I love running! It makes me clear my mind, let me feel free, challenges my body and gets me into the outdoors. Sometimes, a day not running feels like a day not having lived. But this wasn’t always the case, trust me. When I look 10 years back from now, I didn’t practice any sports at all. In fact, I hated sports.
Ok, to be honest, living in the Netherlands by then – a country that is dominated by bicycles – I was forced to use my bike every day in order to get to school. Sunshine, rain, wind, snow, it didn’t matter. For someone who hasn’t been in the Netherlands before, it’s hard to understand. But for Dutch kids, it’s just part of their daily routine. It meant that I was getting a fair amount of movement every day, but I never considered it as actually practising sports.
So, when did it all begin? On a random day I just decided to go running on my indoor shoes, which was a terrible mistake. Without any cushioning in my shoes, and the fact I was wearing shoes that weren’t meant to run longer distances on, I soon got injured on my right knee. What a surprise! This brilliant idea of mine, also brought me my first visit to a physiotherapist. Followed by more sessions. Let’s keep it that way: I was young and inexperienced…
I soon decided to stop running. I mean, there was no fun doing it anyway with a knee always hurting. What I didn’t reckon, however, was that my boyfriend, who has loved running since a young age, secretly tried to infect me with the running-fever. How did he do that? It all started with buying me the most ugly ‘real’ running shoes I’ve ever seen. But hey, they felt like running on fluffy clouds compared to my previous pair. His second strike was giving me my very first running gear as a birthday present: a jacket, a shirt and tights. Since I was expecting a nice peace of jewelry, I felt a little disappointed. Sorry, but I’m still a girl. The looks of my girlfriends when he handed me over his present unfortunately didn’t help either. Was he trying to tell me something? Did I grow out of shape without noticing it? No, none of that. Men think different, more practical. There was no hidden message. He just thought it was time for some running gear. And I have to confess; afterwards I was secretly happy with his gift. In fact, I still wear the jacket quite often.
Does this mean we’ve already reached the end of my story? No. By far not. Owning a pair of running shoes and wearing sports gear hasn’t made me an enthusiast runner overnight. It’s not that simple. As a running newbie I had to take baby steps first. I had to start from scratch. Beginning with very short distances on an irregular basis. When I felt like running, I ran. When I didn’t feel like running, I didn’t. I wasn’t following any training scheme and I didn’t own any fancy gadgets to track my results. And running a race didn’t even come up in my mind since I wasn’t competitive at all.
Like most running newbies, it was really hard to keep motivated. Without training towards a goal, it sometimes just felt like a waste of time. Besides, I didn’t get the impression that the effort I was putting into running resulted in any progression. Most of the time it felt like I was standing still, or even worse, I was taking steps backwards. Furthermore, back at that time running wasn’t that popular as it is now. You rarely saw runners on the streets (especially from my age) and there wasn’t too much media attention for it. It might sound silly, but the running gear wasn’t as fashionable as it is nowadays. I always felt a bit stupid, running in my weird outfit, something that didn’t help either. In my case, running definitely wasn’t love at first sight. It sure took a few years before I got hooked. As I already told you, this wouldn’t be a short story…
When did my feelings change then, you might ask yourself. From what moment on did I start to enjoy running? To be honest, I sadly can’t remember this exact moment anymore. But what I do remember is the moment I subscribed for my first race: a half marathon in my hometown Leiden. For once, I actually had a goal working towards. Suddenly it wasn’t just for fun anymore and I certainly felt the pressure. I wanted to prove myself that I was able to finish. At the same time I was pretty scared that I might not reach my goal. Failure was not an option.
So, what did I do in order to reach my goal? I simply started to train by slowly expanding my running distances. Being able to run at top speed wasn’t my priority at all. I just wanted to prepare myself to stand out 21,1k without stopping. And you know what? After a few months of training, in May 2012 I’ve finished my very first half marathon. Something I never thought I would be able to accomplish. But I did it – all by myself. Even though I was totally broken, it felt awesome to cross the finish line. I didn’t care that other participants were faster than me, I was just more than happy with my accomplishment. Looking back on this event, I can honestly say that this marked the beginning of an addiction, or a new lifestyle if you want. From that moment on I actually became thirsty for new challenges.
Do you want to know how my running story evolved? And what my goals for 2016 are? In the upcoming posts I’ll elaborate on that. See you then!
Do you remember a moment in your life that marked the beginning of a new episode? And how did that change you? Tell me about your experiences in the comments.