Let’s be clear. I am not a runner. This may not be the best introduction to someone who writes about running, but it’s the truth. I grew up in a swimming pool, and therefore my body was conditioned from a very young age to believe that exercise only took place in zero gravity environments. Throw gravity into the mix, and my body would rebel in a very unattractive way.
So how did I become a runner? Two years ago, in a moment of overly optimistic ambition, I agreed to run a half marathon, only to immediately try and run away from the reality of this commitment. However, my handshake agreement had been filmed, and under threat of it being posted on YouTube, I reluctantly began my training.
Having NO running experience, my body’s first reaction to this change in exercise was instant shock, as in, “What on earth do you think you’re doing?!”
The constant pounding of the pavement left my body confused, disoriented, and often cramping up, and in those first few weeks, I tried several times to call the whole thing off. I figured that if I couldn’t run for two minutes without gasping for air, attempting to run 13.1 miles would surely finish me off for good. But I persevered, allowing myself generous helpings of walking in between my running attempts, and as the months passed by, I slowly worked up to a respectable 45-minute run.
Please, no celebratory parades just yet. Let me assure you that not one of those 45 minutes was attractive. Within the first 30 seconds, I would settle into my usual pace, what I like to call a geriatric shuffle, and from there I would huff and puff my way through a 5K loop of the neighborhood. There were no land speed records set, but I was getting closer to being able to shuffle my way through a half marathon without collapsing into a fetal position alongside the road, begging passersby for an oxygen tank. Progress!
Still, I hated every moment of it. Sure I was able to more or less haul myself around the block, but I was miserable for every single step, and I was counting down the days until the half marathon would be over so I could move on with my life.
Then I entered my first race. I registered for a local 5K to test the pavement and experience what this whole running a race concept was all about. The cheering crowds along the route definitely put an extra spring in my step, and it was comforting to see that most of the runners around me looked just as miserable as I did. But I was still a reluctant runner.
That all changed the moment I crossed the finish line.
If you or someone you know is contemplating running but can’t find the motivation, enter a race. No matter what the distance, there is no greater inspiration to run than crossing a finish line and realizing what you’ve just accomplished. For me, it was as if a switch had flipped within myself, and suddenly, I couldn’t wait to lace up my sneakers in the morning. Every run brought me closer and closer to another race day and another finish line.
I did eventually finish that original half marathon, the one that kick started my running journey, and just days after crossing that finish line, I packed up and moved to Paris to start an entirely new journey. Amidst all of the uncertainty of moving to a foreign country, it was comforting to discover that not only do the French love running, but with the thousands of races held every year in France, I would have ample opportunity to pursue my new favorite hobby. A year and 11 races later, I’ve learned a thing or two about running in the French capital, and now I’m ready to pass this knowledge onto you. If running tempts you, or maybe you’re already an experienced runner wondering what it takes to enter a French race, stay tuned to this space.
Until then, see you at the finish line!