Let me start off by saying that there is one way gardening is not like running for me. I started running about six months ago, and if you had asked me my opinion of running before then I would have said something like, “Oh, I can’t stand running, one of my least favorite things to do.” On the contrary, I have never felt that way about gardening, not before I started doing it nor when I was just starting out. But, in many other ways the two are very similar.
1. Best to do early in the morning: My favorite time to run and garden is morning, the earlier the better. The air is still crisp, the ground damp, the temperature cool. And best of all, the hard dirty work gets done first thing before the hustle and bustle of the day sweeps me away.
2. You have to build up your stamina: When I started gardening I had a very small space in which to sow seeds. It was probably about twenty square feet. When I finally reached the top of the waiting list at a nearby community garden I was awarded a plot about ten times the size of my home garden. I was so excited to be able to stretch out, but as it turned out I could not manage or maintain that amount of land at the time. Now, after many years gardening and slowly expanding my planting space, I would welcome that much more space into my garden. The same is true with running. I started with short runs, maybe a mile and half and worked my way up to 3.3 miles. Now, I have my sights on doubling that distance. A few months ago that would have been unfathomable. Heck, a few months ago three miles seemed impossible. Baby steps.
3. You have good times and bad times: If you are a runner you know that some days running is easy, you feel as you are only lightly grazing the ground as you bound ahead. You feel energized and light, like you could run for a very long time. Other days are agonizing. Your legs feel like lead, every step takes every ounce of will, and maybe you stop to walk. In the garden you can have a season where your cucumbers are thriving, giving you so much fruit you are bringing bag loads to your neighbors and friends. Then, just a few short months later you plunk broccoli starts in the ground and they don’t budge, never growing an inch. Or worse, maybe, something that just had sprouted up was swiftly eaten by pill bugs or slugs. In both scenarios, running or gardening, you know you will be back, trying again as soon as possible.
4. Sometimes you just have to wait: A few weeks ago I hurt my ankle (not while running) and it gets aggravated when I run. As hard as it has been, I have had to refrain so that my ankle can heal. I am impatiently waiting to be able to hit the path again. Same goes for the time between sowing seeds and waiting for them to germinate and sprout up, or for the onions to bulb, or for the compost to finish. You just have to wait.
5. A little bit leads to more: When I first started gardening, I was happy to buy a few starts from the local nursery and that was that. Now, I am the owner of a hundred or so seed packets, with several varieties of anything I plant. I have seen some of your seed collections out there and I know yours are similar. I grow things now that I would never have attempted in the early years and I am always happy to add a new variety just to try it out or because it looks pretty. When I started running, I didn’t plan on becoming a runner. I was doing it in short spurts, as a warm up for other exercise or during a workout as sprints. Those little bits were like a tease, and now I have my sights set on longer distances. Just like with seeds, I just can’t help myself.
So, if you are a seasoned gardener and are thinking about taking up running, you are already half way there. Just practice what you do in the garden as you don your running shoes at dawn. Or maybe you are a runner thinking about taking up gardening. You too are already half way there, just reapply your practiced skills. They really are one in the same. Maybe. Just a little bit.