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Couch to 20k: How Running Changed My Life

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Ottawa chapter.

I remember running in gym class was more excruciating than I’d prefer it to be. As I begrudgingly huffed and puffed my way through a mandatory 1k, “I’m just not a cardio person, I’m not a runner, some people are just RUNNERS” would be my thought process. For most of my life, absolutely nothing was more painful than running, or any form of vigorous cardio. Torture. Why would anyone voluntarily put their body through something as ANNOYING as running? They must be going through some kind of life crisis.

I’ve always seen the cardio world as having two routes, runners and non-runners. You are bound for only one of the two. End of story. As someone in the non-runner category, runners were the epitome of physical success and discipline – qualities I assumed were exclusive to them. Marathons are too long, running is too hard, and I don’t want to get up early. My decision was made, I’m not a runner.

My first semester of university was a marker of change. I can’t exactly pinpoint a moment when I thought “I’m gonna try running”, though I do think it was a mix of overall newness, a different environment, and a fake-it-till-you-make-it level of confidence. As the child of two marathon runners, I like to think I had an internal hereditary desire to start running. I impulsively bought a pair of running shoes, a running vest, and a tracking watch, gathered some random athletic clothes, and called myself a beginner runner. I just needed to START. It’s truly the only way to take on something that seemed so unattainable.

I did very little research beforehand, and I just figured that as long as I ate well-ish and ran when I felt the urge, I’d be speeding through a race in no time. Suddenly it became a habit. The “runner’s high” that your runner friend tells you about turned out to be a legit thing. The weather was beautiful, I was strong, and I felt like I had a commanding hold of my life.

I kept it pretty consistent, at a very casual level, until I quite impulsively decided to sign up for a half marathon taking place this May. If I had to give one tip to anyone starting in running, it would be to sign up for any running event. A 1k, a 5k, a 10k, a half, or even a full marathon. Having a goal is everything. Tell everyone you know that you’re a runner and that you have a race in 6 months. This completely changed my motivation. Having a goal and sticking to it by making a ‘promise’ to yourself and others that you WILL get to the race is the perfect motivation for something as taxing as running.

Once the winter semester began, I decided this was the time to get going on serious training. I realized this way too late, but a huge part of getting into running is figuring out a plan. Weekly or monthly, having a daily goal made my life, even beyond physical activity, feel like it was very in control.

Suddenly I was more motivated every day, getting better sleep, and just happier. Not to say that some days weren’t difficult. It’s still running. BUT, it has high rewards.

Our bodies are all built differently, so I can’t stress this point enough. EGO IS YOUR ENEMY! This was, and still is, one of my biggest obstacles. As a highly competitive person who’s still figuring out how to not compare myself to others, it’s practically impossible to leave my ego at the door when I step out to run. Here’s what I keep telling myself to encourage a better mindset:

You don’t need to run fast to be a runner.

You don’t need to compare your pace to other runners.

You’ve decided to go on a run, so you ARE a runner.

Walking on a run still counts as going out on a run.

Listen to your body! This is the most important part of taking on a new physical activity. I’ve learned this the hard way through many icing sessions, shin splints, new shoes, targeted stretches, and slow runs where nothing feels right. Yes, I’ve cried while running, and you will too. What’s amazing about running though, is that you can let your body rest, and TRY AGAIN! What a wonderful simplicity.

Taking on running has been one of my favourite choices. I’m more confident, happier, more organized, and overall mentally and physically healthier. As I’m currently 16 weeks away from my first-ever half marathon, I can recommend running to anyone needing a bit of extra control, a rewarding challenge, an excuse to buy some more Lululemon sets, or just some time to themselves.

And all are coming from a ‘non-runner’.

Emma Kelly

U Ottawa '26

1st year communications student who loves all things music, film, and pop culture, and who also has a knack for fitness and sports.