After kick-starting with yoga, I thought I'd give running a shot. Sometime late 2007, early 2008, I found out about Team Asha. Looking back at it, I sucked at running so much in the initial months that I am finding it hard to believe that I kept at it.
Each week, we ran 4 times. Two times during the week at a massive park (100+ acres. The word park means something else eh!) near Mountain View filled with amazing trails. A fun, easy (eventually) run of about 5 miles, to accumulate volume. We started early morning (!!) and many days, it gets rather cold! Mid-week, we would do intervals at a school track in Palo Alto - these had a simple linear progression.
Every weekend, Team Asha, would organize the long run - which would progressively get higher and higher each week, with the aim to be ready to run your race distance at the end of the training plan. Many weeks, we would run in gorgeous locations not dissimilar to the photo shown. That always made it bearable. But every weekend long run was the oh-my-god-so-damn-difficult!
Team Asha and my first ever long run
I am blanking on how I heard about Team Asha, but I found myself at Shoreline Park in the Bay Area one Sunday morning. It was exciting, there were a few hundred people!! Anyhoo, they organise us into smaller groups and eventually form buddy groups of about a dozen - we would run during the week in these groups. They were explaining about how it worked, and then cut it half-way. And said we would all run over there, with over there being 1-2 miles away (I think).
The entire group of 400 or so set out and it eventually broke into single or double file because well, we are running on a running trail and it is only that wide. After 50 metres, I was in trouble. I knew it. This was a nightmare. I kept going, barely. I didn't know what to do but I knew I was not gonna make it to over there. By the 500 metre mark, I had to stop as there was an elephant sitting on my chest. I had approximately aimed for a tree here by the trail. I pretended to tie my laces, waited for a gap behind me to make sure no one was watching, waited for the rest of the people running to cross, and walked the 500 metres back to the parking lot and drove home.
A personal record every weekend
The first month was a nightmare. Every run sucked. Every. Damn. Run. Looking back at it, damn I was rather committed! I can still feel the suck of many of those from that period.
I was new to long-distance running, and aided by my abysmal fitness levels - every Saturday run was a new best, a new personal record (PR). Day 1 was 500 metres, as explained above. 1 mile. 2 miles. 3 miles. 5 miles. Every one of those runs was something I had never done before in my life. That felt great, and that simple + brilliant instant gratification and linear progress was what I needed. I still dreaded going to every run, but I learned that one could walk if needed and not run. Yes, I did not know that!
Every weekend long run, the worst run of the week even though the trail runs with the buddy group were also terrible (coz I sucked), was a personal record. That kept me going!
The community was great. The support, the system, Team Asha, the bagels at the end of every run, the amazing locations that we ran in - everything was great. But the actual run was so darn horrible. All because I was so unfit. It really was the stuff of nightmares. That would keep re-affirming my key thought - I cannot be here, THIS unfit. That's what got me going, and got me on to running. The weekly PRs though - I couldn't have done it without them.
Eventually, I got good at it. Or at least, passably good.