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  • Writer's pictureapriladventuring

What It's Like Starting a Running Journey (As Someone Who Always Hated Running)

I spent years wearing out the sentence, "I want to start running."


None of my close friends were runners, but other people I knew were: friends of friends, coworkers, neighbors.


And I wanted into that exclusive club.


For some reason, the idea of being a "runner" always appealed to me. There's something about the discipline oozing from someone out on a Saturday morning run. They woke up early while everyone else slept in and instead of rolling out of bed for a lazy morning, they got dressed and bounded out the door for a run. A freaking run. And they weren't even hungover from Friday night!


I wanted to be that person.


Instead, I was usually the person admiring the runners from my car as I drove to get hangover-curing pho.


I had an odd fascination with the sport for someone who had never really tried it on for size. The only running I had done was in P.E. classes up through my sophomore year of high school -- and that one was only for one quarter. Many of my pre-college years didn't even have a physical education requirement, so running was never part of my life.


I did stay fairly active though. I've always gravitated toward individual sports, rather than team.


My first love was swimming, which I did after school for many years at a neighborhood pool. My straw-like hair was proof of the hours I spent in that chlorinated water without a swim cap.


Later on, I'd also spend years loving tennis, boxing, spin classes, yoga, pilates, and rock climbing. But never running.


Until just over a year ago.



Starting a Running Journey


Woman smiling and running through a neighborhood.
On one of my first neighborhood runs in 2023.

Moving to Los Angeles was a major turning point in my life. There were so many changes happening at the same time; the change in weather being one of the most impactful.


Having moved from rainy Seattle, I was experiencing a new world of taking long, sunny walks for 95% of the year. My dog, Pico, and I were suddenly getting in 2-3 times more daily steps without even trying. I couldn't get enough of the sun and spent hours walking my neighborhood.


This renewed love of hitting the sidewalks in my area gave me the inspiration to try running again. (I'd tried running in Seattle exactly one time and it did not go well. I took a short jog around my neighborhood and couldn't find a running groove. My wired headphones kept popping out of my ears. My phone was bouncing awkwardly in my pocket. Cat calls from construction workers make me so uncomfortable I immediately ran home, took off my sneakers, and never ran again. Until LA.)


In October of 2022, just a few months after moving to LA, I went on my first run in years. Here's the note I left on my Strava activity:


"First run since idk when 🥲 was hard but made it 1.5 miles before taking a walk for the last one block hill."


I was elated! I couldn't believe I was able to run (jog) over a mile without stopping, even though I hadn't run since I could remember.


My total distance was 2.23 miles with an average pace of 10:08 mins/mile, which was way too fast for my out-of-shape body. The two miles left me exhausted and panting, but eager to get back out and run again.


Which took another two months.


In December, I finally laced up my sneakers and went out for my next run. This time I had a goal in mind: run for 30 minutes without stopping or walking.


I remembered a few friends telling me to focus solely on time spent running, especially at the beginning. Speed and miles would build up later as my cardio fitness improved. An old coworker also mentioned that running started to get enjoyable once you were able to hold a steady, easy pace for 30 minutes or more.


I wondered if this was when that elusive runner's high would kick in.


My run was a success! I made it 33 minutes and 6 seconds before slowing to a walk and stopping my time. My pace slowed dramatically to 12:26 min/mi, but I was happy I'd achieved my goal.


I was hooked.


Just two days later, I went out for another run. This time I wanted to see how long I could keep up a steady jog without stopping. Now that I knew 30 minutes was possible, I wanted to see what my limit was.


I ended up running 4.11 miles in 48 minutes and 56 seconds. A blazing 11:54 /mi pace.


I was starting to wonder about my pace. I mean, I knew I was just starting out, but wasn't a 12-minute mile super slow? Aren't most people out there running 8-minute miles regularly? How could my speed really be that snail-like when I was keeping up a tomato-face-inducing jog the entire time??


I decided the pace didn't really matter to me as long as I was getting miles in and focusing on time spent running, like my friends had recommended. And the speed would take care of itself later on.


But it didn't really.


I spent all of 2023 doing inconsistent running, mixed with months of trading running completely for stationary bike sessions. I varied my goals for each cardio session, sometimes aiming for miles and other times focusing on speed. Some sessions would be steady state runs, while a few had intense intervals.

I thought I was doing pretty well. I had never had this much intentional cardio in my life. I was getting more and more of my sessions at the gym on the treadmill or stationary bike, but was aiming for one hour each time.


Fast forward to December of 2023 with my last run of the year being a treadmill session of 37 minutes and 42 seconds on the 5th. I must have gotten tired of running because I then finished out my hour with 23 minutes on the stationary bike.


The end of 2023 and beginning of 2024 went by in a blur. All my cardio (and most of my exercise altogether) came to an abrupt halt.


The end of February and the promise of spring and warmer weather reignited my desire to get outdoors and pick up running. This time I would avoid the trap of a monotonous hour on the treadmill at my local gym.



The Running Journey Gets Real


A woman wearing AirPods taking a selfie with her dog in front of a vine-covered wall.
Look how seriously I'm taking running with my 0.5 selfie.

This is the year I'm starting to take running more seriously. Even though I'd always known I wanted to be a runner, I never wanted to run competitively. Running was just a way to stay healthy and improve my neglected cardiovascular health. Marathons and other races were completely out of the question.


I'll admit a few of my Instagram friends have been major inspirations for me, so treating running as more than a casual habit became a real goal for me.


As I always do when I pick up a new hobby or sport, I spent a bunch of time researching.


  • How many days should I run each week?

  • How do I protect my knees?

  • What running shoes should I get?

  • How do I get faster?

  • At what pace should I be running?

  • How do I improve my running form?

  • How long does it take to train for a marathon?


Suddenly I was even more energized and ready to hit the pavement. And this time my boyfriend was along for the ride. He'd been wanting to get back into running for a while too and had started doing a few treadmill sessions with me last year. Both of us greatly prefer running outdoors, so we agreed to start that this spring.


Getting Proper Running Shoes with a Stride Analysis


Before either of us got start racking up miles, we wanted to have our strides analyzed and buy proper running shoes. I did a little research about where to have a gait analysis done in our area. A sports medicine clinic was able to do it for $150/person, which felt like a lot but was worth the risk prevention.


Thankfully I discovered running stores will do a basic analysis for free! This is how little I knew about running before I started.


We chose a Sunday morning and made our way over to Road Runner in Studio City. There was a huge group already perusing the shoes and waiting for their sessions with Road Runner employees. We joined the waitlist and stared at the walls of shoes as nine groups ahead of were helped.


Finally my name was called and we met with a lovely employee who listened to all our needs. He spent plenty of time with us making sure we got exactly what we were looking for.


I started by walking on a treadmill while he observed my stride from behind, focusing on my Achilles. This quick test told us whether my stride was rigid or flexible, indicating the stability level of my ankles. He said nothing seemed out of the ordinary and marked me down as having good stability. Awesome.


Next, I stood on a foot scanning device that gave precise measurements of foot size, arch height, and any pressure points -- I had a minor one in my right arch. I was told not to worry about it too much since I don't have any aches or pains when I run, but to keep an eye on it.


A big surprise for me was finding out that both my feet are around size 6.5. I've been wearing size 7.5 or 8 shoes my entire adult life! The employee helping us said it's normal to size up half a size from the foot size found by the scanner. I still couldn't believe size 7 was closer to my actual size, but every shoe I tried on in a 7 fit perfectly.


After these tests, the Road Runner system popped out a handful of shoe recommendations based on my results and shoe preferences. My stride stability and general lack of previous injuries meant I was pretty much free to choose anything off the vast shoe walls to try on.


My recommendations were mostly from Brooks and Asics, so that's where I started. Trying on a few pairs quickly made evident that me and Brooks were meant to be. Their shoe shape fit so comfortably around my foot, I regretted never trying them out before. My office used to be just down the street from Brooks HQ in Fremont, WA.


I narrowed it down to two pairs, deciding between medium or full cushion. I'd always thought I was a bare bones runner, feeling my runs were best in cheap, worn out Nikes with no cushioning. Bouncing around in both for a few minutes, I went with the more cushioned Glycerin 21 as my first real running shoe.


To finish off our session at the store, my boyfriend and I each got a set of custom insoles. The store has special equipment for heating up and molding the insoles to each customer's feet.


Before this, I didn't know it was normal for people to buy custom insoles. I thought insoles were only of the Dr. Scholl's variety and reserved for the elderly or people that spend all day on their feet.


I was convinced of the benefits of having custom insoles and opted for the full package of new shoes and the supportive, blue insoles, which had me squishing down on them on a foam pad to conform them to my feet. I tried on my shoes with the new insoles and was practically ready to bounce out of the store and take off of my first run with them.


Now we had the gear and were ready to kick off our running journey 2.0.


Putting Together a Running Plan


I'd never put much thought into my running up until this point. I was simply trying to build the habit of running and make it part of my identity. I can finally call myself a "runner."


Now that I have more than a handful of miles under my belt, I'm eager to improve my running in measurable ways. I'm still using time as my main metric and will be focusing on increasing the duration of my running sessions.


I'm keen to improve my running speed and aerobic threshold this year. Fitness is still my main goal with running, so I'm choosing metrics that help me measure improvements in that area.


I even bought a fancy Garmin watch to aid in my running journey. Obviously there's no need for this at all, but after spending over a year building up the habit, I figured I could treat myself to a little running gear. Right now I'm trying out the Forerunner 265 and have taken it on two runs since it arrived. I'd be happy to provide a full review once I've spent more time with it!


I'm honestly still on the fence about swapping it out for a different model or the 265S for smaller wrists. The many options has given me a great deal of "what ifs" via the paradox of choice: a phenomenon where having too many options leaves us feeling unsatisfied with whatever we choose.


Either way, I'm attempting to figure out my new technology and make use of its (overwhelmingly) many features.


I opted to start with a Garmin Coach plan for a half marathon that I never really signed up for. I'll be doing four runs each week, hopefully building up my fitness to that wonderful HM distance. Three are short runs of 30 minutes and one is a longer run that increases each week as race day gets closer. My first long run is today and will last 80 minutes with a five minute warmup and cooldown.


I thrive under structured plans, so the coaching plan sent to my phone and watch each week gives me lots of motivation.


Heck, I might even sign up for a real HM by the end of this. The April of just a year ago would have never believed that day would come.


After this coaching plan ends (or before if I change my mind about it), I'm going to give the daily suggested workouts a go.


For now, I'm working on moving my mentality from "testing the waters with running" to "I'm a full-blown runner." It's an exciting place to be :)




Thank you for reading the beginning of my running journey. I hope you'll stick around to see where it takes me. If it inspires you to lace up your shoes, send me a message to let me know! I'd be thrilled to hear that and cheer you on.


Happy adventuring (and running),

A

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