As Albert Camus once did not say, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible runner.”
I am by no means “invincible” or confident that what I do can legally be called “running,” but becoming an “invincible runner” is a goal I have reluctantly thrown myself into three times a week, huffing and puffing my way through Central Park with one of my best friends (he is usually much more dignified).
Before we began our weekly struggles, I was a worse candidate for running than Hillary Clinton.
Absolutely no one thought that I would run, requested that I run or expected running of me, and it came as shock to many. It’s been long accepted by friends and family that I don’t have an athletic bone in my body, and that the only running I’m good at is running from my responsibilities. In gym class during high school, I was probably hit on the head with more balls than I ever caught.
Running in Central Park has been a major life change for me, and in the midst of almost passing out, being judged by moms with strollers for going so slow and receiving more stitches than a homemade blanket, I’ve picked up some good advice as to how to approach running as someone wholly unathletic.
Outsmart Your Idiot Self
The nights before I run, I feel on top of the world. But when I actually have to get up to run in the mornings, that feeling is all but a dream. I must always fight, outsmart and outmaneuver “Sleepy Grace,” who will easily and joyfully go back to sleep rather than exercise.
I lay out my outfit the night before. I leave my shoes in front of my bed so when I roll out of my covers I land smack into them. I even put my alarm far away from my bed so there’s no way to put it on snooze without getting up.
These methods usually work out, because if I’m being honest, “Sleepy Grace” is too tired to think about all of the traps I laid the night before.
Once I’m up, I have to get ready because I know my running partner will be at the door in five minutes, which leads me to my next piece of advice for the athletically ungifted:
Peer Pressure (Read: Shame) is an Excellent Motivator
My running partner is Corbin Gregg, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’22, who put it this way: “You need the horrible shame of a friend to force you to continue being a jock.”
He’s right. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was going to be at my door in five minutes, I would more likely stay in Snoozeland.
And sometimes, even knowing that Corbin is waiting for me isn’t enough for me to get up. Upon claiming that I was getting better at being motivated, he stopped me right there: “Grace, I’ve heard you leap out of bed the moment I’ve knocked on your door when we are supposed to leave.”
Alright, fair. Nobody’s perfect. But it is important to have a running partner, who will be there with you, encourage you and shame you if necessary.
Even if I don’t have a rock solid record of motivation, I’ve found it important to keep trying, no matter how hard it is.
Small Steps Can Lead to Giant Leaps
If running is brand new to you, it’s important to start small and to do what you can, and then work your way up to more difficult workouts. It’s a lot better than setting an impossible goal and becoming frustrated when you don’t reach it on your first try. The first time I ever ran in Central Park, I made it a whopping 10 steps before wanting to pass out. A month and a half later, I can almost do the entire 1.7-mile track loop before passing out.
By accepting my very limited ability at running, I was able to feel encouraged rather than discouraged. All the while, I built my way up through small goals. I certainly won’t be competing in the New York City Marathon, but I’ve been showing those pigeons who’s boss in Central Park lately.
And that’s what matters. All jokes aside, the best advice I could give to a reluctant runner like myself is just to start. Yes, you’ll be bad, and yes, it will be embarrassing when you get a stitch when you try to catch up to that horse that one time — but it will be worth it, and you’ll be getting better habits and better exercise than anyone who’s too embarrassed to even begin.