These days I don’t need an excuse to run. The sun is shining; it’s time to run! Snow starts falling; better get one last run in before winter. I cracked a childhood bully in the face with a snowball after hiding in the shrubs for forty-five minutes; you better believe that it’s running time.
When I first began running though, I struggled to make time for it. In part, my avoidance was due to embarrassment; an innate desire to avoid being publicly reduced to a state of panting, sweating and all-around discomfort that the act of running creates. The other half of the problem was that I am always driven to be working towards a goal and the concept of free time is something that I don’t handle very well. Consequently, I needed a reason to go out running and was always on the lookout for a reason.
The reasons themselves became akin to grasping at straws, as I looked for any sort of reason to motivate myself to run. A friend invites me to their house a few miles away, of course I will be their…in an hour and a half. $500 for a parking spot at the University; no thank you, I will just run.
One of the strangest reasons came following a LAN Party I hosted at the University of Manitoba. After two days of video games, I was helping attendees pack their equipment into vehicles when I observed one man pull out a can of beer, shotgun it, and then throw it into nearby shrubbery. An environmentalist at heart, it pains me to see people litter. Being 2:00 A.M. however, I decided that starting a fight with an intoxicated man surrounded by computer equipment was not a wise choice of action.
I lay awake that night, buzzed on the four energy drinks from the gaming event and wondering how I had gotten to twenty-one without understanding my body’s caffeine tolerance. Beyond bouts of self-pity however, I kept recalling that aluminum can. It is a travesty to see litter in action, particularly as I could have intervened and corrected it before. The fact that the litter in question was aluminum, one of the most energy-intensive metals to create on Earth, did not help to settle my mind. After a night of fretful, sub-par sleep I decided the next morning that if I was to get a good night’s sleep anytime soon, I was going to have to correct the environmental injustice.
With the University three kilometres from my house, I now had my reason to go running. Sailing down the sidewalk, I was a sight to behold. Tight jeans pressed house keys into my legs as for the first few years of running, I preferred jeans to shorts…because I am an idiot. At the time, I wore dark glasses so cheap that they didn’t even have a break between the lenses, instead uniform visor of cheap plastic decorated my face and seemed to enhance the sunlight directed at my eyes. A 15 dollar mp3 and even cheaper ear buds projected distorted versions of the Mortal Kombat theme song and other childhood soundtracks into my head.
None of this mattered though, as I was a man on a mission. I reached the University quickly and finding the can still lying where it was discarded the night before; I picked up the can and began searching for a recycling can. More recently, the university has taken an initiative to provide more recycling bins, but at the time they were a scarce resource. For the next fifteen minutes, I continued to run around the university searching for a recycling can. The spectacle perplexed a few students and staff, as they saw everything described above except now holding a crumpled beer can, inadvertently sprinkling the remainder of its contents onto my jeans as I ran. Come to think of it, the image of being publicly drunk may have worked in my favour in describing the spectacle and saved me from explaining my own stupidity. Eventually, I found a recycling can nestled in the university library and launching myself into a Michael Jordan-esque dunk, slammed the can into the bin; the librarian was not amused.
Looking back, the most effective way to get into running and overcome the initial cardio barrier (that feeling new runner’s get when they are gasping for air and struggling to stand/live) is to have a reason to run. It can be being late for an exam, too cheap pay for parking or whatever else works for you. In my case, it was a desire to create a litter free world and get a good night’s sleep. Eventually, you will get to point where running is a habit and neither cardio nor motivation hold you back; but that until that point, always have a reason.