First Runs

Chickasaw Lake, Memphis. Site of my first run, circa 1979

Driving around Memphis, where I grew up, I came across this scene and remembered it was the site of my first attempt at running. I would have been about 17. I probably ran no more than a mile or two and was completely wiped afterward. I just assumed I could pick up and start running, never having been at all athletic.

I work with a lot of people who are just starting to run. Some pull the same thing–they go out trying to run a few miles from zero, and either it feels so awful at the time, or they hurt so much the next day, that they quit right there.They make up their minds that they hate running, or aren’t built for it, or just can’t do it because it hurts their joints, or whatever.

Hey, kids! It’s a major physiological adaptation! You have to ease into it. Smart would-be-runners use a walk-run program that methodically alternates a few minutes of running with a minute or two of walking and progresses over several weeks increasing the run time and decreasing walk breaks until you can run continuously and a runner is born! It’s hard to be patient during this process–it was for me. But when I finally did a sustainable run (many years after that first awful one), I was elated.

One of my favorite experiences is to see newly minted runners get that same feeling. Some dancer friends of mine have just started running with this method and they talk about feeling giddy about being able to run continuously. The feeling of steady velocity is so new and delicious!

Here’s to all Would-Be-Runners out there. Do yourself a favor and commit to doing it right.

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