I Became A Runner At 40—And You Can, Too

by Maggie May Ethridge
Originally Published: 
A 40-year-old woman taking a break from her run outside while drinking water

At 40, I was exhausted. In the badlands of a deeply strained marriage, depleted of money, time and water in my body thanks to never-ending nursing of our fourth child, I felt like a zombie. I had never felt the cliches of motherhood so strongly as I did then. I was a little afraid the word martyr might start to glow from my forehead like a Harry Potter character.

Tired of squatting and thrusting in my living room, I mulled what other exercise options I had. No gym, didn’t want to pay for it. No swimming, I already swam. Sprawled across my couch, baby attached to my boob and extra jiggle squishing under my arse, I glanced at my running shoes. Not that I ever ran in them—I had always considered myself a terrible runner. I could run on machines at the gym, sure, but outside running turned me into a collection of miseries: shin splints, earache, running nose, headache, foot-arch agenesis (what?) and giant, red itchy splotches all over my thighs, butt and stomach. Clearly, I hadn’t been made for running.

Except … it was free. I already had all the necessary gear. I could literally step outside my front door and do it. And I kept seeing all those damn Nike slogans everywhere, practically forcing me to seize the day!

I laced up, and hit the mean streets of suburbia.

At first, it was awful. I felt like a tree being jackhammered into the sidewalk, or swaying in the wind, or some metaphor that involves complete lack of grace and control. But also, it wasn’t awful. I came home, sweat-covered and out of breath, and felt like I actually accomplished something. I had messed with the ecosystem of a body that really needed movement.

I made a few rules for myself that can help you, too, if you are considering taking up running.

It’s OK to Quit

Not altogether, but a little. A little quitting never hurt anyone! When I got too tired, I’d walk. Then if I felt like it, I’d run again. This made me feel less like an adequately exercised prisoner and more like someone actually choosing to run.

Read Running Magazines

I realized I could quit after reading it in a running magazine that talked about taking walk breaks. I had no clue you could be a real runner and take walk breaks. I learned a lot of invaluable tips from those magazines.

Don’t Run Too Fast

The mistake I made in the past was feeling like I had to (there are those “have-tos,” again) run at a reasonable pace—for instance faster than the geriatric sweet man who often ran right past me as I headed up the hill near my house. It’s more important to actually run than to run at your upper limit and then decide you just hate it or suck at it.

Don’t Run on the Concrete Too Much

This was a huge relief to me when I figured it out that when I run on the concrete sidewalks too much, I get shin splints. I can do some concrete, but I try to put my feet down on the dirt or asphalt as much as possible.

Choose Quantity Over Quality

I started running about two miles per run, three times a week. When I started, I worried too much about the abovementioned pace of my runs, and thought I wasn’t running enough. But when I tried to run faster, or more miles at once, I found myself wanting to quit altogether. The primary health benefits of running (which are many) aren’t from speed; they are from miles logged. You can only log those miles if you accept where your body is at.

Run at the Time of Day You Want to Run

I love to run at night. If I had to run during the day, I don’t know if I’d be a runner. Daytime is OK, but running at night is what gives me the feeling I seek—of escape from my brain, my life, myself. The darkness and lack of eyeballs on my butt (I’m talking to you, guys in the blue Ford truck who have no game). Whatever works for you is what will keep you going the long haul.

Listen to Music

I don’t always listen to music; sometimes the silence is wonderful. Other times, especially when I need a jolt, “Big Booty” is just the thing I need to hear to get my running mojo on. And making a running playlist is fun!

Above all, get out there and just do it.

Nike, you sly fox, you.

This article was originally published on