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I’m going to talk about running now

April 20, 2014

Extensively. Excessively.

Diary of a wimp

In first or second grade, I had a crush on a boy. We raced past the library, down the hall at school, and he won. I admired his speed.

Middle school gym class had sections on basketball (I sucked), kickball (I sucked), tennis (royally sucked), and running, among other things. I sucked at running; I was slow, and got winded fast.

I was very pleased to find out, in high school, that I didn’t have to take gym, because I was in marching band. Marching around while playing an instrument…THAT was something I could do well enough, if not brilliantly. Lunch throughout my entire junior and senior years was a Sprite, a bat of Cheetos puffs, and a 3 Muskateers bar. I wasn’t particularly fat, but I wasn’t particularly not-fat, either. I hung out on playgrounds with friends, sometimes, and played a few halfassed half-games of baseball with my boyfriend’s friends senior year.

For one of my junior college electives, I took an intro weight lifting course. I was a bit embarrassed the first few times in, but I at least learned how to use the machines. I took the second semester, too. I didn’t get particularly strong, but I enjoyed the unstructured nature of the class, the repetitions, the logging of activities.

Once in college, I decided to take a long walk. I walked six miles across Denton, and called my then-husband to come pick me up from the square. I enjoyed it, but never did it again.

After he and I separated, I was in a turmoil. I planned a road trip through Kansas to visit family, and onward to Colorado.  I bought a frame backpack, heavy boots, iodine pills and some supplies, and hiked the backcountry from Estes Park across the Rockies, over two days and one night. I was unprepared, and it was hard. It remains one of the best memories of my life.

I was in the best shape of my life – I had abs! Abs, I tell you! – when I got pregnant with my first child in 2004; I had been going to a personal trainer at a gym in Arlington for weeks, and it was showing real results. I didn’t have another personal trainer until 2013.

Flirting with running

When the kids were little, we would take walks around the empty neighborhood next to our Arlington house. I have no memory of when I started flirting with running, but I’m pretty sure it’s been in the last four years.

The first real “oh whoa, I might actually be able to do this” came from SQL Run at the PASS Summit 2012. A bunch of attendees and speakers get up early and go run a 5k during the conference. I thought, why not? And then asked a bunch of questions. I was told there were all skill levels there, and sure enough another speaker ran with me the whole way. It was the first time I’d walked-ran that far.

I really have been flirting with running ever since. I bought some shoes, I ran a little, I left it alone. I walked a 5k with my Mom, and I left it alone. I ran my first 12 minute mile on a treadmill, and left it alone again.

Last month, I went to the library. In the “featured books” section was a bright yellow one titled Running Like a Girl. I threw it in with the kids’ and sci-fi books I’d chosen, and went home and read it.

She talked about learning to run, learning to enjoy it, all that jazz. It made a lot of sense. And when she started talking about running faster, working harder, trying to make a certain time, being miserable, I started pulling away from the book mentally….right before, in the story, she had the epiphany that she’d stopped enjoying running because she was making it into work. She went back to enjoying her running. I mentally applauded.

It made sense, so I started running.

Running

I’ve run 24 times in the last 42 days. In six weeks, I’ve increased my distance , and probably generally increased my speed (but I haven’t calculated the weekly average yet). I enjoy my runs, set my own schedule and rules, and find that I truly enjoy running. This is absolutely a huge deal to me. It’s not just that I feel energized and powerful, or that I’m way more relaxed. (I’d been having anxiety issues for a while.)

The actual act of running, of stepping out the door and driving myself forward, is fantastic. It’s peaceful, it’s challenging, it’s wonderful. AND I get a lot of time to listen to music or my audiobook. I reread most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in March and early April, and now I’m on Watership Down (again). So, for the sheer joy of moving my body, I find myself antsy, wanting to go running on my rest days. I read books by marathoners and ultra marathoners. I’ve subscribed to five running blogs. I’m emailing friends who have said it’s okay to gush to them about this new obsession.

And I’m starting to see other benefits.  I learned fairly early on that running in and of itself won’t necessarily make you lose weight – and by the way, what a fucking cheat THAT is – and so I’ve stopped most of my self congratulatory food- and beer-related celebrations.  But!  My body is reconstituting. There’s really no other word for it. Without changing my diet or my weight, I’m reshaping and toning up. My legs are getting hard, and I’m getting more hourglassy again, and – if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you might not mind a bit of ew/overshare – I don’t Jello-jiggle when I run any more. I’m running out of ways to say “I’m really thrilled about this and it’s wonderful”. But I am and it is.

And of course, I’m far, far less easily winded. Also a huge bonus.

Running on

I can’t stress how very, very important to me it is that nobody’s telling me how to run. I’m not following any strict plan or schedule, I don’t have a coach. I take advice…hell, I ask for advice. And, I did look up some information on training for a half marathon – yeah, I ran my first 10k about two weeks ago, and it’s got me ready for more – but even that is more of a general guide.  This is in direct contrast to most of my athletic experience in the past: gym teachers, personal trainers, workout DVDs, all that jazz. I don’t want to get sniggered at by the rest of the class, or told to FEEL THE BURN, or do sprints and planks after 20 Heismans. I just want to run, and run.

This morning I ran my first official I-am-training-for-a-half-marathon run. I’ve been doing time goals, which are easy, because you just run OUT for half the time, then turn around and go home. From here on my goals are distance. Today’s goal was 7 miles, so I plotted a course up away from home, up a paved city jogging trail, and around Las Colinas.  I loved the trail – it was pretty, and I passed a water fountain! Twice!  And when I reached the point where I had to turn back, so I could take the track back home around Colinas, I found myself wistfully eyeing the trail further on.

Next big run, next time, I’ll go farther. I’ll see around the corner, and I’ll see ahead. I’ll look at the further track wistfully as I turn back around. And someday, I’ll see the end of the trail. That will be a good day.

Coda

My current mental rules are suited for the way I think, and include things like

  • Make your goal, whether it’s time or distance.
  • Don’t worry much about pace. Pace will come.
  • Take a picture on every run.
  • Look at stuff. Stuff is cool.
  • Wear a hat. Always bring a key, a little money, and a couple sundries. (I have a little ankle pack.)
  • New rule (today): If you’re running 7 miles or more, you can have a 5-10 minute coffee break late in the run.

And, something general about not overdoing things in a week (for example, personal record setting runs on consecutive days).

-Jen

 

 

 

 

Results: Irving Marathon (10k), April 5, 2014

  • Chip time 1:12:03
  • Pace 11:36/mile
  • Overall 195/290
  • Gender 101/178
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