After decades of repeatedly and publicly declaring how much I loathe running, I’ve taken it up again.
My dog, and running companion, endorses the running thing. My husband runs, so it’s nice to compare notes on training strategies, and enter races together. Some of the coolest people I know run, and they’re not ultra fit or crazed athletes, or in any way difficult to hang out with. They like to eat and drink and live out loud, which I love.
I like that with very little effort I can get my heart rate up to the most calorie-burning, nausea-inducing rate that it would take almost 40 minutes of spin class to achieve, and then shortly thereafter be done with my whole exercise routine for the day.
There’s music out there that just demands spontaneous dancing, which is socially kind of weird, but running kind of feels like dancing, and I can do it in the street without stopping traffic.
Running gear is cool: I love my heart rate monitor-slash-gps-positioning thing that has a screen big enough to read without my glasses. Mike just got a new pair of shoes which are so colorful they could be the footwear equivalent of fly fishing lures. Cool.
Even so, I still have mostly a hate-hate-love relationship with running. Add this to the fact that I am SLOW. I know this because everybody in the world is posting their run times on social media for the world’s consideration of their running prowess.
Last year Mike and I were part of a five-leg relay team for a 30 mile run. I didn’t figure I was too much of a handicap. My teammates were reasonably fast, and since all of us were over 40, we were one of two “Masters” teams in the small race. I’m not great at math, but I figured the odds were fairly good at coming in at least second in our category.
As it just so happened, the other Masters team had just qualified for the Boston Marathon. They weren’t just fast, they smoked us. Come to find out, this tiny race in its short history, has attracted quite a following of elite runners. File that factoid under “woulda-been-good-to-prepare-for-a-self-confidence-smooshing.”
On this particular day I started the first leg for our team. I lined up with about 36 gazelles who were way less geeked-out with running gear and not nearly as overdressed as I was. They pawed the ground and snorted and spat, waiting for the starting gun. I had to pee.
Within 27 seconds of taking off, everyone was ahead of me. Within about 4 tenths of a mile, I couldn’t see any of them anymore. Ten minutes after that, runners in the second heat of the race began passing me. I was sweating through layers of fleece, stripping off mittens and my headband to avoid heat stroke. I pasted a smile on. If one must come in last, at least one should try to look like it’s not a big deal.
I’ve kind of been here before.
In High School I was a member of the Cross Country team for two years. I hated running then. I wasn’t any good at it and it made me sweat and hurt all over. I guess it was kind of silly to be a part of the team, but it was the only sport where (a) I could earn a letter just for participating, which I thought was important even though I didn’t have a jacket to wear it on and (b) I didn’t have to try out to make the team – a measure of how desperate they were for runners.
My afternoons at practice would consist of running the warm up with the group, and then losing track of our route and wandering around downtown window shopping until it was time to return to school to catch a ride home. At races I was the only one who took walk breaks on the 5K route. I was slow, but it was commensurate with the effort I put into it, I figured, so it didn’t bother me.
Fast forward nearly 30 years. I’m a mom, and a business owner and I don’t have time to do anything half-assed. I’ve been working out pretty vigorously all of my adult life, so taking up running again isn’t such a shock to my system as to induce palpitations. I’ve had a regular running schedule for most of the past two years, and I can tell I have much more endurance than before, but my speed falls somewhere on the scale with which I think they measure continental drift.
The pasted on-smile is beginning to make my cheeks sore. I’m tired of sucking at something I keep putting so much into. It’s hard to hear that so many are great at running with seemingly no effort at all. On average, at least ten of my facebook friends will roll out of bed today and announce that they have spontaneously taken up running and love it. Furthermore they’ve discovered they’re good at it, and with a little effort, should be able to go from faster than I am to super fast in about a week and a half. Then, they’ll start offering running tips and talk about how things were “back in the day” before they took up running.
Just realized this post has taken twice as long to write as I might normally spend. So, I’m not only a slow runner, I’m slow at blogging about running. Neat. I need to go buy me some new shoes.
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