Running [or How I Joined a Cult and Survived the Zombie Apocalypse Because of It]


I think one of the best ways to fight the post-wedding blues (although, maybe not, because I totally have those, which is a subject for another post when I have more tissues on hand) is to take up a new hobby after your wedding. Have something new to do to fill that time you used to spend making one hundred and eighty of whateverhtehell, and new obsessive thoughts to re-clutter your internal monologue.

Since my wedding, I’ve been getting into running.


Where did that come from? Well, first of all, running is in vogue right now. But really, it’s because I married a marathoner. I have to admit that it is embarrassing to co-opt my partner’s hobby. It feels like something an insecure teenager would do to land a man (“You like frisbee golf? I LOVE frisbee golf! I live for frisbee golf.”). I try to alleviate that guilt by reminding myself that Collin married me when I was not a runner, so if anything, it’s something an insecure twentysomething would do to keep a man, which is possibly even more lame, so forget I ever said anything.

Collin ran the Pittsburgh Marathon last May, inspiring his mother and sister and I to pledge to run a relay marathon together in the spring of 2012. After the honeymoon, Collin and I started to run together once a week or so. Here’s how those runs would go:

Collin: You’re going too fast.
Robin: Well… I feel like I’m… going insanely slow. I also feel… like my lungs… are having a knock-down drag out with my heart.
Collin: Let’s walk a bit.
Robin: How far have we gone?
Collin: .2 miles.
Robin: I hate this.

That was about three months ago. This weekend, Collin and I ran 10 miles together, with only a quarter mile walk break somewhere around the 4 mile mark. So how did that happen?

Well, the magical thing about running is that you get better at it. The initial learning curve here is astoundingly steep. Most people already know how to run and have since being a toddler. Your first few minor adjustments in form and pacing dovetail with a speedy improvement in running fitness and before you know it, you can run a 5k. Then a 10k. Then 10 miles.

And the “I just ran 10 miles!” feeling is pretty heady. The sense of accomplishment completely outweighs the sore hip flexors. [Even though a voice inside of me persists that says, "OK, awesome, I guess, but we have CARS NOW, moron."]

And then, of course, the learning curve levels out. And this is where the obsession takes hold. Have you noticed that your runner friends will never shut up about running? How we tweet every last run ["Ran .014 miles to the mailbox in the rain, felt great!"]? How we’re always bitching about some possibly-made-up part of our body being sore [our IT bands and our piriformis and our adductors] and how we need to modify our form or buy new shoes to fix it? Running takes over your brain. You chase that speedy improvement you had when you started. There is always a longer race, a faster pace.

I feel like I’m being sucked into a cult. This is even worse than when I was doing Bikram yoga, because while that was “changing my life” and starting to feel like an addiction, I always knew I’d never be all the way in the in-crowd. I’d never really believe that Eagle pose was wringing toxins out of my spine, I would never willingly swallow kombucha, I’d always be bored during final savasana. I felt safely on the outskirts of yoga, which explains why I have been easily able to resist dropping mad cash on another studio pass.

But there’s no great philosophical divide between me and other runners. There is just the matter of them all being faster than me. Which a) might change and b) doesn’t seem to matter in the first place.

I might already be a runner. An early draft of this post was called “Do Something You Hate” (in response to APW’s “Do Things That Scare the Shit Out of You” post), in which I wrote…

The thing about going for a run is that I don’t want to do it, I don’t like doing it, but I’m always glad I’ve done it. And too many “good for me” things in my life are easy: I like exercise. I think most vegetables (except you, artichoke! You’re a jerk!) are delicious. Running helps me tap into the part of myself that has to do things that I don’t want to do, and I need to keep that part of myself alive if I’m ever going to be trusted to, you know, pay my taxes or clean the bathroom.

But that’s becoming less and less applicable to how I feel about running. Sure, there are moments in every run where I think, “I hate this so much! Why oh why am I doing this?” (usually about 1/3 of the way up a hill) and there are days where I have to force myself out the door (humid days). But there are also days like today, where I can’t wait for Collin to get back from his interview so we can run together on new streets.

Does this mean that someday I’ll learn to love cleaning the bathroom and get sucked into a cult of bathroom-cleaning obsessives? Unlikely. But I’m still glad I got into running. I like that I can now do something (run ten miles) that I couldn’t do a few months ago. I like that I can still change and improve myself.

Most of all, I like feeling slightly more prepared for a zombie apocalypse.


  1. I bleached my hair in response to the post wedding blues. Your activity sounds much healthier.

    You’ve given me hope that someday I could be a runner, and a survivor of the zombie apocalypse.

  2. Running is a cult. I used to run, then didn’t because of injuries, then started again recently when I changed my stride and my shoes and it didn’t hurt anymore. And now I’m a running evangelist: “I love running! You can run too! Want to run with me?” Although, I really want to know how you went from 0-10 mile runs in three months. I didn’t even know that was possible!

    • I think a big part of being able to get up to 10 miles in three months was that I was fit to begin with, and I was really fast as a kid so I think I have some natural aptitude for running.

      Other than that? I run slowly (10:30 to 11 minute mile pace) and I let myself walk if I need to. I do some distance focused runs and some speed focused runs. And I pat myself on the back like crazy whenever I PR on any conceivable parameter, so I’m always pushing myself a little further in one way or another, be it total distance or single mile speed or total time running.

  3. Robin – I am totally impressed with your three months to 10 miles! I have friends and family members who obsessively talk about running, and it always makes me want to like running. So far I haven’t gotten hooked, but I think I’ve given up too easily on the hills of Pittsburgh. Since I’m obsessed with yoga, I suggest half pigeon; it really helps after a run!

    Which Relay are you running?

  4. I have recently begun the process of teaching my body to run, in the hopes that I can jump right back into a workout routine once I’m back from the honeymoon. I haven’t hit that happy stride yet but I’m hoping I will soon.

  5. If it’s the zombies that worry you, perhaps take up skeet shooting or bow hunting. If there is one thing zombies are good at (other than cannibalism) it’s running. I’ve never once seen a zombie stop to catch her breath. Heck, even joining a crew team might be better preparation for the impending war. I’ve already begun fortifying the family farm. But until you are devoured, congratulations are certainly in order. Congrats!

  6. Wow, 0-10 is impressive! I occasionally try to become a runner, but always get bored before I’ve made it past a mile or so. Also, I hate the little clicks my knees or hips start to make and the inability to catch my breath. I assume those are things that one works on and corrects, but I’ve never made it through the boredom to find out. I am continually impressed by dedicated runners though. Maybe someday…


    I think I posted this in response to your “newlywed nine” post, but I realized uhhh about a year into my marriage that I wasn’t running anymore, which didn’t feel so bad, except then I realized I’d been consistently running for a year and a half leading up to my brother’s wedding (and then mine). And then I just sort of stopped.

    Which is why, once I started back up again, I have to obsessively tweet about it. Because no one in real life wants to hear about it, and I HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE what a good girl I was. And inevitably there will be someone on twitter who is like “oh yah! totally, running! way to go!” (even if it is just a bot).

    The nice thing is, like you said, you get better at it. At first it’s SO HARD to get your butt out the door. And then it’s SO HARD to run up hills or in rain. And then suddenly you’re like pshhh I just went super far and I’m totally not dead. And THAT feeling is sort of addicting.

  8. I’m so glad you’re enjoying running! I love that the sport allows you to clearly see your progress. It’s so satisfying. It’s also emotional; I remember after finishing my first half marathon I nearly burst into tears when I crossed the finish line, because the effort and subsequent relief were so overwhelming! I can’t wait for you to experience the marathon relay.

    Re: zombie apocalypse, I clearly remember that when I was mugged, the first thought that went through my head was “Thank god I started running so I can keep up with this guy!”

    • I am running a 10K the morning of the Evaline and I’m so excited for my first finish line moment!

      Also, I love that you were able to chase your mugger because of running! You’re so badass!

  9. My cultish activities – I took up Hula Hooping and then Poledance! Obsessed with both!

  10. I stopped running because of post wedding blues. Your way seems much healthier. It’s probably time I dusted off the running shoes.

  11. I started running seriously to help alleviate stress from planning my wedding and then afterwards, it just really stuck. I just finished my first marathon at the beginning of this month and it was the coolest feeling. Anyway, have you guys heard of Dailymile? It’s a social networking site, similar to facebook, but it’s all “athletes” and you get a lot of support from people. It’s nice, because then I don’t have to bore the s*it out of all my real life friends/family with my obsessive running talk!

  12. Wow. I am impressed. I was supposed to start running with the boy because we both want to do some exercise, and well, doing it together sounds like it could be fun. I got so far as to get the pretty lilac tennis shoes. And then, we have gone a few times, and every time I feel like I am going to die, everthing hurts, I get nauseous and when I come back I totally feel like I deserve, chocolate milk and attack the cookies which sounds quite unhealthy to me. So, the boy is running but not me. I wish I could like it,we do bike together, take walks, we actually walk a lot, but the physical pain is just something I dont get, why would I do something that hurts me? I try to stay active lets say by walking to work whenever I can, taking the stairs—
    I don’t know. I have also thought of some kind of dancing classes but those were fun when we would go with friends, I know myself, if it’s only me I will go 3 times and then stop. I just never was the sporty girl, I was the one reading the books and baking the cakes and talking like crazy….

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