Oh no. I’m not a runner.

By Jaema Berry 

That’s what I would say to anyone who was silly enough to mistake me for someone who might someday run.  Here’s the thing - if you passed me on the street now, in my mid-twenties, you’d probably just see an average, reasonably-athletically-built woman. But when forced to run, that body would spontaneously combust.

It started long ago.  I was, for lack of a better term, the fat kid.  Most people have a less fortunate-looking year or two of adolescence.  I had a rather husky… decade.  It started in elementary school and lasted through several formative years, then I hit high school and just kinda stretched out.  Thank goodness.

I am also a dancer.  (What? How did that happen?  Very supportive teachers and family and a strange lack of self-awareness, I think.) I could stretch and pose and move for days, as long as it didn’t include a push-up, any sort of machine, or, heaven forbid, running. After a brief and less-than-stellar foray into third-grade soccer, I never ran more than the required gym class mile.

Also, it should be noted, I have many runner friends.  I’m a hardcore marathon cheerer.  I’m a cooker of pasta meals the night before races for my carb-loading runner roommates.  I also believe that reasonably athletic people can start running pretty easily. I would even encourage it!

But me?!  Helloooo, I’m not a runner!  I’m a dancer and a former husky kid!  My body is CLEARLY not cut out for running.  My knees are bad.  I’m not “strong” or “athletic.”  I can’t run unless I’m being chased by a giant monster… down a hill.

I held this point of view for about 15 years.  (Out of 25.  That’s significant.  At age 9 I wasn’t holding ANY point of view about exercise.)  I would (and did) try almost any form of exercise, and enjoy it, but no running.  Then one day, my coworker Meghan Reynolds, after hearing my familiar “ME?! RUN?! HELL TO THE NO,” said to me something along the lines of “You gotta man up. Just run 2 minutes, then walk 2 minutes, and start from there.”  She’s got a pretty no-nonsense way of expressing herself, and after I huffed and puffed in my head about how that was ridiculous, she doesn’t know what it’s like to be in my body, I’ll keel over, I probably won’t make it and my legs will fall off and I’ll die and THEN she’ll be SO WRONG, I realized this:  I believe myself to be in decent shape.  I believe any of my friends who are in decent shape could run for two minutes.

It’s probably pretty ridiculous that I think I can’t.

I stewed on this, and then I tied my shoelaces.  I was literally so scared I almost threw up.

And then, I ran.  Two minutes running, two minutes walking.  For 3.5 miles.  And then I drank some water.

That was it!

I made it!

Are you shocked???!  Duh, of course not.  But this was revelatory.  And here’s what else: that was about a month ago.  Since then, I have run at least once a week… and it’s even getting easier.

Moral of this story?  I invented lots of crazy things about myself and my (non)abilities.   Know what I mean?  Maybe it’s not running—maybe it’s first dates.  Or cooking.  Or public speaking.  Or writing a blog.  There’s something you see lots of normal people doing on a daily basis, but you’ve decided that it’s off-limits to you.

If I can run, then trust me, whatever it is, it’s not off-limits.  Get a friend to come with you, man up, and just do it for two minutes and see if you die.  No?  Okay great.  Lesson learned.

Jaema Berry is a dancer, yogi and assistant manager at lululemon athletica Brooklyn Showroom.