I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do something unless I can see the sense in it. If you tell me to do something, I want to know why. It’s the reason I can’t drive a standard – I can’t wrap my mind around the ‘why’ of it all.
And that’s why running – for the sake of running – has always been such a foreign concept to me. Running after a soccer ball? Sure. Running to avoid being eaten by zombies? You bet. But running just to run? No thank you.
Now, I know plenty of people who run who would argue there’s a point to it. For those people, running relieves stress (I use yoga or books or TV for that) or makes them feel empowered (I guess writing is that outlet for me) or gets them from A to B (I’d rather ride my bike.)
But despite the fact that I don’t ‘get it,’ I’ve always wanted to be the type of person who runs.
So I signed up for a 5k race. Boom. Now I have a good reason to run: my pride.
I don’t so much care about running a 5k – but I do care about being a burden to the people I’ll be running with. I don’t want to hold them back or slow them down, so for the past two weeks, I’ve been training not to fail my friends at a 5k race.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
I’ve been using RunKeeper on my phone to tell me when to run and when to walk, but I don’t have any music to make the time a bit more bearable. So I’ve been relying on mantras to get me through it: “Three down, seven to go. Three down, seven to go, Three down, seven to go.” Over and over and over, I tell myself how much I’ve done and how far I have left to go. Somehow, it helps. Sometimes, I throw in a “You are not a quitter” or a “Nine down, finish strong.” Those things keep me running longer than my body wants to.
Bit by bit, it gets better.
If you had told me on my very first run – where I ran one minute and walked one minute 10 times – that I would be able to run for two minutes solid on my second week, I would have laughed in your face. Then puked. I wanted to puke a lot during my first run. But at the beginning of my second week, I ran for two minutes. And then I did it again nine more times. And yes, it hurt, but by the end of the week, it hurt less.
Running is totally subjective.
When I say I’ve been running, what I mean is I’ve been moving at a pace slightly faster than a walk. I’m slow. I’m really slow. But I’m still faster than a walk. And I’m getting faster every single time I hit the pavement.
The temperature changes drastically between 8 and 9 a.m.
I like to run when the day is fresh and the air is cool. Once, I waited until around 10:30 to run and wanted to die from the heat. (If there’s a way to make running more unbearable, it’s by forcing yourself to run in the blazing sun.) So when I started my Friday run around 8 o’clock, I thought I would be fine for the 40 minutes it took me to finish. But by the time I got home around 9, I wanted to die. Running has reinforced something I’ve known for a long time as a fair-skinned girl with Irish blood in her: the sun is not my friend.
True mindfulness is only possible through torture.
Okay, this *might* be an exaggeration; I’m sure there are plenty of people who can stay in the moment without the stimulus of physical pain. I’m just not one of them. When I’m reading or watching TV or even practicing yoga, I’m rarely fully present in the moment. Not so with running. As I run, I’m constantly aware of the things that are happening to me at that very moment: the way the sun is shining on my skin, the way my feet are hitting the pavement, the way my hips and calves are tightening up. There’s no room for other thoughts when I’m running.
But for all I’ve learned in my short two weeks of 5k training, I think the most important is this:
I’m stronger than I think I am.
Every run, the negative self-talk intrudes on my mantra: I’m too fat to run. I’m too weak to run. I’m an idiot for signing up for a 5k. I need to quit. I’m going to quit. I’m not going to race. I’m not even going to run 10 times today. I’ll just do 8. I’m done. I can’t do any more. I’m just way too fat for this and that’s how it will always be.
But I run anyway. Even though it hurts. Even though I hate it. Even though I don’t believe I can do it. I run and I finish, because my only other option is quitting.
And I am not a quitter. Not anymore.