My best advice for you, the New Runner:
I started running in the same way so many of us did: straight up peer-pressure. Someone I worked with whom I admired wanted me to train for a half marathon with her, so I did it. Our first training run is seared into my brain for eternity: -30 degrees in Winnipeg, snow blowing and falling thickly over the sidewalk. My lungs burned; my heart pounded. Every step felt like a mistake. The snow eventually faded, I kept training through the spring, and it got easier. Not easy, but easier. We lined up on race day, excited and as ready as we were going to be. It was hard and there were many walk breaks…I cried through a good part of mile 13. We eventually made it to the finish line and crossing it was like something I had never felt before. I was unbelievably proud of myself, and I knew without at doubt I would do it all over again.
Likely with COVID, you have not been able to have your first race experience other than possibly virtually, so I will tell you this and hope that you keep it close to your heart: races will come and go but the thing that will keep you in it for the long haul is the people. As we begin the path of coming back together in person, it is so important to remember that like so much else in life, you get out of it what you put in. When you show up, make connections and act as a cheerleader for others, it will all come back to you.
People will share their greatest joys and deepest sorrows with you on a run. I had the privilege of running a half with a pace group that was all runners completing their first race. It was like seeing my own first time all over again through their eyes. I ran another event where I helped a grandmother make it through her last mile to the finish line when she wasn’t sure she could. On a particularly difficult last mile at another event, I ran with yet another stranger and we shared stories of loss and grief as we remembered our reasons for running. You can open your mind, empathize, learn new things, and laugh like you will never stop. You can make the new friend you never knew you needed.
You can run alone and that is great if it’s what you truly need. But I promise you that your running life will be so much richer if you plug in to your community. You will change and evolve in this sport and these people will guide you on your way. This is going to be the most exciting part of your life as a runner and I can’t wait for you to experience it.
Sometimes we can get deep into our own heads, but your running friends will never let you forget to find the joy. And there is so much of it everywhere.
All the best on your adventures, and welcome to the club.