Beginner’s Muck: Everyone Starts Somewhere

By Elizabeth Jenkins

This time of year we get a lot of first-time runners coming in to get their very first pair of running shoes. These are my favorite customers. They often look a little intimidated, but 6-8 months down the road, they are back to get their second pair of shoes and this makes our noses tingle with delight.

Every runner has a story as to why they wake up day after day, lace up their shoes, down a snot-like energy gel and hit the road. The greatest thing about running is that everyone can do it. There is no rule book as to how you have to run, what you can and can’t wear while you are running (although I must admit, my life long mantra is “spandex is a privilege, not a right”), how far you must go or how fast you must be. It really is the purest form of exercise and with dedication, hard work and a friend or two to help push you, anyone can be a runner.

I took up eating fruit snacks and tater tots and watching Saved by the Bell marathons in high school.  I was hefty, to say the least.  At age 15, I was 5’ 8’’ and weighed just under 190. I hated myself but I LOVED hot fudge sundaes, corn dogs, Big Macs and DQ Blizzards with extra cookie dough. My mom was a weight loss consultant for Weight Watchers and she helped me lose over 60 lbs and 10 dress sizes. The eating part was really hard at first, but after a while, I loved how great I felt when I put healthy fuel in my body.

Exercising was much harder than putting down the chocolate milk and reaching for a glass of water. I had absolutely no motivation to exercise and no confidence to put on tight work-out clothes. I started dancing in my room at night with head phones in after everyone was asleep and I would lip sync to the greats, Chumbawumba, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, BBMac, and of course Donny Osmond . This is what I did for about 3 months until I had enough guts to try and go outside on the roads.  My first run was a disaster! I ran to the end of my street (only about 100 yards) and I was winded.  Forget this, I thought. This is for the birds. I underestimated how important exercise was and I slowly gained some of the weight back, but not all, thank goodness.

I made numerous attempts while in college to run consistently, but I always ended up hurt, or just really discouraged.  Finally, my friend took me to Salt Lake Running Co. where Travis, who is now my boss, fit me for my first pair of real running shoes. I felt ready to take on the world but the consistency never happened while school, work and finals did.

My life was turned up-side-down when my dad passed away just over a year ago. I so needed therapy but was too cool to admit it. I decided to start the whole running thing again. It really helped me to deal with my sadness, anger and the all around emptiness I felt while trying to get used to a new kind of life.  At first, running made me feel worse because I was so slow and I could only run about two blocks before I needed to stop and walk but I kept at it, going just a little farther each day. Now I am training along-side many of you with our half-marathon training program and I am feeling strong and confident in my body’s ability to adapt! Once I got to the point where I could run 4+ miles without stopping, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment.

My best advice to every new runner would be to not give up. It takes a long time for our bodies to have what it takes just to run. Doing too much too soon is a recipe for unmet goals and endless discouragement.  Once you reach the point where you feel like you can call yourself a runner, magic happens and you are on your way to being one of those totally weird long distance people you used to laugh at for running in skin tight clothes, but who you secretly admired for being so bad-a.

Whatever your reason or inspiration for running day after day, starting to run again or for the first time, share your story with us in the comments below.  It is always great to hear other’s stories and feel inspired by those who have had to overcome so much to do something as simple as run.

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