It is pretty hard not to be completely in love with fall. Especially this year when we have had great fall colors and the weather has been decent all month long. Fall also has what many would argue is the greatest holiday of them all. I’m speaking of course about Halloween. The time of year where it is okay for kids to dress up as goblins and ghouls (or in my case as a kid Mickey Mouse or Cris Carter). Halloween is the perfect running holiday because we fully embrace the scary. And running certainly is scary.
When I first started to seriously run I was a student living on campus at the University of Sioux Falls. I grew up playing sports, I had gone on runs previously in my life and I had certainly been punished with running; but this was the first time that I really started to consistently run on a regular basis by choice. The idea of a supportive community of other runners didn’t exist to me. Every day that I left my dorm to run I was full of anxiety. Worried about people staring at me. Worried about my pace. Worried that I didn’t look like a real runner. Nervous that I would get lost and not know how to get back. The list goes on.
Prior to landing on the campus of USF I had been a bit of a nomad. After high school I attended South Dakota State University. After a year-and-a-half in Brookings I had gained about 75lbs, developed a major drinking problem, damaged many friendships and completely bombed out of school. Many young adults struggle during this period of life and my story isn’t especially unique. Thankfully I had a chance to rediscover exactly who I was. My Mom and Dad have always been there for me with a job at their bakery and a safe place to stay when things got bad (like flunking out of school, not having any money or direction in life, bad). I had to work for almost everything, but I never had to work for their love and support. This is my privilege and advantage that I do not take for granted. It is also why my life’s work has been to create a supportive and uplifting community for all.
Before I was a runner, I was a climber. For years I worked at the Sioux Falls Family YMCA. My time at the YMCA was incredibly special. While I was there I worked in middle school after school programming, basketball programming and most importantly summer camps. As a kid I loved being outside, hiking through the forest, identifying birds and other animals, playing by the river and passing the time in the sunshine. During my darkest days I still had the YMCA and its wonderful programming to go back to. I got a Commercial Driver License, became certified to life-guard and I earned a certification to lead groups on the high ropes course. During the ropes course training I met my friends that rock climb. As a climber I was able to reconnect with who I was and understand who I wasn’t. The sloppy frat kid at SDSU was almost unrecognizable from who I had become when I ventured off to USF and eventually became a runner.
At 22 years old I started to run. My first run was around the block. I was very nervous. As an “older” kid on campus I already stuck out like a sore thumb and when you live on a small campus everyone seems to know everyone, you become very cognizant of prying eyes. I jogged around the block and it felt pretty good. That was manageable and I thought to myself that tomorrow I’d run around the block twice. Over time the block became a mile loop and eventually I really got brave. A friend asked if I wanted to do the USF Homecoming 5k. This friend was a girl so of course I said yes. After that I signed up for a half marathon the next fall. A lot of stuff happened after that (some of that will probably be for another blog post), but eventually I found myself working at 605 Running Company.
So why all of this back story today? I’ve written about imposter syndrome before and even though I had become “a runner” by the time I was working at 605 Running Company I certainly felt like a fraud. I don’t look like other runners and when I started I didn’t always speak the same language of other runners. Simply put running is intimidating. Other more accomplished runners are intimidating even when they don’t mean to be. This is a difficult sport physically, but it is even more difficult mentally. When I started at 605 Running Company I was a hobby jogger and everyone around me was a running lifer with a decorated background of collegiate performance. How could I possibly be authentic and genuine? My perceived weakness was my greatest strength. Understanding the fear of running, the intimidation of running and the uncomfortable feeling of not belonging has helped me create the 605 culture and experience we strive for each day. We are not perfect, but we truly believe that the sport of running is for everyone, not just elite athletes or running lifers. You can start anytime and you have a safe place with us at 605 Running Company.
Running is scary. I still to this day struggle with running. It is a sport that doesn’t get any easier, but the rewards get better-and-better all the time. I have found myself over-and-over again while running. Runners truly are great people. One thing I was always stressed out about was pace. Nobody will like me if they have to wait for me on the run or if I finish last in a race. Running, especially when starting out can be very lonely. I’m here to tell you, even if you don’t have a single person to run with at a group run or you feel left behind in a race; you are seen, heard and accepted by us at 605 Running Company.
This is exactly why we have partnered with Empower U to create our Intro to Running program. This 7 week program is designed specifically for new runners and runners that are struggling with the scary side of our sport. If you are nervous about pace, if you feel intimidated by other runners, if you have been running curious but haven’t taken the plunge yet, this program is for you. We want to create a supportive environment where you can safely begin to run. Our holistic approach to this program will include expert led discussion, demonstration and experiences to get you started (or re-started) on your path to a healthy and happy running journey.
Greg Koch is the Co-Owner and General Manager of 605 Running Company and Co-Produces the Sioux Falls Skedaddle Half Marathon. He serves on the Board of Directors for Downtown Sioux Falls, the 605 Race Crew and the Sioux Falls Area Running Club. When Greg isn’t with his family or working he enjoys being outside biking, kayaking, golfing or comping.
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