I have a love/hate relationship with running.
Also, I hold a firm belief that “running” is a relative term.
You run when you’re being chased by a rabid dog. You run for election. You run to the bank to cash your paycheck. Sprinters run and basketball players run and marathoners run.
And I……run. Sort of.
I first started this struggle/relationship with running when I was in high school. My English teacher, also the track coach, encouraged me to go out for the team. I’m really not sure why. He was later known to comment that I was built like “a sack of potatoes”.
Maybe it was a dare. Maybe he saw that I had some kind of mental toughness I hadn’t yet observed for myself. Maybe he had a deal with the principal that required him to fill every uniform jersey he had, even the extra-large ones.
At the first track practice, we were instructed to run around the athletic campus. Not just, like a football field. Or a quarter-mile track.
From where we stood, we could see three separate football teams practicing, several tennis courts, two unused baseball diamonds, and the archery team was target practicing–in the middle of it all—with no danger of hitting anyone because there was SO MUCH SPACE.
Really. Run around the whole thing.
When we finished that loop, gasping and holding our sides, I figured it would be time to go home.
“Run it again.”
You would think, writing this almost 30(!) years later, a lovely story of grit and determination and success would ensue. “From such meager beginnings an Olympian was born…”
Not so much.
I have never
- won a race.
- run a mile in under 6 minutes. (And if we’re talking about the last 15 years, let’s call that 10 minutes.)
- looked good in running tights.
- worn a sports bra without a roomy t-shirt to cover the 12-pack of abs.
- published a “map my run” or “daily mile” result on Facebook.
Without a coach or other sadistically inclined motivator following me around post-high school, my running has been…sporadic….to say the least. College found me periodically gasping around campus, often with the high-octane sweat of a recently party-infused coed who was vainly trying to stave off the freshman fifteen. Post-college, I would usually try to retain an ability to run 3 or so miles, but never felt the need to do so with any sort of dedication or regularity. I am a decidedly fair-weather runner.
Somewhere along the way, I discovered the emotional benefits of running, and so the most fit times in my middle years have often corresponded with the most stressful times.
Stepdaughter getting married? Yep, the smallest I’d been since my pregnancy. Starting a new job? Needed a new wardrobe anyway; may as well buy a smaller size.
For this reason, I am a peculiar runner: one who dislikes running with a partner or the ubiquitous ear buds that most see as essential running equipment.
The pounding of my feet, my rhythmic breathing, the jiggling of my ample back side, combine to create a sort of meditative mindfulness that I have found impossible to achieve in any other environment.
And the only times God has spoken to me? I have been running.
He goes my pace, whispers in my ear, and when I arrive back home, the problems that I took with me are either solved, or faded to an inferior position in my psyche.
My last running burst was ignited one summer day when I realized I was going to be 40….in four more years, and I hadn’t yet run a marathon. Three years after that, I crossed the finish line, having completed the required 26.2 miles.
See? There’s that “relative” thing again. I didn’t say I “ran” a marathon; I said I completed” one.
I know it’s impressive to finish a marathon in 2 1/2 hours, but you really ought to give some credit to those of us who finish in 5. We may be slower, but we run a helluva lot longer.
It’s been eight years since my marathon, and I think I’m just about rested enough to take running up again. Also, the cold weather seems to be (finally) past us here in the Midwest, so there’ll be no weirdly dedicated sub-zero jaunts.
I recently happened upon a running blog that I liked because the writer seemed to respect the fact that not everyone runs with the Boston Marathon in mind.
It’s been a while since I’ve toned up these thighs; my summer clothes haven’t hung as loosely as I’d like in several seasons. I’ll enjoy those benefits.
I think I will start taking up my old routes, striking out silently– but for the gasps, pants and slapping of my poor aging feet.
And somewhere out there, I think God might have a little more to say.
I’ll be listening.