What Toddlers Can Teach Us About Becoming Runners



If the contents of this post don’t motivate you to run, imagining these babies in your kitchen, calling your name should do the trick.

If you’re thinking of taking up running and are apprehensive for any number of reasons, I have good news you for you.

You’ve already started.

No, you haven’t been running in your sleep and no you haven’t developed a case of running amnesia. You’ve already accomplished one of the most basic and fundamental foundations to being a runner – you learned to walk.

While I may have written the first part of this post with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, there is more than a kernel of truth to all of this. When you were a kid scooting around on all fours, you were bound and determined to walk. You weren’t going to let anything stop you, and one day you did it.  There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle in a toddler learning to walk, but for all intents and purposes, that was the first major goal you accomplished. Here is a quick look at how you did it.

You were determined

Kids are easily distracted. Bright colors, video screens, a favorite toy or the family pet probably drew your short attention span at some point, but you never stopped pulling yourself up on the sofa or on your crib, bracing yourself against a wall or stumbling about like a drunk monkey until you got the hang of walking.

As an aspiring runner, you still have distractions. The only difference is that as an adult, you put more emphasis on those distractions. Kids spend time with their distractions, but eventually they push aside the building blocks and toys to turn back to their goal of walking. As an adult, distractions have a way of becoming all-encompassing. You can’t push aside your job or other legitimate obligations quite as easily as you did with the bright, shiny objects you used to play with, but you can make time for everything that is really important to you – including your runs.

You were elated with your progress

Anyone who has been around a kid learning to walk knows that they can barely contain themselves when they get going. Tiny laughs and squeals fill any room where a toddler is somewhat awkwardly high-stepping across a room. The joy of learning to walk is palpable.

As a new runner, you should celebrate your progress too. When I started running, I couldn’t run three miles without stopping to walk. I had a few routes mapped out from my house and ran/walked those routes until I could comfortably run the whole distance. Once I was able to run a full three miles, I was pumped and wanted to move onto my next challenge. It felt even better to finish my first half marathon. After running my first 20 miles I was worn out, but that celebratory beer was probably the best beer I’ve ever tasted. I’m generally happy when I meet my running goals and I let myself enjoy it a bit.

You had one of the best support groups ever 

When you learned to walk, everyone was on your side and no one was telling you couldn’t do it. In fact, everyone from your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings all wanted to be the first to see you walk. It’s probably a safe bet that most of your family propped you up numerous times hoping to watch that first step or stood a few feet away with their arms stretched toward you while practically wiling you to take some steps toward them. I haven’t met a person who doesn’t delight in a baby’s first steps.

As an adult, it can be a little harder to get that type of support. I’m sure that when I was first starting out, there were probably people questioning what I was doing or thinking that I’d give up on running sooner or later. Some people may be even more vocal in their disdain of you new-found interest in running. My advice is to find a better support group. Look up beginning running groups in your area on meetup.com. Sign up for a Couch to 5K program. Or simply just get out there and run and ignore anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t.

When I go out to run – especially on weekends – I see runners of all shapes and sizes out there. As far as I can tell the general running community is supportive of everyone getting out to run. In my experience just about any running community anywhere will be very supportive of any run you go on, regardless of the shape you’re in, the pace you’re running or the distance you run. Getting out there to do it will earn you the respect of most runners.

Want proof? Go stand at the 20 mile mark of just about any major to mid-major marathon about 3 1/2 hours after the race has started. The elite runners and Boston qualifiers have long since finished by that point, but the streets are still lined with people cheering the runners on to the finish. I’m willing to bet a good portion of those cheering runners on are runners who have already finished the race.

Just start running

The main reason you learned to walk was that you wouldn’t take no for an answer. Not being able to do something was literally not something you understood about yourself. Try taking a similar approach in taking your first steps as a runner.




  1. Tim Foley says:

    I must admit, those were creepy babies. Your advice,though, was spot-on.

    Good stuff!

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