Happy National Running Day!

I’m sure by now you’ve heard: Today is National Running Day!

I love that runners get a holiday, and I love that we celebrate it by doing what we do best: lacing up and hitting the road, trail or treadmill.

Of course, it would be nice if we also got the day off to take advantage, but I suppose runners know how to make do.

I started my day off by following my training plan and covering 5 miles on the Bridle Path in Central Park.

There were so many people out bright and early this morning. I was in awe and I was in love.

I wondered how many people knew it was National Running Day, and how many were just going about their usual routines.

My run wasn’t the fastest and it wasn’t the longest. But it felt good.

I’ve written briefly about how I started running but figure today’s a good day to revisit the topic in hopes of motivating running newbies to get started. Because trust me — if I can run, anyone can run.

Let me preface this by saying that running is hard. I read things from bloggers all the time saying things like, “Just went for an easy 7-mile shakeout run, 7:45 pace.” To them, that’s practically a rest day. To most people, that’s hardly the case. That’s OK all around.

The beauty of running is that it’s an individual activity. It’s easy to get caught up in the ever-present comparison trap, but running is on you. There’s no “we” in “run.”

I don’t know. That sounded better in my head…

So, to take you back: I grew up dancing. Tap, jazz, ballet, kickline, the whole deal, and I did it competitively. Dancing was my life. Gym class was my nemesis. I was not athletic. Despite my dad’s efforts to turn me into a little basketball champion, I was a non-contact activity kind of girl. I could sell Girl Scout Cookies with the best of ’em and I could tap dance circles around all of my friends.

But when it came to that dreaded day in fifth grade when we had to run the mile in gym class, I wanted to cry.

I remember walking around the loops of the field with my friend, talking and not even trying. Still, I hated it.

Running was torture.

I danced my way through high school and college. I went through 10+ pairs of pointe shoes but never owned a real pair of running shoes.

During my senior year of college, my friend Dana and I decided we would train for a 5K. Her parents were going to buy her a new car if she did it.

There was no reward for me, and though I went out for a few runs around campus with my giant discman in tow, I never made it to a start or finish line.

(I should note that dear Dana still got a car, despite not running a race either. Lucky.)

The summer after college graduation I found myself living in Connecticut with no job. I waitressed a few days a week but was discouraged by not being able to find a permanent magazine job in New York City like I so desperately wanted.

So I turned to running.

I put on giant, clunky sneakers and would occasionally jog around the neighborhood I lived in.

I still didn’t love it.

It felt like something I was forcing myself to do, not something I wanted to do.

After a few months I got the job I wanted so badly and moved to NYC to start a new life. I moved into an apartment in Spanish Harlem with three strangers — one of whom was a runner.

Meghan proudly displayed her half marathon medals on her wall, and I was kind of indifferent to them. I had never even heard of a half marathon, though she patiently explained the concept to me.

As I adjusted to life in NYC — late nights drinking, even later nights ordering in — I realized I needed to do something healthy.

So one day I put on the heavy sneakers I always wore to the gym and went outside to the East River Path.

And then I started to run.

I ran from 102nd Street to 96th Street — just over a quarter mile — before stopping due to being completely out of breath.

I kind of liked it though. Something was different this time. I was independent for the first time in my life, living in the big city, starting a new job, meeting new people.

I liked that I could easily put on shoes and a heavy duty sports bra and get a workout in.

Soon I found myself getting up early before work to go running. I loved watching the sunrise come up over the river — some things never change — and eventually I built from 6 blocks to 10 to a full mile (20 blocks).

My reward: puppies. The dog park at Carl Schurz Park was a little over a mile from my apartment at the time. If I could run that far, I’d get to see puppies.

It worked.

My roommate took me running a few times, and I’ll never forget the first time I went running in Central Park. I was amazed at the energy and all the people running and biking around me. When we finished our run that night, we sat on the steps at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sweating all over the steps. We affectionately referred to that night as the time we “sweat on the Met” for months to come.

When I stopped looking at running as something I had to do, I was finally able to enjoy it.

I enjoyed the freedom. I could control my own pace. I could control how far I ran. I was in total control.

Yes, I am a control freak. But you knew that already.

After a few months of running a few miles at a time, Meghan convinced me to sign up for my first race: the FITNESS Mind Body & Spirit Games 4-mile race in Central Park. I remember that run feeling like the most difficult thing in the world. The hills in Central Park were killer, but the rush I got was unlike anything I’d ever felt.

I cried as I crossed the start line and screamed a sigh of relief when I crossed the finish line. I finished in 40:46, which is a 10:11 pace. I was so happy.

And then I was hooked. With further encouragement from Meghan, I almost immediately signed up for a half marathon with Team Challenge. I had an incredible group of people supporting me as I trained for the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon and raised money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

Since then I’ve run five half marathons and a handful of shorter races. I’m training for my first full marathon now, with the help of Run For The Rabbit and the wonderful, brilliant Coach Cane.

It’s been just about three years since I really started running, and today I find myself on that same river path I started on, motivating myself to “just make it to the puppies.”

My motivation is different now, but the rush I get from each run is the same.

Running keeps me sane.

It helps me clear my head when I’m stressed, and it helps me focus when I’ve got a problem to tackle.

I’ve made countless friends through running and have learned so much about my body, my health and what I’m capable of.

I never thought I was enjoy running, let alone be willing to identify myself as a runner.

Running has become a huge part of my life. It has changed me for the better.

And this coming from the girl who flat out refused to run one mile in fifth grade. Doesn’t seem so bad now…

So today I encourage you to run. Whether you’re a runner or you’re not, give it a shot. If you like it, that’s great. If you hate it, then you still tried and that makes you awesome.

(Also of note: As I was about to hit Publish on this post, an adorable coworker came over and excitedly let me know she woke up early this morning and went running! She didn’t know it was National Running Day, but she had the urge and went for it. My heart is filled with pride!)

SHARE: What does running mean to you? Why do you run? How big of a role does running play in your life? Have you always been a runner, or did you start doing it later in life? Basically just talk to me about running. Thanks.



0 Responses

  1. HI,
    I came upon this blog because I was looking for running blogs. I don’t necessarily talk just about running in my blog, (noted above) but my fitness journey. I started training in January 1st, 2014 yes it was a new years resolution and have lost now 80 lbs becoming fit, I started out running a 5k to train for, I finished my first one in 49:58 I said I wanted to do this 5k in under 50 minutes. I have done quite a few 5k’s now my most recent PR was 45:39 about a week ago. I was never a runner, I played volleyball and when we had to run laps around the gym I hated it. I never had running shoes. Now I feel the same way, running clears my mind after a stressful day at work, etc. Running has played a major role in the reason I’ve lost so much weight. my trainer that I work with has ran the last mile or so with me my first one and then this last one. I became a runner because it was a time for me to relax and feel better a time to spend alone for a while. I was unsure about running a mini for a while my dad pushed it for me, I was like nah maybe next year. well just a couple days ago I signed up for a mini here locally if you want to know my sucess story you can read it at http://www.momentswithshawna.blogspot.com Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I so enjoyed your story! I am new to (enjoying) running and it’s great to hear your experience in growing to love running! I had such a similar reaction during & after my first race (I just completed my first 5k) It was one of the hardest things I’ve done (more emotionally than physically) but I cried when I finished the race – it was such a unique feeling of accomplishment. Since I’ve joined a running group and signed up for my first 10k! Thank you for sharing your story – I am excited to read your blog!

  3. I’ve not got any races planned for a few months now, so I’m in maintenance mode. I love the contrast between my solitary training days (running on my own in the morning with just my thoughts for company) and the excitement and buzz of a race day when I line up with thousands of other runners. They are completely different running experiences, but both are great.

  4. Hi ali, well i used to be a runner when younger but gave it all up after leaving school. Now after 20 years and being a mum to 1 i decided i need to get fit. im on my 4th run in 2 weeks and it feels good, Im stsarting small and working my way up but it would be nice to get inspiration from others.

  5. oh my gosh i love this story (i felt the same way in fifth grade…) it actually took me until my senior year of HS to start getting serious about running. thank you so much for sharing and inspiring me 🙂

  6. I’m late to this party (I was on vacation!), but THANK YOU for writing this. I am a newbie (permanently, it seems) to running and I have been very curious how one goes from being a non-runner to doing those “easy, shaking out the legs 7-milers”. Doesn’t seem like it will ever happen for me…but I am keeping at it!

  7. Such a great story. It’s amazing how you can try and try and try to become a runner. And then, one day, it just clicks. Despite my numerous attempts over the years, it took the birth of my second child for me to really enjoy running. One day I ran a block and 6 months later I was running a half marathon. Before, I could barely make it through week one of C25K!

  8. this is a great post ! happy running day for you too !
    i am just in those beginning stages of getting back into running.. it’s been a few years and i forgot how much it hurts when you first start up again.. so it’s reassuring that everyone struggles with it and that if you keep going.. it will just get better !

  9. Running means THE WORLD to me. I’ve only been running for about a year but it’s changed my outlook on myself 100%. It’s taught me to accept and respect my body and fuel it correctly! I ran my first 1/2 marathon in March and even though I was hooked before, I was a goner after that. I’ll be a runner for life. Even if it is a slow one. 🙂

    I’m starting up training for my first marathon (NYC! Holla!) soon and am so excited to challenge myself and test my limits. I know it’s going to be hard but I also know that it’s going to be worth it.

    1. I’ve had a similar experience — I especially view my body and food so differently now that I’m a runner. I see food as crucial fuel now, not as something “good” or “bad” that I put into my body. I love that. Thanks for sharing! And yay for first marathons!! You’re going to be amazing.

  10. Look how far you’ve come in 3 short years, Ali! Way to go.

    I too hated running until about 1.5 years ago. I swam my entire life and running was our punishment. It was so painful for me and I felt like I was so slow I was walking.
    Then my friend linked her DailyMile posts to Facebook and I asked her how she did it. She talked me into & went on a couple training runs for my first half marathon. Here I was, the girl who would DIE at 3-4 miles. But I’ve done 2 half marathons so far, another in October and a full marathon in April!

  11. I started running when I was 23. I played tennis in college, but I hated running anything over a 1.5 miles (and preferably none!). I started running in my first year of medical school with one of my old teammates. I recently wrote about it here: http://meggiesmith.blogspot.com/2011/05/erika-owes-me-some-shoes.html

    My relationship with running has changed in the 2 years I’ve been running. At first, it was something I tried to get myself to like bc I didn’t understand why all these other people liked it. Plus, it was efficient exercise and being efficient in med school is key! Then, I ran a race (in Central Park, a 4 miler or 10K I think) and I was pretty hooked after that. I realized I missed a competitive outlet and, even though my running is a far cry from the competition of my tennis days, I love setting goals and trying to acheive them. Now, I love pushing myself in workouts, feeling the accomplishment of getting in a long run, enjoying myself on an easy run, or having a good conversation on a run with a friend. My obsession has gotten pretty out of control as I now read running books, go to a running club (http://wsyrrc.com/), pick the brains of people who are good runners, read running blogs (such as yours), got a coach for my last marathon, started my own blog (still hesistant on that one). Basically, I have an addiction.

    Although I love tennis, I think the running community is much more supportive and welcoming than the tennis one. And, I think that’s what keeps me coming back…

    I didn’t run on Natl Running Day as I ran 10 on Mon and 7 yday — is that a sin?!?

    1. sry for the super long comment, but also, were you at Dance Spirit when Hayley Podschun was on the cover? (know her, she’s great!)

  12. Such a great post, Ali! I love hearing about why and how other runners got into this crazy/wonderful sport. I just finished reading Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ and he says you can’t force anyone to run. You just have to feel it and want it from inside. So true! I used to hate running but then one day I decided I truly needed to do it. Two years and four half marathons later, I wear the moniker proudly!

  13. I started running Freshman year in college, when I became 100% in charge of myself. I thought myself a grown-up, independent woman, and I wanted to be the best version of myself. To me, that meant being healthy. So I started running and doing yoga, and the rest is history!

  14. This post just totally made my day–way to go! You are such an inspiration. 🙂 Like you, I only started running recently. I played soccer in high school and college, but I was a goalkeeper and I always hated running. After moving back to San Francisco in 2009 after graduating from college, I found myself without much of an exercise purpose. I started running for fun around Golden Gate Park, and I slowly but surely fell in love with it. I ran my first 5k in January of 2010 with a time of 26:15, and things just took off from there! I completed my first sprint triathlon in September of 2010, and I ran two half marathons in October of 2010 and February of 2011. In March of 2011, I ran my first trail race–a 30k–and loved every minute of it. I am currently nursing a stress fracture in my foot, and NOT being able to run only reminds me how much running means to me. Running clears my mind and makes me feel strong, alive, and fresh. Like you, I’ve had trouble adjusting to the idea that I am a runner. All I know is that it feels awesome and I love it!

  15. That looks like a gorgeous run! It’s pouring here in Orlando, so I’ll be running inside tonight. I’ve been a love-hate runner, and I’m just now starting to find my running groove again. Unfortunately, that means I’m essentially training from scratch, but at least I have the passion back!

  16. This article is great! I’m a new runner, and have yet to hit my stride…I’m ok on the treadmill but outside I still struggle. It’s good to know I’m ‘normal’, and that I just need more time & consistency to become a ‘runner’.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  17. Nice – great story! I started running over 15 years ago and my day doesn’t feel complete without a good run. My husband is also a runner and we founded our company because of our shared passion for running & nutrition 🙂
    PS: Shameless plug: We’re having a give-away today, to celebrate National Running Day!! Check it out!

  18. Happy National Running Day! I’m hoping to run later, if my sinuses and the weather hold up 🙂
    One great thing about your story is that you tried running a few times and never really liked it, and it took you a while to really fall in love with it. I think this is so inspiring because some people think if they try it once and hate it, it’s not for them. But that’s totally not true – it’s a relationship that needs to be taken care of over time, and also one that changes over time. It’s really cool to see how your running life has truly taken off in the past few years, and how it’s now taken on a whole new meaning with the team you’re on now.
    I started to run in middle school and have been with it ever since. Growing up watching my mom run and do marathons was probably a big part of it. She made me see from early on that running was fun and something you do for yourself and your health. I will always be grateful to her for that, because I really can’t imagine my life without running.

  19. Awww, I love this Ali! I think I’ve always kind of been a runner, but didn’t find a passion for running races til last year. Races took it to a whole other level for me. I loved the goal, the training that went into achieving the goal, the exhilaration at the end of getting to the goal… all of it!

  20. I love learning about how people became runners. Great blog post 🙂 I started running in 9th grade and have never looked back! Technically, I had gone on a few jogs in Jr. High but would get sooo embarrassed when anyone spotted me that I would slow down to a walk.

    Happy Running Day, friend!

  21. Simply put, you rock, Ali.

    I wasn’t a runner when I was younger. I played sports all year round until college started — soccer, cheerleading and softball — but I never enjoyed just “going out for a run.” I was the goalie in soccer, so my conditioning for that was way different than any fielder. Whenever I hit the pavement, it was only to “get in shape.” Blech.

    I was always envious of all of the other runners though. I wanted to be a part of that community, but every time I tried, I gave up shortly after. It didn’t click until last summer when I became an editorial intern for FITNESS. I went to running events as the mags representative and fell in love. I don’t know what happened, but something clicked. I decided I was going to run a half-marathon and I completed the MORE/FITNESS half in April! Now I’m addicted, especially to races. Like you, I love medals! I’m going to run the Iron Girl half in New Orleans with a group of friends for my birthday this year!

    Happy National Running Day!

  22. Love the post! I, too, was a far cry from an athlete when I first started running in high school (I did a post on that last year: http://www.caffeinatedrunner.com/2010/11/once-upon-time-i-was-most-unathletic.html) I also always felt like I’d die during the middle school gym class mile, making me living proof that anyone can be a runner. 🙂 I run for many reasons– to destress, for the sense of accomplishment, and yes, so that I can eat copious amounts of ice cream without a second thought. 🙂

  23. Thanks for sharing girl! Great story 🙂 Running means – believing in myself and reaching for my dreams. It means overcoming obstacles and making the impossible possible. I haven’t always been a runner. At one point in my life, I was a skinny, awkward, muscle-less high school freshman with lots of friends and ZERO confidence. Then I discovered running and the confidence grew from there!


  24. I loved this!! You are such a great inspiration 🙂 I started running more when I went through a bad breakup – it really helped me focus on something positive and get through it. And I realized how awesome running was (and how not awesome the douchebag I dated was)! Now it’s such a part of me, and I love the many, many rewards it gives me on a daily basis. Yay, running!

  25. I love that you say that running is not the same for everyone… I get caught up reading about people who DO do those 7 mile, 7 minute pace runs and I get so frustrated. And I’m still in my “I’m not sure I like this” beginning running phase. But it’s nice to know you didn’t like it at first too. Gives me hope!

  26. I did the same thing in middle and high school with the mile run, even though I was on the soccer team. Timing my run for gym, no thank you. At 8 months pregnant and with thunderstorms outside, I am going to have to sit this running day out. I will however count the 5 flights of stairs I will go up at least 3 times today as my “running”. I fell walking on the sidewalk 3 weeks ago, and have been advised to take it easy.

    As a side note, I love reading your blog and it has been very motivating for me to be able to get back into running after the baby and to train and run my first half hopefully by next fall.

  27. What an awesome running story, I loved reading about it!! So inpsiring – and truly, you’re right, anyone can run. ANYONE. And once you get that first taste of runner’s high, it’s all over. You’re hooked! I started running a few years ago and thought it was horrible at first too, but over time, I embraced the challenge and now LOVE how hard it is, LOVE the challenge, and LOVE that it’s a mind/body challenge (vs just physical), completely.

  28. i was a dancer too!! I went to college to get a BFA in Dance and Choreography but life happened and I ended up doing something different!

    I gained weight and I needed an outlet to be healthy. I started doing crossfit but it was SO masculine and honestly, I needed a dose of femininity in my life. Not that running is feminine, but it allows me to be feminine instead of it being so aggressive. I had a friend who was a runner and she got me involved in this running group. Ever since, I’ve done 3 half marathons, a couple of 10ks and 5ks, a 10 miler, blah blah. I’m training for my first full in november!! I’m excited!!

    I am enjoying your blog!

  29. OMG.. the dreaded MILE in gym class. I honestly would have rather done ANYTHING else in the world.. then that one mile run. Even as I got older.. and in hs we had the MILE for soccer.. I hated it. Running A mile.. is very different from running THE mile. I hated running.. running drills.. conditioning.

    As soon as I wasn’t running for a sport though.. my attitude toward it changed and I now love it!

    I also love how you still have your (iphone.. phone.. mp3/camera.. whatever it is) still in your ears as you take your pic!

  30. Yay for running!!

    I’ve always been a runner. I’m not too coordinated and running is simple. One foot in front of the other. Even back in elementary school, I was the runner for field day.

    Running means a lot to me. After a really bad back injury in high school from track drills, I had a whole team of doctors tell me that I would never run again and that I better get used to pilates as a form of fitness. I believed them. And then a few years ago, my pain finally went away and I decided I would go for long walks, which turned into run/walks, and now I’m back to running. I’ve done a few half marathons and ran my first full in March. I’m not the fastest but I’m out there! Running has been like that old friend who is always there for you. 🙂

    I’m glad you’re finally calling yourself a runner! Because you are!

  31. I started running for two reasons:
    1) My older brother did it and he was amazing!
    2) I had zero coordination in anything else

    Cue middle school track, which turned into high school cross country, indoor track, AND outdoor track … which turned into D1 college track. In college, I started realizing that I ran more for ME than anything else, and I wasn’t interested in pursuing the team anymore. Actually having the courage to leave after a year and a half was a big step for me, since I didn’t identify with too much outside of being a sprinter.

    Since then, though, I’ve run seven half marathons and various races throughout. It doesn’t always have to be about setting PRs constantly or being in the best shape of your life, always. It makes me happy and it’s there when I need it, and that’s a wonderful thing!

    Happy National Running Day!

  32. Happy National Running Day!

    I have been a runner for just over a year now. Initially I started as a way to quit smoking (terrible habit!!), but I was hooked only a few months in. Since October I’ve ran 5 half marathons, and I’m currently training for my first full! I just took two months off to recover from the race-mania I put myself through, but started back up again on Monday and I’m SO glad to be back!!

  33. I knew you would be out there this morning! I’m planning to run later, too. I can’t imagine NOT running today. I love your running story. We weren’t all born runners, but we all can run.

    Honestly, I don’t know where I would be with running. Running brings me strength, clarity, adventure, excitement, and awesome friends to share it all with. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve realized how huge it is for my sanity. Huge.

    Happy National Running Day!

  34. You rock Ali! You have inspired me to run today after work! This will be the first time I attempt running in a decade so I wont make it far but I will try! Thank you for another awesome post!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

listen to the podcast

about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
  • Post Date

related posts

That Next-Level Happy Run

“How’s your running going?” I knew that question was coming. It’s one Matt, my Ramblings on the Run with Ali & Matt co-host, and I

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.