I was never the sporty type growing up. I absolutely hated gym class for the first 9 years of school. The jocks in my classes were people I couldn't relate to. I still don't dig sports at all, but gradually I've come around on physical activities in general.
Between 8th and 9th grade a friend and I spent the summer walking a lot. We'd walk 40 km some days, for no special reason. It was a way to hang out; pack some lunch and water and set off. Obviously this did wonders for my stamina, and my running results in gym class picked up a bit.
After 9th grade I moved away from home to start upper secondary school in another city. I quickly became best friends with a classmate who was humble, funny, and - lo and behold - a soccer player and sports fanatic. We decided to go on a track run together one day early on in the semester. I lasted about a kilometer at his speed, but not a step longer. I felt defeated, but more than that I felt motivated. With no real experience planning exercise programs or the like I just decided that I would improve in my own way.
Every Saturday from that day on I set out to run an 18 km distance. The same path every time. Needless to say the first few times took more or less half the day, because I simply couldn't run that far. When winter came I took to the treadmill in the school's gym, setting it on 10 km/h and just running for two hours straight. I think I held this routine for most of those three years.
After upper secondary school came a year of military service for me. It was a specialist position and we didn't really do overly much in terms of physical training. Every Monday morning we had a few hours scheduled for physical training of our choice, however. Everyone else would lift weights for a few hours, but I set off for a 10 km run. 42 minutes, almost exactly, every time. The rest of the time I would spend watching The Simpsons reruns.
Between ages 20-23 I hardly ran anything at all, or do much of physical activities of any category for that matter. I lived on old merits; I just knew that I was a good runner. At one point aged 23 a friend dragged me to a 10 km race, and we both finished at around 48 minutes. But a year after that I once had to jog a couple of kilometers, and that left me terribly out of breath. I realized that I didn't have it in me anymore. But I wanted to.
A new attempt at building it up: every other morning I'd run 5 km. In the beginning I didn't even get all the way. I improved quickly enough though, and for the following few years I settled into a routine of hardly exercising at all during the winter, and doing 10 km runs a few times a week during the summer. It's really a pretty stupid regime. For me, somehow it worked really well.
The running season would start off the same way always. Over-exerted calf muscle on the first run, rest for three weeks, repeat, get new shoes, and then set a new personal record on the 10 km distance. It makes absolutely no sense, and I wouldn't recommend that practice to anyone. My wife and friends sort of hated me for it, too. People who'd train all year round and then I'd run much faster after not running at all for months.
I think I was 28 or 29 when I ran 10 km in 39:36. For the following two years I also ran it in under 40 minutes. Looking back at that now I can't make sense of it. It's just insanely fast, especially with such a lax and sub-optimal routine.
A couple of years followed after that where my exercise suffered a lot from irregularity, and for a while I focused more on strength than stamina.
Enter covid-19. Suddenly gyms were closed. I also spent some time walking a lot with my wife. Long walks, sometimes up to 25 km. Then we got into running together; something I could never do when I was fully focused on results. Now I just ran for the company, and through that I've developed a true passion for running again.
I now run 3-5 times a week, between 5 and 30 km each time.
Yesterday I ran 10 km by myself, in 42:11. Under less than ideal circumstances (wet, snowy, slippery, quite a bit up hill, very old and worn shoes, and I had to stop to tie a shoelace), aged almost 36, I'm as fast as I was at age 19.
Needless to say I'm very proud. But more than that I'm happy that I can still run at all. It's nothing to take for granted, and every step is a loving reminder of how privileged I am. I have a few hobbies, but running is not one of them. Running is a passion.
-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal