I have come to accept the fact that I will never love running. You heard me, Track Town USA. I admire Eugene’s gleeful hoards of marathon runners and I understand that, to some, running is a sacred form of exercise.
To me, it is a merciless slog.
And yet, I still do it. Or rather, I jog. “Jogger” is a term that actual runners use to describe amateurs such as myself. The hallmark of the “jogging” condition: feeling as though I’m burning nine million calories while dutifully dragging myself along the bike path when, in actuality, I am moving at a geologic pace as 5-pound dogs and small children hurtle past me, laughing joyously.
At least that’s how it feels.
I know I am not alone in my resentment of running, although sometimes it seems like everyone in Eugene is an accomplished athlete, including my fiancé, who ran track in college. With his help and endless patience, I’ve sustained outings measuring 4.66 miles in distance — a new record for me.
It’s sad that I couldn’t even get to 5 miles for the sake of writing this story. Let’s just say Thanksgiving happened.
So instead of an inspirational tale on how I learned to love running, here are the tried-and-true tricks I use to deceive myself into hitting the trails on a semi-regular basis, bypassing my innate hatred for the activity.
1. Capitalize on guilt whenever possible. When my dog stares at me with hope-filled eyes, she seems to transmit via telepathy her intense desire to go outside and explore the world at a fast trot. My fiancé has also mastered this stare. Together, they use my love for them to create a burgeoning need to oblige them. I tell myself, “As horrible as you’ll feel while running, you’ll feel even more horrible if you ignore your loved ones and watch four more episodes of Jessica Jones.” This, coupled with my reluctance to give up ice cream and beer, can push me past total apathy and actually get me moving.
2. Use rewards like you are a small child. Do whatever it takes. I don’t even care if the caloric intake completely cancels out the caloric expenditure of the run. I earned that sugar-laden orange Gatorade, dammit. And if I run an extra mile, does that mean I get to have a beer with dinner? Hell yes, it does. I’ve discovered that I have to make the post-run celebration glorious enough to balance out the vast, joyless abyss of exercising. Sometimes this means making a blanket fort and watching cartoons until bedtime. Maybe your reward is more mature. Who knows? Do what you have to do.
3. Set an end goal. I have participated in three 5Ks this year. In Eugene, you can pretty much just show up randomly somewhere on a Saturday morning and there will be a 5K taking place. I recommend actually registering, though, because then you get a cool T-shirt and you can pretend for fleeting moments of time that you’re a real runner person. These so-called “fun runs” give me a date — a day of reckoning, so to speak, when I will have to run with hundreds of people and prove that I can sustain a slightly embarrassing pace for 3.1 miles. The mere thought propels me forward and also gives me the false impression that all this will come to an end someday, when deep inside I know that I’m just going to register for another 5K. And so the cycle continues.
OK, so sometimes it’s actually kind of fun, this running thing. Sometimes the beauty of the landscape distracts me enough to override the physical pain. Sometimes I get immersed in an interesting conversation and a few miles go by with little effort. Running seems more psychology than physiology, and maybe one day I’ll attain that elusive “runner’s high.” Until then, I must use mind games to keep going.
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no medical or fitness training whatsoever. Read my advice for fun, but then go see professionals who actually know what they’re talking about.