Yeah, no one ever told me this about running....
How many times did I start and stop regular running before it finally "took" 3 years ago? At least twice that I can recall. Looking back it's so painfully obvious why running was, uh, painful. I was going about it all wrong.
First of all I was under the impression that I should be able to go out and hammer away at 2-3 miles from nothing. Looking back I see how ridiculous this assumption was, but my earlier running attempts were all done prior to the Internet and the venerable Couch-to-5k program. I never thought to pick up a book for beginner runners, either, and never considered the fact that as a runner in high school and jr. high I still had the benefit of regular PE classes, so I wasn't starting track seasons on no base.
I really have that Couch-to-5k program to thank for the 2 marathons and countless shorter distances that are now under my belt. In 2 days I will be celebrating 3 years since my very first road race just a few weeks after completing the C25k program--the Muskegon Chronicle Seaway Run. 3 years ago I ran the 5k, but ever since it's been the 15k for me. I don't really care for 5ks.
And here is why...and the crux of what I (and so many others) have learned after completing a beginner's running plan and continuing on: the first 2-3 miles are absolute crap. This is true for me at least 90% of the time. Occasionally I will have a run where I feel unbelievable badass and light on my feet from the first step. But this is definitely NOT the norm. Most of my runs start with 2 miles that are little more than plodding misery. Sometimes they are somewhat painful, but mostly they just feel stiff, slow, and clumsy.
Nowadays the only way I will sign-up for a 5k is if I can get in a mile or two of warm-up BEFORE the gun goes off (and if there isn't a longer distance available). Otherwise I don't waste the entry fee. 3.1 miles is miserable if I spend the first 2/3 of the race just working out the staleness in my legs.
Luckily it's not often more than 2 miles, but there have been the occasional run where it takes me 3-4 miles to feel "warmed-up." Rarely I will have runs where I never find my groove. Those really stink...especially when it's a run of 10 miles or more. Those runs are LONG and usually invoke some 4-letter words spewed-forth in grunts and moans.
Over the last 3 years I have been finding myself telling each and every person I know who is considering taking up running not to lose hope when running feels very hard at first. I wish someone would have told me this. I always assumed that if it stunk at 1 or 2 miles in that it would only get worse, which is the opposite of how running works for me...and for nearly every runner I know.