By Sarah Huntington
[Running] was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs. — Olympic legend Jesse Owens
Anyone who tells you they love running is lying. The muscles screaming, the sweat, the laborious breathing; I truly believe the only reason people run is so they can drink beer or eat ice cream. And yet, running saved me.
As a teenage girl, I was very insecure. To quell the insecurities, my parents would assure me that I was just “big boned.” Many young girls have body image issues, and in today’s growing “selfie” society I cannot even imagine how much more intense the self-criticism must be for today’s kids. (Thankfully for me, there was no online version of my 13-year-old self.) Because I didn’t feel very feminine, I found basketball — and through basketball, I found running. Running was awful.
And yet, when I look back, I am thankful. The memories of running around the track with my dad, running repeat miles like hamsters in a cage, waiting for the day I could beat him. Running along the hills in Connecticut preparing for the NYC Marathon. These memories are beautiful and perfect.
Last summer, visiting my parents who were then living in Vietnam, I finally beat my dad in the mile. Just like running 26.2, I never thought I would ever beat my dad in running. I thought things were only going to go up. I thought I was stronger and faster than I had ever been. But instead, they went down. My marriage fell apart, and I was spiraling so fast I had no idea where to place my footing. My gait became so unsteady I stopped running. The winter was cold, the days were dark, and I stared into my bathroom mirror looking at eyes that had lost their sparkle and a woman I didn’t know.
And I was forced to face the same questions of my teenage self. Insecurities about my body, about the opposite sex, about love, about my relationships, about me – the age-old question of who I was. I couldn’t run. I was so mentally exhausted and my body couldn’t do anything anymore.
Starting to run again after a long winter is hard. I found myself crying before runs, thinking of all the memories. And then one day, I laced up. Slow and struggling, I went through the woods and got lost. The only thing I knew how to do was to keep running. So I did. And I just kept going until six miles later I found my way home.
Now I am training for the Boston Marathon, and I could not be more excited. I have been running every day through the fall leaves, and I am ready to conquer this challenge. I ran my NYC Marathon for Autism and for my brother, and I will be running the Boston marathon all for me. (Here I come, Heartbreak Hill!)
Here are some tips in order to start running for the first time — or to get back into it.
1. Trust Yourself
Trust your lungs, trust your footing, put your sneakers by your bed, and buy yourself a new running outfit if you need to. (Carbon 38 is my new fave for fitness clothing.) When you think about running, Nike’s slogan is a good one for a reason – JUST DO IT. And like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. The less your lungs burn, the less your muscles ache. And one day you just might find that you have the energy and the grit to go one more mile, to do one more sprint.
2. Walk Before You Run
But to start, even if you have to walk, just appreciate your body for stepping out the door with your sneakers on. And, when you finish, the reward isn’t a bowl of ice cream or a bottle of beer; you are doing something healthy for your body, healthy for your mind, and truly, healthy for your soul. If you can’t run, walk, and if you can’t walk, just never give up – that's what it comes down to. Never Give Up. If you fail one day, know you have tomorrow to regroup and try again. The point is to never stop trying.
3. Aim Bigger
When you start running, try to hit a mile. Then, run a mile for a few weeks and you’ll notice how much easier it gets. Increase that distance to 2 miles, then to 4. Suddenly, your body will want to keep going. It’s crazy, I know. But pushing yourself a little bit at a time will not only increase your workouts, but it’ll get you stronger, faster, and healthier.
4. Have an End Goal
Sign up for a race. Seriously. Put your name on a list for a race in a few months and use that as your goal. A public event can be a great motivator. There are always short 5k walks and runs in New York, as well as towns across the country, and once you do your first, you may want to sign-up for your second. Plus, the swag at the finish line is always pretty good too. Visit www.nycruns.com to find upcoming races.
Upcoming NYC Runs
Have a date on the calendar is the best motivator. Get a friend to run with you, or just cheer you on from the sidelines.
November 22nd - Flushing Meadows 5K Queens NY
November 23rd - NYCRUNS Running Festival of Lights Brooklyn NY
December 14th - Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon New York NY
A vagabond by nature, Sarah Huntington has traveled to Egypt, Argentina, Turkey, Austria, Vietnam, London, and France... to name a few. She loves to travel, hike, and explore the world. She played collegiate basketball and studied Literature, History and Education at Connecticut College, and is currently a high school English teacher and basketball coach. Sarah is also a runner (completed the NYC Marathon), and her newest workout obsession is kickboxing. Sarah currently lives in Wilton, CT with her pitbull Jada, and enjoys spending her "free" time writing, reading, practicing yoga, working on meditating, and investigating all things related to fitness, fashion, and literature.