Ben Bielski

“It’s not that you’re bad at sport, it’s just that you lack some basic motor skills” 

These words are not the words of advice I would give to a previous me looking to take up running, but words of advice given to me by a high school PE teacher watching me play basketball.  And by all accounts, Mr. Tucker was right. I do lack some motor skills. Despite an earnest desire to rack up triple doubles, the only Dunkin’ I get involved in is the queue for donuts. 

In fact, the words of advice I would give to an earlier self looking to take up running are not dissimilar to the words of wisdom Mr Tucker imparted to me. If I could time travel and give me some advice I would say “don’t start running.” And that would be the best advice I, as a fledgling runner, could receive. 

It would be good advice because, like your first ever coffee or episode of Tiger King, running is addictive.  Soon one won’t be enough. You will be slurping flat whites between running drills trying to reach some arbitrary number of kilometres for the week.  With that increase in kilometres comes an increase in time spent running; talking about running. Running will start running through your mind and before you know it, you’ll join a harriers club. 

Once you’ve started, getting involved in a club will be an easy decision. It will add a whole new layer of legitimacy to your latest obsession. Choosing a club will be easy too. A quick scan of different uniforms shows a bright yellow singlet with a rampant lion is as close as you can get to looking like Michael Cera in Juno (when are we bringing out yellow running shorts?). Wellington Scottish it is. But don’t do it. The moment you join is the moment it is too late to stop.

You see, previous me, joining a club exposes you to a lot more than you thought it was possible to be exposed to. First, people will start asking you what ‘type’ of running you like. The “kind where you put one leg in front of the other” is an okay answer – but only in the sense that ‘red’ is a type of wine. Trail, track, workouts and hills. There’s a run that has the word fart in it and a relay that looks like a bad collection of scrabble letters. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, there will be a whole new world to explore.

And that’s okay – you’ll get a coach. And they really will help. But there’ll be no more Saturday sleep-ins when your weekly trip to Dakota finishes late. In fact, you might just start calling it a week on a Friday evening. Don’t start running, because you might start thinking of an 8:00am Saturday workout as a social outing.  You might even start to enjoy it. 

Sure, there will be ups and downs.  Good runs and bad. Injuries to muscles you don’t yet know exist. You will feel more focussed at work and sleep better. You’ll make new friends and see your city in a whole new way. Rain won’t stop you getting outside anymore and you’ll begin to think of a gale northerly as mild. One day, you’ll be locked up inside and running will be the only legitimate way to leave the house. So, previous me, “don’t start running” is absolutely the best advice I can give you. 

Because I know you will ignore it. When did you care what Mr Tucker said anyway? If I remember correctly, you replied in that moment by stealing the ball mid-bounce, spinning past some defenders in a dazzling showcase of motor skills and laying it up for the win with a second left on the shot clock. You didn’t listen to advice to stop then and I know you don’t now. So here’s my advice to a previous me: don’t start running.