I don’t think I like running.
I like that I’m able to run, and I accept that it’s kind of a significant component of the obstacle course races that I’ve started to do and want to do more of in the future, and I even do it regularly enough (see below for caveats) that it would qualify as a hobby, but I don’t really enjoy it.
At its best, it’s a good diversion in a lovely setting. From where I live, both obvious running tracks are along the Lake Michigan lakefront, so on summer days when the temperature is pleasant rather than stifling, it’s lovely. Additionally, I work at home, so it can be a desperately needed way to not sit in front of a computer for a little while.
At worst, it can be frustrating and painful and not interesting. In fact, a few years ago it would have been completely impossible. I was heavy enough that walking often hurt (although that was solved by the time I started training running).
A couple of apps really helped me. At first, I used Active’s Couch to 5K. I’d say it was a good starter program. The initial runs were pretty light—1 minute of running, 90 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times, with 5 minutes of walking to warm up and cool down. For me, at least, that was a good starting point. It also has several “coaches” – character voices that tell you when to run and when to walk, and that shout encouragement (or threats). My favorite was the zombie. I’m not particularly obsessed with zombies in entertainment, but its threats to eat me were always amusing.
The difficulty does kind of ramp up surprisingly at week 4 or 5. In most weeks, you’ll add a couple of minutes to your running time (with a corresponding reduction in walking time), but there’s one week where I think the running time and the lengths of the individual running intervals almost double. I’m not sure if that’s scientifically sound training strategy or just a bug; I survived, and it did prove to be a big psychological hurdle once it was cleared.
The app isn’t all that interesting once you’ve gone through it, so this year I switched over to Zombies, Run!, which I’m thrilled with. (I really don’t watch other zombie movies or TV shows or read zombie books, I swear!)
Zombies, Run! is ostensibly a game, although I consider it more of an audiobook that the listener is a character in. Namely, Runner 5, a silent individual who has made his or her way to Abel Township after the zombie apocalypse and who now performs a variety of running-based missions in order to justify his or her continued presence.
Each real-life training run is a game mission, and each mission has maybe 9 minutes of content (interspersed with music from the player’s phone, so it totals about 30 minutes—or an hour if you set it to long run mode—with a radio mode that lets you continue running and tracking the run when the mission is complete.
The missions are really engrossing, though. The app does a great job of bringing characters to life and creating the atmosphere of a desperate but hopeful post-apocalyptic society, with dangerous enemies both zombie and human. It’s engrossing, delivering moments of sadness and joy, and more importantly, it earns them.
The “game” elements—collecting supplies that you can use to build a settlement—is almost an afterthought. The settlement itself doesn’t seem to affect anything. The features related to tracking are useful but kind of what you’d expect if you have a rough idea of a smartphone’s capabilities, and I’m certain that other sources can tell you about them better than I can. The audiobook part, however—that’s what makes Zombies, Run! awesome.
I’m not currently thrilled with running, although that has a lot to do with the aforementioned caveat: I am definitely not into running enough to be a winter runner, and I haven’t done any running since the Milwaukee Spartan Race at the beginning of November. I’ve done a couple attempts as workouts this week while visiting my parents, and the rust really shows. This summer, I worked my way up to a 10K; in the past couple days, I couldn’t run more than a few minutes without needing to walk.
I have done a couple of pure running races—both 5Ks, and both in support of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (where I happen to volunteer). The first one, last year, was kind of a preliminary preparation for OCR. I figured if I could manage that, then with a bit more training, I’d be able to manage a 5K OCR. I did, finishing in 28:17. This year I dropped to 26:24. It’s weird to have a time goal—any other running-related goals I have are for distance and are directly related to OCRs, but I do kind of feel like a 25-minute 5K is within the realm of feasibility.
(Yikes, almost 900 words on running. Yes, I’m desperate for some non-family time!)