My Running Journey

by Daniel Johnston

Although a lot of people look at the way I run now and think I was always that way; let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth.

I first started running when I was a kid, just like everybody else. In preschool I remember racing all the other kids and how I believed my shoes gave me some sort of special power 🙂

When I was really young I recall being able to beat most kids most of the time (although in actuality I think I might’ve just convinced everyone that I won). Before long, though, other kids were far surpassing me. I was never the fastest.

I always liked running, though. When I was in elementary school I got into playing soccer and football, and really enjoyed running. I loved running back and forth down our long hallway.

In middle school, though, I was hardly one of the fast or in shape kids. In seventh grade we started doing a quarter mile run every now and then. The first time we did it I finished in 2:45 or something like that. Yes, 2:45. That’s 11 minute pace for .25 miles, and I was exhausted!

I think I was the second to last to finish. I remember looking at the kid who finished first and being SO jealous. He was running in around a minute and not even breaking a sweat!

A couple years after that my aunt invited me to do a 5k with her. I happily obliged, not knowing it was to be an epic fail. I got lost during the race and finished in 53 minutes. Most walkers can finish in at least 40 minutes.

I thought my running days were pretty much over after that. Never did I expect that before long I would become the huge runner I am today.

I first became turned on to the amazing side of running by a couple of my friends. Neither of them did any training runs, but one routinely finished 5ks in 18 minutes (BLAZING fast), and another finished in 23 minutes. Plus, one of them was able to do half marathons in 1:35-1:40 without training (my speed after months of training).

Me and a bunch of my friends did a big mile run thing one day. At that time I was playing a lot of sports and dominating. I thought I was in great shape, because I could run circles around all of them and not even get tired. One of the other hand, my 18 minute friend couldn’t come close to keeping up with me.

Although I knew he was a very talented runner, I had every intention to destroy him.

I started out in front, going very fast. In fact, I think my first quarter mile was 1:15 or something like that; not much slower than the guy I had envied in middle school!

I slowed down a little bit, but not much. I don’t really remember much of the second and third laps; I was just running my heart out. But on the second half of the last lap, I was feeling exhausted.

That’s when it happened.

Incredibly, that kid, who I had been in front of the entire race, seemed to gather up a strength from somewhere deep inside him. I looked at him behind me (he was really far behind) and saw his commitment, his will. I didn’t have anything left. He was not as fast as me. But it didn’t matter.

Propelled by something I can’t explain, he zoomed past me to the finish line. He finished in 6:03, me finishing in 6:17. Although I slowed down for sure when I realized I had lost, he still beat me by a wide margin.

Seeing someone have the ability to dig that deep and run like that was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. It still amazes me to this day.

After that I signed up for a couple of 5ks. At the first I believe my time was about 28 minutes. Not very fast for someone who can run a 6 minute mile, but I didn’t care. The next one I did in 26:30, a big improvement.

As a side note, after those two races, I tried to beat my friend’s record at the next mile race (he had moved). 6:05…nope not quite.

After that, I stopped running altogether. It was just a fun thing to do, that’s all.

Once the winter ended, however, I decided to sign up for another 5k. I finished in about 26 minutes again, but this time I felt something different in the running. I felt some sense of aliveness, some sense of connection to the world.

The rest is history.

I trained for one week, and then ran another 5k. My time improved dramatically, going to 20:45; more than a 5 minute drop!

I was so excited! I went on to train consistently and run a series of 5ks. Before long, I was in training for a half-marathon.

Secretly, I really wanted to beat my friend’s time in the half marathon, which was 1:40. I easily did that and got 1:35, while having a blast. It turns out running a half-marathon is much easier than running a 5k. You’d have to do both to know what I’m talking about.

Within a short period of time, I went from a slow runner who finished at the back of the pack, to someone who was consistently winning 5ks and placed in his first half-marathon!

The true joy of running, though, is not in running fast or winning. Although getting better and having a good race is an amazing feeling, the real reason I’ve still stuck to running is the way it makes me feel. When you’re doing distance running the world just seems to stand still and it’s like you’re on top of the world and everything is just a continuous celebration of the joy of existence. Haha, that sounds philosophical, but it’s simply the truth.

I’ve done many people’s first races with them, and helped a lot of people begin their running training. On this website you’ll find a lot of tips to begin running yourself.

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