A Beginner’s Guide to Running

Step 1: Convince yourself that this is the start of “the new you.” We get it—you’re tired of diverting your gaze every time you pass a full-length mirror in nothing more than dress socks. You look good standing up, and yet every time you sit down, a sizeable pouch of fat hangs over your belt. Your shoes seem to wear-out faster than they use to and you’ve run out of notches on your wristwatch. You’ve sworn-off polo shirts and performed search queries for things like, “Is black the thinnest color?” So it’s time to turn over a new leaf and pray to god it’s better than the old one. From here on out, you’re a runner. It’s part of who you are as a human being. When potential employers say, “Tell me about yourself” you’ll answer with, “I’m a runner, an American, and a spouse—in that order, Sir.” When you fill out government forms, you’ll have to write-in, “5K/10K” under the section entitled, “Race.” Like all good resolutions, this one should include a highly unrealistic goal stated with extreme confidence and lack of plausibility. Something like, “I’m going to run a mara—no! I’m going to run two marath—no! I’m going to run one marathon for every ‘Like’ I get on my next Instagram post.” After all, this is the “new you.” If you can dream it, you can post it.

Step 2: Post it to Instagram. That’s right, tell all your friends on social media you’ve started running. Of course, you haven’t actually started yet, but you’ve given it a lot of thought, and that’s pretty much the same thing. As a matter of fact, your post should include subtleties which give the strong impression that what you’re really trying to say is, “I’m better than you.” Take a picture of “the old you” (which is really “the current you”) and add a caption like, “Today is the beginning of the rest of my life.” Make sure not to attribute the quote to anyone, as that would imply a lack of intellectual creativity, which is very much, “the old you.” Once you’ve gone public with your new-found passion, confidently move on to Step 3.

Step 3: Register for a marathon. Think of the nearest city or moderately-sized municipality and add the word “marathon.” The information superhighway will take you to an elaborate site created by men who run strictly on Mountain Dew. Once there, ignore any icons with words like, “course map,” “elevation chart,” or “important weather updates.” These are mere distractions designed to slow down the registration process. If you’re like most sofa spuds, you’ll certainly be borrowing money to pay for this venture—allow that realization to sink in for a minute. When prompted for your shirt size, overestimate just how thin you’ll be in four weeks’ time. Also, be sure to take a few moments to ogle at the shiny finisher’s medal you’ll be receiving at the end of the race. Envision the feeling of crossing the line with both arms raised as your parents cheer with watery eyes. Hear the announcer call out your name followed by, “Ladies and gentleman, we have a new course record!” Awake from your daydream and click “Submit” to flush $150 directly down the proverbial toilet. [Side note: A similar effect can be achieved by flushing real money down an actual toilet]

Step 4: Search the phrase, “How long is a marathon?” This can be done using the web-browser of your choice. When the answer appears, inspect your glasses for dirt or debris, clean your computer screen. Consider that what you’re seeing is a typo or practical joke by one of those Russian internet troll farms. Rephrase your search to, “How many miles is a marathon.” Once the physical effects of shock have cleared your system, begin rationalizing this number in ways that make no sense whatsoever. Tell yourself, “I’ve definitely driven 26 miles before, so it can’t be that much harder.” Briefly contemplate how many people viewed your earlier post (see Step 2) and whether it’s too late to hit, “Delete this post.” Search for the Capital One customer service number as you rehearse your testimony of credit card fraud. When both of these things fail, find joy in the realization you get to buy a new pair of shoes.

Step 5: Have a teenager assess your biomechanics. Find that local mom and pop running store, which has since been bought out by corporate vultures, yet still retains Pop’s last name. The really good ones will have a chalkboard easel out front with an amusing quip like, “If you see me collapse, pause my watch.” These are carefully thought-out by computer algorithms programmed for light humor. Inside this establishment will be a team of underpaid adolescents dressed in athletic wear. Take comfort in knowing that most of these individuals have years of experience running the mandatory mile in gym class. As you roam the aisles, an employee will approach, at which point you’ll have no choice but to buy something. Tell them you’re a marathon registrant and need a new pair of shoes (both of these things are true, see Step 3). The pre-pubescent store associate will ask you to partake in a “gait analysis” to examine your foot strike. Using a free mobile app, your biomechanics will be carefully assessed as you run barefoot through the store. Like everyone else, you’ll be told you over pronate and need a support shoe. Rest assured, somewhere in cyberspace, this shoe is available for $70. Today you’ll be paying $110.

Step 6: Go on your first run. Lace up your new duds and hit the road—assuming, of course, the conditions are right. By “right” we mean “meteorologically perfect.” If there’s even the hint of a cloud, decide that this is probably not the best day to start a new habit. Otherwise, enjoy the feeling of rapid bipedal motion. No need to stretch or warmup, post-run muscle soreness is an urban legend. Begin your run at a pace just below sprinting. This will help shock your body into fitness as quickly and safely as possible. Within a few seconds an intense burning sensation will engulf your lower half—this is biology telling you, “There may be permanent damage.”

 Step 7: Realize, “F#@k! This is hard!” Ok, that wasn’t so easy but at least you got a few miles in today. Map your run to discover that it was actually 0.87 miles. Divide 26 by 0.87 to make some rough approximations. Stairs are officially your mortal enemy and crouching on the toilet isn’t so easy either. Tell yourself that “Pain is temporary” and then tell yourself “Five Guys closes in 34 minutes.” Figure you must have burned at least 2000 calories, which is rightly deserving of a double cheeseburger.

Step 8: Purchase non-essential accessories. There will come a time when your motivation will wane. To pre-emptively curb this feeling, be sure to stock up on meaningless knickknacks. These will help remind you of how much you have invested (if only financially) in your passion for sport. This should include fluorescent armbands, fanny packs, energy gels, and stickers that say “26.2.” The latter will help distinguish you from the rest of society while you’re stuck in traffic with the likes of a “Proud Honor Role Parent” or “Bush Cheney ‘04” voter. You’re a runner goddamnit, and that’s something only 380 million people can say (give or take).

Step 9: Show up on race day. Regardless of whether you actually run the race, be sure to show up wearing the complimentary race T-shirt given to you the night before. This will send one of three messages: (A) “I have no clean T-shirts; (B) “This is the nicest T-shirt I own”; or (C) “I thought this was mandatory.” Technically, a finisher’s medal can be obtained by anyone in the general vicinity of the finish line. Therefore, as the race is concluding, blend in with the crowd of fellow runners as they cross the threshold and kindly accept your medal which you’ve paid handsomely for. While you’re at it, grab a banana. With all the traffic, there’s no telling what time lunch will be.


Featured image by Burton Holmes

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