Today, I'm going to talk about writing everyday. Every single day. Doesn't matter if you're tired, exhausted, comatose, or dead - you must write EVERY SINGLE DAY. Wait - are there people out there that believe that? If so, I'm not one of them. I can't write if I'm too tired to think. But I do run...
Developing certain "chores" into a habit is sometimes necessary to improve. Dieting probably falls into this category. Eating healthy is a lifestyle choice, not an I'll-see-how-I-feel-on-that-particular-day kind of thing. I would know, because I eat crap. But I did manage to turn one thing I absolutely hated into a habit, and now I'm experiencing the misery of breaking it.
I started running when I was 21. I'd always been athletic, but I hated doing anything for long distances. I got tired. And slow. Some doctor told me I had a heart murmur to make me feel better about running out of gas. In any case, I loved soccer games and swim meets and tennis matches, but I loathed practice. In college I started running because, well, I hated biking more.
I started with a half-mile. Almost died at the end of it. By the end of the week, I'd built up to a mile-and-a-half. Within a month, I was running three miles a day. These were slow miles, but still a solid distance for a total beginner. I ran each day at dawn in the bowels of New Jersey - cold, grey, and often snowing. I wore two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, and five shirts of various thicknesses. When I moved to Chicago, I started running at 11 pm at night, but I had to institute a new rule: no single digit temperatures. That was the bootcampers' rule, and I adopted it.
I stuck with my three-miles-a-day for six years. I ran at night, after work, in wind and snow and rain and even a few blizzards. I ran through the city streets of Chicago and Boston, and later, San Francisco. When I was tired, I ran. When I had the flu, I ran. For six years, I ran my three miles six days a week.
And I never improved! Fail!
But who cares, because I never entered a single race. That changed in medical school, as stress mounted and my need for an outlet grew. So I started running longer distances. And hills. Oh, the hills! But like any faithful SF runner, I embraced them. I bought one of those Nike workout things. I realized I was running 8:30 miles, then 8:00, then a pretty decent sub 7:00 for a self-timed 5K. At which point I entered my very first race and blew everyone away!
No, that didn't happen. I got hurt a week before my race. Iliotibial-band syndrome, the dreaded injury that befalls most serious runners at one point or another. I'm still fighting it. I'm back at the gym, riding that odious bike and lifting weights. Without running, I feel lost.
So that's my running journey. For those just starting, or thinking about it, I'm telling you that running that half-mile on a bitter February morning in 2004 changed my life. Get through that first month, and you'll never look back.