A Special Interview

For this post, I interviewed my older brother and sister, who are the reason that I began running in middle school. Over the years, they have been a huge source of encouragement for me, and they have given me some of the best advice about running, so I thought I would have them share that advice with you. My sister, Kim, began running in middle school and joined the cross country team at our high school. She is currently a very busy graduate student at William and Mary, but still finds time to run. My brother, Andrew, followed the same path as Kim, but continued his running career at The College of New Jersey. He is also a very busy graduate student now, at Rutgers University. I hope that their insights are helpful to you as you continue your fitness journey, and a huge thanks to my sister and brother who took the time to answer these questions!

How did you start running, and why do you still run?

Andrew: In the 3rd grade we were running the mile run and I was SLOW. So I tried running a little faster and realized I was good at it. I liked being able to outrun people on the sports field and in middle school I started running home from school every day. Shortly after that I tried my first 5k, and then the rest is history. I joined the Middle, High School, and College track teams and haven’t stopped since.

2 years ago I graduated from college and my competitive college running career ended but I have continued to run and be active. Running offers me a way to destress after a long day, it provides the obvious health benefits, it allows me to explore new places, and I legitimately enjoy running.

Kim: I was looking for a sport to play when I got to high school, and people kept mentioning that I should join the cross country team. I eventually decided that I would give it a try, and I stuck with it all four years, along with Winter and Spring Track. I have continued running after high school because I truly enjoy it, and it is a huge stress reliever for me.

What do you think about when you run?

A: Usually I don’t think about anything. I’ll notice the houses I’m passing but I’m usually paying attention to my pace and mechanics and breathing which I think is what helps me have a successful and enjoyable run because I’m in tune with how I’m feeling that day and I know how fast I can afford to go at different points in the run. If it’s been a stressful day, my problems have a way of subconsciously working themselves out during the run.

Other thoughts: I shouldn’t have left right before the storm started, I don’t know where I am, was that a bear?, should I run that extra mile? Why did I think it was a good idea to test out barefoot running on an 8 mile out and back run?

K: I also don’t really think about anything in particular when I run. I usually just let my mind wander. Especially now, because of my workload, I find myself planning out my schedule for when I finish my run, or working through assignments that I have to do. Sometimes thinking about my work as I’m running helps me to think about it from a different perspective.

What do you find to be the biggest obstacle mentally when running?

A: Having a bad run. Whether I’m running and I’m dehydrated or I’m tired from a previous workout, or I haven’t eaten, or I ate too much, and my breathing is heavy and I’m struggling to keep the pace I usually do, these days are the hardest mentally to finish the run.

K: Occasionally, when I start to feel pain or I feel myself getting tired, I have to focus a lot more on continuing with my run and not giving up. There are some days that I am having a bad run and overcoming these negative thoughts can be difficult.

How do you overcome this obstacle?

A: The best way for me to get through a bad run is to try to zone out. I try to take my focus away from my side stitch or how heavy my breathing is and make a conscious effort to think about something I’m looking forward to later in the day. I know that walking is not an option for me and since I don’t feel good I’m probably going about as fast as I can on the given day so I can basically put my body on autopilot and just focus on getting home.

Side note: Especially if I’m not feeling good running up a hill, I focus on an object in the distance, such as a telephone pole, and tell myself that I just need to make it to that pole. And then when I get to the first telephone pole I look for the next one. This gives me an easily attainable goal, takes my mind off how I feel, and breaks up the potentially long distance left in the run into more manageable chunks.

K: Once in a while, I will stop for a moment to regroup and maybe stretch out if I am feeling pain. Mostly, I tell myself that I will make it to the end of my run. I use a similar strategy as Andrew sometimes to get through a tough run. I will pick a landmark in front of me and tell myself that I only need to make it to that light post or street corner or fire hydrant. Then I find a new landmark and make it to that one, until I suddenly find that I am back at my apartment.

What is your favorite thing about running?

A: Running for me has always been the best way to explore new places. I have done quite a bit of traveling in and out of the country and when I get to a new place one of the first things I’ll do is go on a run. I notice little restaurants that might be good to eat at, landmarks to see later in the day, paths and parks to return to the next day, and it really lets me get a good feel for a new place. Plus everyone is always friendly to a fellow runner, regardless of where you are, even if you don’t speak their language.

K: One of my favorite things about running is that it gets me outside. Especially lately, I have had to be inside a lot either doing work or attending class, so going for a run allows me to get some fresh air. It helps me to clear my mind, and I often find that I am ready to be productive again after I finish a run. It gives me a break from doing work, and exercise is a valid excuse to take a break.

What advice do you have for other runners?

A: I enjoy running because when I go out, I am able to zone out, and all the stress of the day fades away and it’s just my feet pounding on the pavement. I enjoy running so much partially because of how I came into the sport. Because of the continuous nature of my training I am usually in shape and I can have an easy run that lasts for 8 miles. I say this not to scare a new runner off but rather to encourage a new runner to give the sport a chance. The sport will try its best to discourage you and make you tired and frustrated when you first start out but with even just a few weeks of continuous running, you’ll start to notice that the runs become less painful, the miles start going by quicker, and the rewards of being in shape and being a runner start to be realized. Running has a lot to offer, and the good news is that the first run is always the most painful, from there, you’ll just get stronger, and it will just get easier.
K: My first piece of advice would be to get into a routine. I think this is really important because it will make it much easier to run on a daily basis. Whether it is what days you are running or the time of day that you are running, it will help you get into the habit of running. Some mornings I will put on running clothes even if I don’t plan on going for a run right away, because it makes it much easier to get myself out the door when I am ready to go. I would also advise you to find new places to run whenever you can. This helps to keep it exciting and fresh, and you won’t be sick of running the same routes all the time.

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