There are only two times you will find me running- if I am being chased, or if I am chasing someone. Both usually occur on a playground with my children and both usually occur almost never. Put me on a bike. Throw me in some water. Send me for a walk with a friend. But, please, do not make me run!
I do not enjoy running.
So, when Moms on the Run invited me to join their Highland Park class for an evening and I promptly signed up, I really couldn’t figure out what I had been thinking at first. I went back and forth between shaking my head at myself and getting excited. As I nervously approached the evening of the class I found myself peeking at the Moms on the Run website. This helped a lot. It was obvious that it was a group for women of all ages and sizes and experiences. I started to think that maybe even I, Only-Runs-On-The-Playground-Lady, could find a place in their running group.
I showed up to the class in my thrift store running pants, my son’s sports socks, my husband’s raincoat and a sports bra I had just picked up at the store about an hour before class. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a runner to own a pair of running shoes, so I dusted those off from back when I thought I’d be more active than I currently am.
Many of the women seemed to know each other, but it was obvious many women were new. Everyone was friendly to me, even though I was nervous. I like to blend into the crowd; so new situations are scary to me. If I am going to stand out it better be because I look confident and cute, not sweaty and awkward. I knew that any discomfort I was about to experience was only temporary, though. Other than shin splints, whatever pain I experience during this class won’t last!
It was a cold, rainy Minnesotan spring day and I found myself wanting to move my body, which was good because today they said we’d be running. My anxious self had originally hoped that the class would be canceled because of rain or that we wouldn’t run on the first day. I was wrong. We started the class by gathering together and discussing logistics, meeting the coaches and the team. It was the first class for the season. Then we walked over by the river to do some warm-ups. My legs felt so wobbly as I followed along with the others. Would they know how weak I feel right now? Would they know I am not a “runner”?
We did a large group warm up and it felt surprisingly good. I was a bit off balance at times, but so were many others. I wasn’t alone in my lack of coordination. We weren’t separated by any sort of group at this point and there wasn’t a real sense of who was a beginner or not. I didn’t feel like I stood out, which helped me feel much more comfortable. I was no longer anxious and was able to focus on the exercises. There was a pretty big group of women, maybe around twenty-five of us all together.
We then split into two groups to begin our interval running. For the beginners’ group, this meant we ran for one minute and walked for three minutes. Over the weeks these times would change as endurance was built. Though I was comfortable with the group of women I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be able to keep up. Could I really pretend I know how to run?
Right before the run began I realized I needed to tighten my shoelaces. I found a spot and as I began tying my shoe I heard the whistle blow. It was time to go! My hands were frozen from the cold, rainy weather and it was like one of those dreams when you desperately need to do something but your body absolutely can’t do its job. I rushed to tie my shoes with my icicle fingers and started running.
And guess what? I ran! Only-Runs-On-The-Playground-Lady was running.
And I kept running.
I wasn’t the first in the group and I wasn’t the last. Like many parts of my life, I fell right in the middle. Some women walked, some ran, but most jogged at a nice comfortable pace. We ran, the whistle blew, we walked. All of the women in the front circled back until we were all in a group again and we continued together. It didn’t take long before I found myself jogging along with other women and talking. We all had one thing in common- we are moms, so the conversation was natural.
Then our coach said that we were on our last interval and soon after she announced we were down to our last ten seconds. It was then that I realized something I had not expected to happen happened:
I never even realized I was running. And now it was done. Just like that. I had done it.
It was like some sort of trick. Intervals. Conversation. Sticking together. And somewhere along the way, I discovered that my fear of running wasn’t a logical fear.
I thought running would be scary. But it’s not so scary when you’re with others.
I thought running would be painful. But it’s not so painful when you have someone to educate you and guide you in stretches.
I thought running would be agonizing and boring. But it’s not so boring when you have others to talk to.
I thought running would be a lot of things, but the thing I never thought it would be was possible. I actually enjoyed running.
The accountability and the energy that came with the other moms at Moms on the Run was just what I needed to know that I could actually learn to run. I left that class not only with a boost of long lost confidence, but I also left the class feeling the need to return. Something happened to my motivation when I was with the other women in that group. Needless to say, I arrived home that evening and began looking into registering for the current summer program because, despite my best intentions, I know I am not at a place to start running on my own yet.
So, I’m here to say, if I can do it, you can do it!
And guess what? I didn’t even get shin splints.