My Evolution as a Runner

The journey to now has been a long one. About 30 years, give or take a few weeks. Everyone is a runner. We’re not all born runners. Actually, we’re born kind of useless little leeches. Cute little leeches. But still leeches.

But not long after that we learn to walk. And then we learn to run. And then we’re running. All. The. Time.

Have you ever hung out with little kids? They never seem to stop moving. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

And that’s where the journey really begins (so maybe not quite 30 years in the making after all). Today’s about this journey. I still don’t consider myself a distance runner, but I’m lying when I say I hate running. I actually love it. I just don’t love the variety I do these days. So let’s take a walk through Q’s history of running:

I have no idea why this little adorable tyke is so excited, but I’m sure he ran to whatever it was.

As a kid, I ran. I ran for sports (baseball, well t-ball, and basketball). I ran on the playground to see who was the fastest (it wasn’t me; it was the kid who went on to play pro football; ironically he wasn’t much of a runner by adulthood). And I ran in PE. One year, we were running as far as we could once a week during the PE session (because they made us. Even then, I didn’t run distance for fun). I started slow, but eventually I was hitting two miles nonstop. I didn’t think much of it at the time. It was just something that I did.

There are so many things to say about this, but there’s one thing to remember: I could tie a tie when I was 12. I wouldn’t be able to do that from memory again until my mid-20

Once middle school rolled around, I was done with distance running altogether. The only running I did was for sports: football and basketball. I never had to run more than about 40 yards at any one time. I wasn’t particularly fast, but I knew I wasn’t a distance runner (those were the scrawny runts doing cross country instead of football in the fall). I was a sprinter.

Look at this handsome gent and his parentals

By the time high school rolled around, I had dropped basketball and was concentrating on football (by concentrating, I mean only playing football, not actually trying to do much of use with football. Scrawny kids with limited athleticism have a low ceiling in collision sports). But there was a change coming. To help me in football, I added powerlifting and track. I think you can see where this is going.

I was still a sprinter, but turns out they make you run farther than 40 yards in track. And even if you’re just a sprinter, they still make you log a lot of miles. And just to be cruel, they made me run hurdles. And I mean made. I didn’t choose it, and I tried to get out of it every chance I could. I was a terrible hurdler. I could jump, and I could run. I couldn’t blend them. Hurdling requires fearlessness and rhythm. I had neither.

But I digress.

For all my complaining about hurdling, there was a positive effect. I became a more fluid runner, even more than I would have if they would have let me do plain sprints (I eventually hit a 4.6 40. Am I bragging? You bet your ass I’m bragging). And track forced me to run. Warming up involved laps. I did not appreciate that at all. But it was the closest thing I got to distance running at the time. I still remember when we were doing total mileage for warmups, workouts, and cooldowns, and we were eclipsing 5 miles. I thought that was crazy at the time.

Actually, it still sounds a bit crazy.

But this time further instilled the belief that I was a sprinter, not a distance runner. I couldn’t even maintain stamina past 100 meters. But I was still a runner.

1) everyone makes bad decisions in college. Leave my sideburns out of it. 2) I don’t have any workout-related pics from college handy. 

By the time college came around, sprinting was kind of done for me. I strained a muscle in my leg and never let it properly heal in high school. It would be more than half a decade before I truly sprinted (and I don’t think I’ve ever been close to as fast as I was).

I made the shift to distance running. Sort of. I thought it was distance.

It started with a mile on the treadmill before or after lifting my first year of college. I was good with that.

My second year, I had a friend who liked to run outside, so I started joining her. We were actually running most nights for a few weeks. There was a sidewalk that cut through campus and was 0.65 miles. Up and back was 1.3. I was proud when I hit 1.3.

And then we kept pushing it.

Eventually we were getting around 2 miles. And then were hit 2.6. That was rough, but we did it.

This is the first time I considered doing a 5K. We hit 2.6 right before spring break, and there was a 5K (which turned out to be 3.1 miles) just after spring break. I felt like that might be doable.

And then I got back from spring break and my conditioning had gone to crap in the week off. This just gave further evidence that I was not a true distance runner.

I didn’t do the 5K because I didn’t think I could run the whole way. Ten years later and I still haven’t run all of a 5K. That would have been my best chance.

I used neither the shoe nor the athletic supporter.

When I was getting my masters, I started running near the end. I was mostly running on a treadmill, but I got out and about some. I was doing pretty well. I eventually was hitting 2 miles on the treadmill regularly. I wasn’t going quickly, but I was going. Then I graduated and moved on to new places.

Would you believe almost everyone in this picture has a Ph.D. now and work at land-grant universities?

Getting my Ph.D. is when I finally made a more committed effort to running. I was trying to make a commitment to working out in general. I started yoga. I was ok about getting in the weight room. And I was running.

I found a loop I liked, and that was my go-to route for 5 years. I only varied some, and most of that was my last year when I started using a smaller loop that was more convenient for running after work.

The short version of this part would say I finally started running 5Ks. The longer version says that for 3 years, I lugged around that 2.5-mile loop over and over, running as far as I could and then, typically, walking the rest. During the first 3 years, I only hit 2 miles outside twice. It was rough. I got there a few more times on the treadmill. That was not as rough. Turns out air conditioned gyms are better than the humid Florida outdoors.

But the real change was when I started my post-doc life and got convinced to sign up for a 5K. I had actually quit running during the preceding 5 months because of a health issue, but that time allowed me to drop 15 pounds, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Anyway, I did the 5K and was amused with myself. I had used real running gear and what I thought were pretty legit running shoes (I’ve since learned there are nicer models in the world, but I still miss those shoes).

The next year, I would sign up for another 5K and have my still personal best time by more than 2 minutes.

That's 9. #ihaterunning #5k #suckittrebek #beattheblerch 31:45

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

And that gets us to the current state of things. I’m more aerodynamic. I’m more consistent. But I’m not faster, and I’m definitely not lighter.

But that doesn’t matter. Last year, I did 12 5Ks. That’s not anything incredible, but it beats the hell out of the alternative of doing nothing.

And now I’ve set my sights on a 10K in early May. My Zombies, Run! app has a 10k training plan that similar(ish) to the Zombies 5K app, so we’ll give that a try. Of course, you could argue I might be better off doing the 5K app again, but we’ll just roll with it. What’s the worst that could happen?

If nothing else, I’ll have some stories to tell you.



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