Confessions of a Crap Runner – by Lucy Watson

runnerIn my whole life I was only ever really good at two sports – softball and rollerblading. In high school I was catcher for the As softball team. I had very muscly thighs, which were also pumped to max rock hardness by my rad rollerblading skillz. Seriously, I could go in the bowl and shit. The sk8ter bois would be total jerks to us though, cos we were girls, so mostly we’d hang out at Star of the Sea making jumps out of park benches. That was the peak of my sporting life. Rock hard thighs and smashed up knees. (Kneepads were for losers.)

The one thing I never ever managed to be was a good runner. From kindergarten all the way through school, Athletics, and principally running was to be avoided like the plague. Cross country was the most feared and loathed day in the school calendar. Even now the memories brings chills to my spine.

Then in Year 12, due to a shortage of girls (the school I had changed to the year before had only recently gone co-ed), I had to run in the 100 metre sprint. I had to run in front of the entire school, on the main track at Olympic Park. I’m pretty sure I came last, but that’s not why I remember that race. I remember it for two other reasons:

1. I ran against soon-to-be Olympian Tamsyn Lewis.

2. After the race my friend Georgia told me I ran like a “spazz”. (Apologies for the un-PC word. It was the 90s. We didn’t know any better.)

And so, my athletics career ended as soon as it had begun. Running wasn’t for me. According to Georgia I flailed my arms and legs around, a bit like I was swimming on land.

Abortive attempts at jogging followed in the years after, but despite my propensity for propeller arms, I never managed to get my running habit off the ground. One run/walk around the block would just remind me why I hated running. The sneakers would go back in the cupboard. I would have to settle for walking. To and from the pub.

Then, somewhere around turning 30, all my once boozy companions began to swap being pissfit for being actually fit. They all started running, and then asking me to sponsor them for a marathon or a fun run. They all started saying things like “running just makes me feel so good”, and “It’s just so great to feel like, disciplined”. It made me want to punch them in the face. I refused to sponsor anyone for their fucking marathon. If you want to do that to yourself, I thought, go ahead, but don’t ask me to fund your self-righteousness.

And then one day, the walk to and from the pub wasn’t cutting it anymore. The curves were getting curvier. Strange thoughts were floating around in my brain. I began to want something I had never had, or even wanted, in my whole life. True fitness.

Who was I? What did this mean? How was I even to achieve this? Was I going to have to face the music – or rather jogging playlist? How could I overcome a true and lifelong aversion to something which seemed to only create smugness in those around me, and pain in me?

At the start of this year my friend Tessa told me her New Years Resolution was to run the Mother’s Day Classic 4km. I told her I would train with her. It seemed like this was my opportunity. Tessa was unfit like me. I knew she wouldn’t judge me. And I actually did it. For about two months we trained, dragging our unfit asses around Princes Park. Tessa got better each session. Some days I did OK, some days I wanted to kill myself. I trained by myself in between our sessions. I had to be able to run 4km, I told myself. Surely! I tried different routes, and different playlists. I went before work, after work and on weekends. But I never managed more than 2k. Every run I just never seemed to get any fitter. Ok, I was marginally fitter than when I started (as in I could run more than 400 metres without my lungs feeling like they were bleeding), but it was still embarrassing.

My housemate, who runs all the time, would say things like, “Yeah, just went for an easy run today. About 4ks”. I was like, fuck you right in the face with your stupid fitness.

Eventually Tessa started making it all the way around Princes Park, about 3kms. I would run around, walking just small sections, but I was starting to lose heart. Surely it was supposed to be getting easier by now? She tried to be super supportive. I just felt like the loser who couldn’t make it all the way around.

Friends would say things like “Yeah, the first 2km is the hardest, but then it gets easier,” or “It started out quite hard, but then it got really addictive”. I wasn’t finding any of that true. Every run was awful, and an exercise in a mental power I wasn’t sure I possessed.

And so I quit.

The day of the Mother’s Day Classic came, and luckily I was still fit enough that it wasn’t too awful. I ran most of the way. Whenever I was walking too much I would see a small child, or a granny ahead of me and I would think, come on Watson, surely you can at least beat them! I finished somewhere in the middle. Far enough back that Tessa wasn’t even red anymore by the time I got crossed the finish line and found her.

Since then it has been hard to get fired up again. Especially as it’s been cold and dark all winter. But now spring is here, and I need to get my ass into gear. Literally.

So I need your help. What are you tips to get past the first, really hard stage of running?

I don’t want to do a marathon or anything (I would probably have to punch myself in the face) but I want to be able to run more than 2km without dying.

Whatever tips or inspiration you can give me would be much appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

Melbourne’s Crappest Runner.

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  1. September 2, 2014

    Dear Melbourne’s Crappest Runner,

    Might I offer you some advice from the Keepers of the Cog, the Velominati – Rule #10 “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” “Training is like fighting with a gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.”

    When I ride to work I feel pretty much the same whether I’ve bashed my way down into a howling headwind or I’ve had a sunny day, tailwind and green lights all the way. No matter how fast you go, never give up.

    I know it sounds like some bullshit fitness motivational speak, but I think it holds fairly well for all forms of cardio training. Expect it to be hard and you can only be surprised. You might not feel like you are improving, but you will be.

    Also, you have to let go of comparing your performance against others. Personal fitness is just that, personal. Some do it for a killer beach bod, some do it to stop the dogs inside their head from barking. Sometimes you’re lucky and you find a friend of a similar level of fitness who can push you along a bit. Most of time you’re out there by yourself. If you find yourself worrying about your progress against others you can fall off the program and find it easier to stay on the couch.

    Other tips:

    Instead of setting yourself a distance, set yourself a time to be out exercising. Maybe start with 30 minutes, building it up 5 minutes a week. Then try and do the time without stopping.

    Oh, and if all else fails, try Rule #5.

  2. editor
    September 2, 2014

    Thanks for the wisdom, Mike. “It never gets easier.” I must admit, that sounds awful!

  3. editor
    September 2, 2014

    Oh and as for Rule 5 – It’s that kind of attitude that makes me want to smack fit people in their smug faces! 😉 Hugs!!

    1. September 2, 2014

      Rule 5 makes me want to punch myself in my smug face.

  4. sophie
    September 2, 2014

    From one truly unmotivated runner to another: you are likely to be so entirely bored when you run that you focus only on the pain and horror of rapid movement. Especially if others move more rapidly past you. Listening to podcasts has really helped me – This American Life and Radiolab. Then I feel all learned and creative and endorphinie and wholesome afterwards. X

  5. Anne Gasko
    September 10, 2015

    From someone who can do a two hour dance class but can’t run for 5 minutes straight; find what you love. Be it dancing, kick boxing, running or hiking, there is a ‘fitness’ activity for everyone. And you’re never gonna stick to it unless you’re enjoying it. Why would I force myself to run on and off for 5km when I can burn these kj in a dance class or boxing class and live being there? All power to runners, but it’s not the only or best way to get fit, and it never has been. Find something you’re excited to do and the rest comes naturally

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