One of the things that I love most about running is that it is simply the most accessible sport that exists.
Depending on your climate, you really don't need any equipment, training, or experience to be a runner. In fact, just about everyone has been a runner at some point in their lives. Once someone learns to walk, they soon follow it with running, much to the terror of their parents. When you were a kid, running was a pure joy, so much so that your mother had to continually remind you of the places you were not allowed to do it.
Then, at some point, like most other things, it starts to tip away from a joy to a chore. A large portion of the population will avoid running at all costs now that they are adults. But here's the wonderful secret about running - there are no costs. And as someone who doesn't make a whole lot of money, this is one of the things that I love best.
Think about it for a second. What other sport can you do that really requires absolutely no money for you to partake? Let's start with the most expensive and work our way down. You've got sports like gymnastics and ice skating that require expensive memberships and years (YEARS!) of traning just to get out of the beginner's groups. Then you've got equipment-heavy events like hockey and football whose up-front costs can go right through the roof. Also, people hit you in those sports. A lot.
Even simple games require at least a ball. Soccer, basketball, baseball - all of these require that you spend something to get started. And if something happens to that equipment, you're done until you find something else. Like if your dog steals your soccer ball and puts a hole in it or if you knock the baseball over the fence into James Earl Jones' backyard where it's claimed by a giant dog. Then you're just left standing around wishing that you had chosen an activity that didn't require a trip to Dick's.
And what's more, many of these require that you get other people involved. Ever tried throwing a Frisbee by yourself? It's very lonely. And even the solo sports need something. Want to go swimming? Okay. Got a pool?
No, the only free option for me is a simple run. You don't need a treadmill. You don't need the fancy gore-tex warm-ups. To be entirely honest, you don't even need shoes - though if you're going to spring for anything, that'd be a good place to start. All you need is a little time, and a little energy. Combine it with some sit-ups and core exercises, and you've got yourself a free fitness plan for life.
It was in this spirit that I decided to stay off the treadmill this week. Now, I'm sure that in some climates, it is absolutely vital to have a treadmill if you want to be a serious runner. Chicago is one climate that comes to mind. Sometimes it is just unhealthy to run in certain weather. And there are many benefits of treadmill running, in my opinion. The best one is that it forces the body to maintain a certain pace, and that can train you on how your body should feel at certain speeds.
But all that aside, I want to train my body to force ITSELF to maintain a certain pace, since race day won't involve a rubber strip pulling itself away from under my feet. At least I hope it doesn't. That sounds really unpleasant.
So instead of heading into the gym for today's three miler, I headed outside after work, and I took the pup.
Pretty soon, it will be far too hot at 4 in the afternoon for even me to go for a run, much less the little dog, but since it was only 3 miles (two less than our usual distance), I knew she'd be fine. What surprised me was just how fine she was. I started my watch and began to run, and she took off! She didn't slow down until we started passing dogs about 1.25 miles. I think it was the first time in our history of running together that our first mile was actually our fastest. It took no time at all for her to warm up and we ran the whole way, though a little after the 2 mile mark, we slowed down, as I think she was starting to get too warm.
As we finished with our fastest pace together ever, I took a second to assess my body's condition. I'm still having some knee issues, but nothing like what sidelined me in my last training. My various stretching, conditioning and supplementing regimines seem like they're starting to work. I had some breathing issues, but I'm pretty sure that's going to happen as summer creeps up and my thin-air lungs learn what it means to be a Southerner. It's simply more incentive to get up in the morning and get this stuff completed. Other than that, I felt great, and the dog seemed pretty happy about everything, too. We're both runners now, and it really feels good to be able to say that again.
I'll end up spending a lot of money on this journey of mine. It isn't cheap to travel to all 50 states, that's for certain. Still, the point of all this isn't just the end. It's the day-to-day healthier living and the simple joys of running, such as running with a friend, or with a dog. A journey of 1,310 miles begins with a single step.
And if you can afford them, a really good pair of shoes.
74 Degrees / Sunny
24 Minutes, 33 Seconds