I am not a runner by nature . At least, no more than any other human is a runner: we are, after all, evolved to run long distances. Still, growing up as the “fat girl”, my mentality has always been that sports and running are “not for me”, that physical activity was outside of my capabilities.
I’m not sure what prompted me to even start trying to run a few years ago. I’ve always been a fair cyclist, which has been my preferred mode of movement. I suppose I thought running would help me lose weight. I don’t believe it actually does, since as with most forms of cardio, it just makes one hungrier and causes increased caloric intake. Instead, I discovered that running actually makes me happy, and that’s why I’ve kept it up.
There’s been a few factors driving this:
- Pride in accomplishment: I like seeing my time per mile go down over the course of a season. I start running around a 12 minute mile, which is slow – but usually get it down to 11 within a month or two. (The screenshot to the left was walking the last mile, hence the higher overall minutes per mile time)
- Being outside: I love being outside in the park. I love Prospect Park. it’s one of the best things about living in this part of Brooklyn. Being able to go through the trees, past the lake, and eventually up past the Long Meadow, through the familiar forest and fields of Brooklyn’s backyard, makes me extremely happy.
- Gamification. I use Zombies, Run!, an app that mashes up running with storytelling and gaming. Each day, I set off on a “mission” as Runner 5, a runner for Abel Township, a collective of survivors in a zombie apocalypse. I hear the story come through as commentary from other runners and from the dispatcher, both as the town moves forward in the war against the zombies, and as background on how the apocalypse came about. The narrative aspect is enough to motivate me to hear what happens next, and the game itself also offers a series of rewards through items collected on the path that can be used to build up the town, Sim City style, in the app. The app also tracks my distance and, if set to “Chase Mode”, sends the occasionally shambling pack after me, requiring a running sprint to evade them.
So now, I run, 2 – 3x a week. And then last year, it was suggested to me that I actually train running, as part of a possible triathlon effort. And I thought, why not? I like all the modes of movement involved, I just need to get faster at running and swimming. Now, I run for joy in the short term, and for the end goal of eventually running a triathlon in the long term. I may not get there – prioritizing training is hard when so much else is involved in my life – but at least I know I’m working on it. And in the interim, I’ll just keep outrunning the zombies and fortifying Abel.