If, a few years back, someone told me I would be running a half marathon today, I would have laughed in disbelief. Me? Running 13 miles? No way.
I’ve always been somewhat athletic, playing a variety of sports throughout my life, but every time I tried running I was discouraged because I couldn’t finish one mile without my legs giving out and my lungs screaming at me to stop. So, I labeled myself a “non-runner” and always told people the only time I ran was if someone was chasing me (in other words, never).
However, toward the end of freshman year, one of my best friends at BC convinced me to try running again. She encouraged me simply to try something short, so I laced up my barely-worn running sneakers and gave it a shot.
To say it was an instant success and that I immediately fell in love with running would be a lie. In reality I struggled and I probably walked half of it, but I wasn’t discouraged. From that first try to my 13.1 today, my progress was absolutely not linear. I failed and gave up many times, but in the end I persevered.
The experience helped me realize that running is for everyone and that you don’t have to be fast to be a runner. Additionally, my journey has allowed me to experience the various physical and cognitive benefits running has to offer.
I used to assume being a runner meant being quick. I didn’t think running was worth it unless I was going at a competitive speed. I think this is why running discourages so many people. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Running is running no matter what your pace is. A six-minute mile requires the same motions as a 12-minute one.
One of the most practical benefits of running is that it helps with getting to know your surroundings. During freshman year, I had very little sense of which way Boston, Newton, or Cleveland Circle was. Running has helped me get to know not just the immediate areas surrounding BC but also the city as a whole. Running is one of the best ways to explore and discover new areas and develop a better sense of direction.
Running also promotes a healthy habit of goal setting in small increments. In training for a race, it is recommended you increase your mileage by no more than one to two miles per week. This process of setting and achieving small goals fosters confidence and boosts morale: there is nothing more satisfying than finishing a long run and thinking, “That’s the farthest I’ve ever run!”
Moreover, one can apply this goal-setting process to every area of life. Ambitious goals are great, but it’s the small daily and weekly goals that help us achieve the bigger ones. In a society that prizes grand accomplishments, running encourages the mind to be comfortable with and proud of the small achievements.
The thing about running is that it is all about personal bests, making it a perfect escape from the competitive college environment. From grades, to getting into clubs and service organizations, to securing a table in Eagles at noon, nearly every aspect of BC is competitive, and students are pressured to compare themselves to others, which can be detrimental.
Running is ultimately a race against oneself. Sure, for some runners, races are about trying to win, but for the majority of people who participate in races—from 5Ks to marathons—it's all about the process. Focusing on personal bests is a much healthier way to view achievements than comparing them to the work of others.
As I stood in line to pick up my race bib for today, I saw people of all ages, and all shapes and sizes. Running is not for one type of individual. The inclusive atmosphere of races brings a wide variety of runners together—from elite runners to people whose goal is just to finish. If you are one of those people who has adopted the identity of a “non-runner” because you think you are too slow, run anyway and reap the benefits of doing so.