Sunday, November 7, 2010

Run Vickie! Run!

            I’m a runner. That sounds weird to me. I didn’t start running until well into my thirties. I wasn’t a high school or college athlete. The last time I played a team sport was intramural basketball in the 5th grade. Some of my former teammates read this blog. Maybe they can tell you about the only basket I ever made—into the wrong net. Who knew you changed sides at the half (everyone but me apparently)? If I hadn’t been the shortest girl in school my athletic skills still would have been lacking. One might even say hopeless. Even though sports were a mystery to me I was in pretty decent shape. I danced and did Jane Fonda’s workout daily during high school—sometimes twice a day. I guess that’s why I stayed under 100 pounds. I was a little obsessed. I didn’t even know I was thin. There is no skinny like teenaged skinny and there is no stupid like teenaged stupid (apologies to my nieces of that age who are a thousand times smarter than I was back then).
            This week I realized that the running shoes that I bought right after the kids went back to school in September were still looking really new. I think they had only been on my feet once or twice. Not coincidentally, I noticed that my church clothes were uncomfortably tight around the waist. I try to avoid stepping on scales—it makes me crazy, but I knew I had packed on a few pounds. The holidays are rapidly approaching and this is no time to diet. Who am I kidding? Diet—is there a good time to diet? It’s time to rev up the old metabolism. So on Wednesday, I strapped on those still-shiny Saucony running shoes and headed for the Y.
            I got a lot of “Gee we haven’t seen you in a while” sort of comments from the folks at the gym. I work out in the middle of the day so almost everyone else there is a retiree. They are a chatty bunch and they seem to like me. I think they think I’m funny—watching a tiny girl lift heavy things makes them laugh. Plus, I find it very motivational to see old people running and lifting weights. I figure, if they can get there I have no excuses. One day I ran into my uncle (great uncle actually) when I was on my way out of the Y. He said, “I come here every day and I’m 87 years old.” I said to him, “You’re 87 years old because you come here everyday.”
            So I picked my favorite treadmill—second one from the right and pressed manual. I set the incline on 0.5 and the speed at 3.5 to warm up. I popped in my ear buds and started walking.
            At 3.0 minutes I started getting bored. Was it time to up the speed? Surely I don’t need to warm up that much. But I kept walking until after Darius Rucker finished his first song.
            At 5.14 minutes I upped the speed and started jogging. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “It’s been a while.”
            At 6.14 minutes I thought, “Maybe I should have walked for longer.”
            At 7.32 minutes I thought, “Damn, my knees hurt. Maybe I should walk for a while.”
            At 9.02 minutes I thought, “Okay, I’m almost to ten minutes. When this song is over I’ll let myself walk.” But the next song was “Sin Wagon” by the Dixie Chicks. I can’t walk during that song—it’s a running song if ever there was one.
            At 15.17 minutes I thought, “Hmm… that wasn’t so bad. Too bad this sports bra was designed by someone who had never been the victim of gravity, aging or a nursing child. I think I can make it through one more song.”
            By minute 18 or so I reached that runners high people talk about. Those endorphins start pumping and you feel really good. The trick is to get there. Before I was a runner, other runners had told me the first mile was the hardest. It got easier after that. I didn’t believe them until I pushed myself beyond a mile. Once you get to that mile, you want to get to another one and another one. Something might hurt—but it doesn’t bother you enough to stop.
            So I ran that day for about 40 minutes. I talked myself into sticking with it, one song at a time. Each moment my body made some excuse for me to stop, but I talked myself into running for one more song until I didn’t want to make excuses anymore. I managed to run a little over three miles. It wasn’t my best time, but I did it and I felt great.
            A lot of things are like that in life: starting a new job, cleaning the attic, teaching a child to ride a bike, directing a play. It’s always the beginning that is difficult and scary. Once you make some progress and find your rhythm it all comes together. You just need to ignore those aches and pains (whether they are physical, psychological or emotional) and keep on running. You’ll get there.
My fantastic coach and husband with me at my first race. He graciously agreed to run at my beginners pace.