How I Learned to Like Running (or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Fat)

I’ve never been one to love exercise. And while I have always loved sports (volleyball in high school and table tennis in college), I always hated the warm-up jogs around the court and the circuit training that came with all the fun. 

Nearly 18 months ago, my friend Ben took me on my first run. It was in the middle of a typical New York summer. We ran from our summer sublet on 36th Street, up 6th Avenue until we reached Central Park at 59th. After a short stretching break, we made our way back to the apartment. Total distance: 46 blocks, a little over 2 miles. For a first run, this one was pretty painful. We faced loitering tourists, smelly horse-drawn carriages, and the stiffing heat of the NYC pavement. 

Ben turned out to be a patient “personal trainer” and even more patient friend. We went on regular runs together over that summer, despite our asynchronous work schedules. He let me set the pace each time, despite being a far better trained runner. Our runs gave us time to talk about anything and almost everything; my job challenges, his rocky relationships, our common interests in food and technology. Throughout senior year, Ben and I continued to go for regular runs through Riverside Park and even on our dorm’s basement treadmills when the weather turned too cold.

On every run, without fail, I would tell Ben how much I hated running. I hated the initial warm-up period where my legs felt stiff and leaden, I hated the burning in my lungs as we increased our pace, and I hated the boredom that came with the monotony of our motions. Each run was a mental battle to coax myself to go for just a little bit longer. And on each run, Ben would reassure me that it will eventually become enjoyable after six months, eight months, twelve… 

Last weekend, I went on a run with Ben. This time, we left from my Hell’s Kitchen apartment on 44th street, over to 12th Avenue, and up the Henry Hudson parkway. We didn’t turn back until we hit nearly 110th Street for a stretching break and then ran all the way back to my apartment. Total distance: 132 blocks, nearly 7 miles. This was the first time that I ran for longer than 30 minutes (we clocked in at around 1 hour), and it felt absolutely fantastic. And it was only right that I did it with Ben, who has been there since the very beginning and encouraging to a fault.

Ben and I will both be running the half-Marathon this coming March. Despite taking on demanding full-time jobs, we still do our best to run together on the weekends. The only thing is… he’s now doing all our runs in his Vibram FiveFingers. Looks like I still have some catching up to do. 

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