Spring has officially sprung on the calendar and also on the Vancouver coastal running paths. With a glimmer of sunshine today the optimistic heat worshipers of Vancouver emerged from their rainy cocoons and embraced the beautiful walkways and waterfront our city has to offer. It felt like I was watching a scene from the Lion King where Simba is triumphantly displayed and announced to the animal citizens of the Sahara as the new royal baby. As my feet carried my through Jericho beach along the seawall to the more popular kits beach I passed multiple couples having engagement photo’s taken, pregnant mothers having their growing bellies photographed, new dads fumbling with how to tuck their kids into their strollers, and puppies galore. It was like everyone was out to debut their new baby or puppy and show them off to the rest of the walkers along the commonly used strolls. I think I fell in love 7 times today with various little fluffy puppies trying to eat their leashes.
Although it all felt a bit cliché out and about today, the cherry blossoms, puppies, babies, kids learning to ride two wheel bikes for the first time (and crashing and crying .. which I have to admit always makes me giggle as I have very personal memories of myself and my sisters struggling to ride a two wheeler and I think my parents wanting to kill us in the process) I must say Vancouver sure is purdy. And happy! We’re notorious for being no fun, no smiles and definitely not a city where strangers say hi to each other. While normally I would have to agree with this stereotype our city has, today was different today there was a sense of happy and joy and community. Strangers talking and people saying hi, runners giving each other the “hi” hand up as we passed each other. Maybe Vancouverites are normally so “unfriendly” because we are too focused on not getting stabbed in the eye from a passerby’s umbrella while avoiding the over the Hunter rainboot deep mud puddle blocking our path that we forgot to give a quick wave or hi to the people amongst us. Maybe if we lived in a climate the encouraged light jackets and sunglasses we would be a friendlier bunch.
A friend of mine recently joined a running group to train for an upcoming 10K. She’s an active girl but up until now would not have included “runner” on her athletic resume. When I asked her how the training was going I had to laugh when she said “well I thought I hated running but I’m actually having fun! I think I’m having more fun each weekly actually.” I had to laugh when my response to her was “ya I hated running too a few years ago.”
Most people wouldn’t expect me to say that I hated running, but it’s the truth I absolutely hated it. I would run as a means to an end. I would run to stay fit for soccer, basketball or my other athletic pursuits but never because I enjoyed it. I actually have vivid memories of dragging myself on a 20 minute run in the summer before training camp for soccer and literally thinking I was going to die the entire time, counting the seconds until the run would be over. Teammates would drag me out and there would be a grimace on my face the entire time, it was never a pleasant experience. It felt awkward to me, running without a ball in front me or towards an opponent of any kind. My pace was always rushed; my breathing heavy and the whole experience was uncomfortable. Alternatively I could run 90 minutes during a soccer game without even batting an eye. I would lose myself so much in the game that I wouldn’t notice how tired I was and heavy my legs felt, the game was the ultimate distraction.
When I look back now I can’t pinpoint an exact time or day when running became something I actually enjoyed doing but all I know is that suddenly I found myself excited to throw on some headphones, runners and just go out for an hour- me, my feet and the pavement. There were incentives that drove me to that place of running enjoyment, I would run with a friend and share the latest gossip or major life talks, run to a special bakery or coffee shop, or to catch the perfect sunset from a bridge, or just to catch up on my newly downloaded music without distractions. The big difference was that I would run at whatever pace I wanted without feeling pressure to push myself to get “fit” for training camp. Overtime I found I didn’t rely on the distractions or incentives to get me through my run, and the pain of running had subsided. As my personal pace became engrained into my muscles everything became more comfortable and all around fun.
This brings me back to my friends comment about how she hated running but now enjoys it. There comes a time when the body stops fighting and begins to ease into a natural running pace. I think we all have a natural pace inside of us and over time if we can find, harness and accept that pace running becomes an enjoyable activity instead of a stressful and forced event. There are so many stresses in life, really why should running be one of them? Run your own race run your own pace