Akron Marathon Race Director Brian Polen had some enouraging words I wanted to share with our runners: If the act of running still feels like a chore, don’t despair because a big breakthrough is coming.

Learning to run does not follow an even, linear process. It follows a curve that can trick you into thinking you’re not making progress or doing something wrong. But whether you feel like it or not, your body is recording all your efforts and at some point, you’ll be rewarded with the flip of an internal switch.

Here’s Brian’s explanation in his own words, and using a chart he doodled on his office stationary.....

“This is an “Ease of Running” vs. “Time” curve and what you will notice about it is that the ease of running does not go up for a while, but once it does, it goes up fast. I train and work with a ton of new runners, and this curve seems to be accurate 100% of the time. Basically, running is hard when you first start. Real hard at times.  It kind of stays that way for while, and then all of a sudden it gets easy.

The problem is that when most new runners get started, the opening phase where running is a fairly difficult task can last awhile. I’d say over 50 percent of new runners never even make it past the point labeled #1 on the chart.  They think it’s going to stay hard forever so they never stick with it long enough to get to #2 and #3, when you get rapid improvement and actual joy in the sport.

On this chart, #2 is where some folks will get just prior to their first race. It’s not a bad place to be. Running has just started to get easier, the runs are starting to become more fun, and usually race day is a blast. The pitfall here is that many folks have a goal to run a specific race and then stop, so they never get to experience #3, which is the best. That’s the point when you can go out for a run and just enjoy the whole thing."

Brian said the great thing about committing to all three Akron Marathon Race Series events is that runners are motivated to hang in there through the dog days of #1 and the nice-but-less-than-ideal #2. Before we get to the marquee event in September, many of us should be living the Nirvana of #3.

“Once you reach #3, you almost crave your next trip out,” Brian said.

I'll bet many of you are at #2, and maybe even #3. I know I'm flirting with #2 because I am actually enjoying those first three miles. When I can add a fourth mile without feeling miserable, I'm going to consider myself firmly there and rounding the final corner!

- Paula