By Kailey Shanks |

I never considered myself a runner. Even after running 13.1 miles straight (minus a few uphills that I’m not counting shh), I didn’t feel like I had achieved the esteemed title. But through the fist-pumping, heavy panting, ugly sweating, caught-in-the-rain panic, runner’s high and so much more, I’ve developed a fondness, and dare I say love, for the sport of running. 

Everyone has their reasons for running. I started senior year of high school as a way to stay in shape. Little did I know, it would actually shape me. 

With the Bearathon quickly approaching, I thought I would share my running journey through some tips I’ve learned and why anyone can become a runner. 

Stamina 

When I first decided to give running a try, my body could barely muster a mile. And I thought I was decently fit. There’s a threshold that exists in running; a barrier that your body decides it will not pass. Create small milestones and consistently work toward them. Run significantly slower than usual. You’re not failing if it’s taking you longer than expected to surpass a few laps. It took me months to comfortably run two miles. 

Whether you’re talking about mental state or physical elevation, running really takes you through the highs and lows. It’s grueling when you start. During my first half, I didn’t think I would make it through mile six. But as my modified Dory quote says, “just keep running.” Your body will eventually set into a pattern as you find your happy pace. 

Food/Hydration 

Drink water. Seriously. 

I thought I got enough H2O by drinking when I felt thirsty, but, boy was I wrong. Eat well and not too much before a run. Painful side stitches are the consequence of running on a full stomach. You will run for much longer when you are hydrated and properly energized. 

Stretch/Running plan

Stretch before and after exercise. Stretching is often overlooked and can easily lead to injury. Don’t push yourself too much, especially if you are a new runner. If you are training for a race, follow a plan. Check out this beginner plan by verywellfit. Even if you’re feeling invincible, don’t neglect those rest days. Your hard work pays off when you run farther than you ever thought you would. I’ve even noticed the training mindset seep into my everyday life. You learn to compete with yourself and push for improvement. Holding a medal means you didn’t give up.

Good shoes

I would recommend visiting a running store to identify your running technique. Running shoe experts give you important insight about what you should be wearing. It’s so important that your shoes fit properly and they will find you the perfect pair. Waco Running Company is downtown on Franklin and they have lots of good options. Do you pronate (use the inside of your feet) or supinate (use the outside)? All of these factors play into how much stability your shoes should provide. 

Scenery

Running is breathtaking. Yes, in the sense of oxygen deprivation, but it also lends itself to beautiful views. Here in Waco, you can run along the Brazos or Cameron Park to feel like a nature guru. I like running across the bridge that leads to McLane Stadium. Sunsets sporadically color my camera roll thanks to frequent afternoon runs. 

You can think of running as exploring. It’s a great way to see the landscape of a new city. My cousin told me her favorite place to run was Lima, Perú because the trails boasted views of both the shore and the skyline. Find your Lima.

Whether it’s a sign that says “Touch for power,” or a kid giving out high-fives, there’s an energy that comes with a race. There’s a huge community of crazy runners who understand the collective runner’s high. It’s that feeling when you’re on a run and you pass someone and you both smile. It’s when you hit mile 12 and you can’t believe you’re actually doing this to yourself. But there’s hundreds of people who keep trekking. Tall or short, young or old, all body types – You all keep going. 

So if you want to be a runner, just do it. I know that’s Nike’s thing, but it’s true. If you just do it, you’re succeeding. That’s the beauty of running – you don’t need any fancy equipment, just some shoes and the will to improve.

Being a runner isn’t defined by your time or how many medals you have. It’s the fact that you do it. Even when you don’t feel like taking another step, you finish what you started. And yes, it’s hard work, but we’re in it for the long run. Are you in?