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How To Actually Enjoy Running

I've considered myself a runner for all of my life, but my relationship with the sport has had its ups and downs, to say the least. I started taking running seriously when I joined the cross country and track teams in middle school, which transitioned into me taking on the sport throughout my whole high school career (11 competitive seasons, to be exact. Phew.) My time spent on that team left me with some of the most fun and valuable moments of my life. My teammates became lifelong best friends, I learned some crazy time management skills while taking challenging classes in conjunction with competing, and I discovered what it means to be truly perseverant. I wouldn't trade those years for the world. However, they definitely weren't perfect. Sometimes races don't go the way you planned, you get injured, and sometimes, you just get so incredibly tired. The latter is what really affected me. By the conclusion of my senior year, it's pretty safe to say that I was burnt out. I was exhausted by those intense four years, both physically and mentally, so when I went off to college, I decided to leave competitive running behind. It was emotional as hell, but it was what I had to do.

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When I was on campus I went for the occasional run, but my class schedule and the Florida heat got in the way more often than not. I watched my body change in response to the dramatic decrease in cardio. I put on some weight and actually grew an inch, which I was completely fine with, but it was weird to see my physical identity as a runner slowly disappear. My relationship with running went from tense to pretty nonexistent. And then, a global pandemic struck. 

When I left campus and returned home, I was pretty bored out of my mind (like everyone else) and I needed a solo activity that was safe amongst the dangerous context of April 2020. So, I once again resorted to running. However, the way I approached it was totally different than I had in the past. I would pop in my earbuds, go out for a run as slow as I wanted, and stop absolutely whenever I felt like it. Sometimes, this would literally mean me running around the block. But it didn't matter. I was running on my own terms. Not for anyone else, like a teammate or a coach. It was just for me, and it felt amazing. Slowly but surely, I fell in love with running all over again, in my own way.

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So, here's what you came for: the advice...how to make running not be super awful. The best thing I can tell you is to forget every expectation of what running should be. Forget what it should look like, how it should feel, how fast you should go, and how far you should get. These pressures are harmful and meaningless. Running is meant to be enjoyed by everyone and not taken too seriously. Now when I'm running, I feel freer than ever. I can relax into it and meditate. I have created a space and time just for myself to shake out all of my nervous energy and anxieties. Do I wheeze like a dying animal? Of course, but I'm totally okay with that. I'm finally having fun, and that's all that matters. 

Now lace up your sneakers and run happy!

Jordan Sammarco is a Biomedical Sciences major at the University of Central Florida, and is originally from the Jersey Shore. (Yes, like the TV show.) She is a vegetarian and passionate environmentalist/animal lover. Jordan spends her time listening to dad rock, obnoxiously laughing, and over-caffeinating herself.
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