards to discovering more about yourself?) I’d love to hear about it.