COVID Has Turned Me Into A Beginner Outdoor Runner And It’s Like I’ve Joined A Secret Club

Covid Running

I’m now a runner. Sort of.

Before the eye rolls start, (the eye rolls that mean something along the lines of “Great another person who doesn’t realize they actually don’t need to announce that they are now running”) let me just say that I’ve run outdoors about a dozen times now. Eleven of those were with my trainer at my socially distanced side, which makes running a bit more bearable because he’s a good sounding board, offering me the male perspective whenever I’m over-analyzing a text from the opposite sex as we run.

He pushes me. I do not mean “motivationally” or “inspirationally.” I mean he literally shoves me. If he sees an oncoming car, he pushes me, or if we’re about to run across a busy road. He pushes me a lot, come to think of it. I don’t doubt, one day, he’ll push me and I’ll end up toppling over in someone’s bushes on their front lawn. He’s like my bodyguard, therapist, life coach, and trainer all wrapped up into one very lean body. Plus he holds my water bottle for me. Obviously, I need him.

We have not run more than 29 minutes yet, and even then, we do more of a walk and run combo. “Listen,” I told him. “I’ve come this far in life without any major injuries. I don’t want to start getting them now.” So, we’re taking our runs slowly and cautiously as he teaches me techniques, while every few minutes pushing me, to which I yell, “I hate you! If you push me one more time, I swear I’m going to punch you in the face!” We probably look like a married couple who have spent way too much time together. But I digress.

“We know, we know: you’re brimming with enthusiasm about your new running career,” I read here, for beginner runners. Let’s not go crazy. When did running become a career? Does this career pay? Offer flexible hours? Dental benefits? Who should I shoot my cover letter to? If there is a career for a single mother in her mid-forties who is a novice runner, I’m in!

The cardinal rule of the new runner is to be patient. Your body needs time to adapt to this new activity.” Newbies should run more slowly than you think you should, and don’t run more often than you think you should. This Forbes article is a good read on staying healthy if you’re starting to run during the pandemic.

I most definitely suffer from “Runcrastination,” which professional runners, with their own runner-isms, describe as, “When you struggle to get out the door for your run.” Struggle? That’s a nice way of putting it.

“In deciding to become a runner, you make a very important choice that will extend your lifespan,” says Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper. “Our research suggests that people who exercise regularly can extend their lifespan by six to nine years.”

How wonderful! But, frankly, I just want to lose My Pandemic Pounds + My Happy Pounds (due to a happy, happy relationship) + My Midlife (Pre-Menopause?) Love Handles. It’s time to run it off. I do feel “Runderful,” another runner-ism, afterward, mostly because I’ve finished.

It’s getting easier. Instead of complaining for 15 minutes to my trainer, who waits outside, he now only has to hear me complain for 13.5 minutes before he pushes me “motivationally.” I am cutting down my time getting out the door. That, to me, is progress.

Over the weekend, I hemmed and hawed. I knew I needed to learn how to be comfortable and get motivated to run alone. It took me 55 minutes to talk myself into putting on a sports bra, another 25 minutes to put on running shoes, and another 20 minutes to leave the house. According to the calculator on my iPhone, it took me more than an hour-and-a-half to go on a solo run, one that only lasted 23 minutes, mind you.

Running opened my eyes to a new world of other people in my neighbourhood aside from the runners. The car drivers.

“Most beginners start by running around the block or down the street in their neighbourhoods… and most people run on roads—facing traffic, please,” read this article on “10 Most Important Things For Beginner Runners.”

Many of the streets in my neighbourhood don’t have sidewalks. The drivers in my neighbourhood seem to think stop signs are “Stop-tional.” I almost took a selfie in front of a stop sign, after watching a driver blast through one, without even pretending to come to a halt, while on my solo run. (Fun fact? A selfie on a run is a “Runfie.” Cute, right?)

I wanted to post my runfie with, “Hey neighbours! A stop sign is red and octagon-shaped with white lettering spelling out S.T.O.P! If you see one, come to a complete fucking stop and look carefully before proceeding. Love ya all!”

I’m not getting into a fight with my neighbours. I kid you not when I tell you that when I was driving my daughter to school recently and someone went through a stop sign, I honked my horn over and over like an impatient 5-year-old would ring a doorbell, stuck up my middle finger, rolled down my window to scream, “You idiot!,” only to realize the driver was one of my oldest and dearest friends. She immediately called me. “You know I’m the one you’re honking at.” To which I responded, “You SUCK as a driver…Want to meet for a social walk after drop off?”

Running into other runners (pun intended) really is like being included in a secret clique in the neighbourhood. I have never been — acknowledged? — in sort of a secret wink-wink way before, until now, by fellow runners. I felt pretty good about being treated so well by this new community.

It’s like the “secret” club you’re automatically in based on your car. When I drove a BMW other BMW drivers were always kind letting me in, waving me to go first. Then I got a Mercedes and BMW drivers were assholes. But the Mercedes drivers are nice!

I probably passed five neighbourhood runners, and every single one smiled, one gave me a sailor salute, another a thumbs up, one wave, and two stuck their chins in my direction as if to say, “Yo! Yo! Yo!” I responded to all, with a smile and a peace sign.

I also broke a lot of rules, especially for mommies who want to start running for their first time. I took my phone, to listen to music and, if I got lost, to find my way home with Waze! (Trust me. It works!)

“Runners need to be aware of their surroundings at all times. You need to hear what is going on around you and be prepared to react quickly. It is also important not to appear distracted while running, so don’t make yourself an easy target by wearing headphones,” is one of many safety tips, like carrying I.D (didn’t do that!) or telling a friend what route I was taking  and that I should carry a loud whistle (Didn’t do that!) Read other safety tips for new runners here.

This morning I went for a solo run, freezing my ass off. It was a short one, only because of a possible “Code Brown.” You’d have to be a runner to know what that means, although, frankly, runner or not, I’m pretty sure most mommies can figure out what THAT means.

One of my former colleagues Ben Kaplan wrote, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now: The Rogue’s Guide to Running the Marathon,” based on his experience transforming “from a degenerate bar fly into a dedicated runner who qualified for the Boston Marathon.” I’m not going to say I’d rather hang out with a “degenerate bar fly” than a “dedicated runner,” but given the choice, I probably would rather hang out with a degenerate barfly.

And running a marathon is not on my bucket list, nor will it even be a resolution. But I’m glad, at least for now, to be a part of this new club.




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