Learning To Love Long Distance
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Learning To Love Long Distance

How I forced myself to enjoy long distance running and the positive impact it's had on my life.

Learning To Love Long Distance
Ellen Westfall

If anyone who is reading this knew me before last summer, they were probably aware of how much I hated to run. Playing field hockey under my high school coach, we ran an obscene amount every summer and in season. It was no secret that we were one of the best conditioned teams in our league, and it showed.

That being said, I was never a “bad” runner. I was always one of the first five or so girls to finish any run we did, ranging from sprints to long distance. I never struggled to find motivation to complete a run (not that it was an option). However, I loathed waking up in the morning for summer conditioning. I could not understand why anyone would choose to go on a run for any reason, let alone for fun. I had heard a lot of my friends and teammates talk about how good they felt after a nice five mile jog, and I envied their ability to find joy in something I despised.

Of course that didn’t stop me from trying to enjoy running in the same way. I made several attempts at a leisurely jog, but failed miserably at each go. Each time the same pattern appeared: I would begin at a fast pace, easily get fatigued and bored, then call it quits around a half mile in. It was somewhat discouraging, but I decided that long distance running just wasn’t for me and I gave up trying. It wasn’t until the summer after my senior year of high school that I decided to give running another shot. With preseason for field hockey at college slowly approaching, I knew that I would have to come in fairly good shape. That summer I made a decision that would impact my life from then on: I would force myself to like long distance running.

Coming from someone who used to hate running, this road was not easy. Instead of sleeping in until 10 or 11 AM, I set my alarm for 8:30 every morning and got up to go running. The choice to run early in the day was due to the heat that I knew would set in around noon, and also because of my work schedule. I knew the longer I waited to run, the less likely it would be that I would get it done, and the thought would loom over me for the rest of the day.

Once I started my daily morning routine, I noticed a pattern forming. When I first began my morning routes, I would start at a seven minute mile pace. This lasted for about a half mile before I knew I had several more miles to go, and I would be tempted to stop completely instead of slow down. For some reason, I was very embarrassed to run at a slower speed. Once I got over my fear of appearing “slow”, I enjoyed my runs much more. I started going longer distances, stopped worrying about my speed and focused more on how my body was feeling. As I got more used to the distance, I gradually built up endurance and my mile time went up with it. I became more comfortable with the long amounts of time I was on the trail and began to easily get lost in my thoughts as I kept going.

By the end of the summer, I had a firm six mile route that I would run every single day. I never got tired of it, and instead found new ways to challenge myself by increasing my speed or practicing timed jog/sprint intervals. By August, I found that I started to become anxious and lethargic if I didn’t get to run that day. I loved having a set period of time that was just for me, and it became my method for processing stress and focusing on my personal thoughts and feelings.

Having just finished up my freshman year at college, I was excited to come home for numerous reasons. Obviously, I was looking forward to seeing my family and friends from home, but I also couldn’t help but get excited to get back to my usual routine. Instead of hating to run, I’ve learned to love it and everything it does for me mentally and physically. So if you’re one of those people who “just aren’t runners”, try again sometime and see how far you can go. Deciding to force myself to like running was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; now I can’t picture life without it.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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