Sunday, October 27, 2013

Look Ma, I'm a Runner!

I was never an athletic kid, or much of an athletic adult for that matter.  I was more of a band geek or a Jazzercise girl.  Running?  No thanks.  Or so I thought.

In 2002, I had moved to Oregon, just broke up with my boyfriend and didn't have many friends to help prop me back up after that ugly fall.  Each evening after work I would come home to an empty apartment and have lonely hours to fill before bedtime.  Just writing that sentence makes me want to scream at my old, 29-year-old self.  "Enjoy the SILENCE, former me!  In ten years you're going to be balancing work, hobbies and transportation schedules for a small army!!  You won't be able to pee alone.  Someone (the dog, the toddler, the snoring spouse, or all of the above) will wake you up by 5-ish in the morning every day.  Don't be lonely!  Thank Jesus for this quiet time!!" 

But I digress. 

So I started running.  I began on a country road by my apartment and my original goal was to run to the tree, which was about 100 yards from the driveway of the apartment complex.  Hey. Baby steps.  We all have to start somewhere.  That first day my lungs burned, I felt awkward, and I didn't have any of the right clothes or gear.  I felt like a fish out of water, but I had something on my agenda.  Run.  It beat staring at the walls of my apartment and waiting for the clock to strike 10pm so I could go to bed.

Slowly, very slowly, my endurance improved.  Soon I was running to the end of the block.  Then two blocks, then half way around my little "route" that I mapped out for myself.  I can't say that I loved running.  I loved having something to do.  I loved feeling healthy.  I loved taking a shower at night and feeling like it had been earned. 

Shortly after the running began, my first goal was set: a 5k race.  I knew nothing about running or racing but a kind co-worker convinced me I could do it.  The Pear Blossom race was practically in my backyard, there were no hills and I didn't have anything better to do.  So, I signed up.  And guess what?  I did it. 

Maybe a 5k isn't a lofty goal.  But for me, it felt like a marathon.  For the first 29 years of  my life the only time I had ever really run was chasing down the ice cream truck.  It's not that I was lazy or lethargic.  Running just wasn't my "thing". 

After finishing that first 5k race, I still didn't feel like running was my "thing".  Sure, I could do it.  But I had to force myself.  It was a daily battle of wills between my responsible brain and my lazy brain. 

But here's the thing about running.  It's like an old friend.  Or an old shoe that fits perfectly but gets lost in your closet occasionally.  You don't always love it.  You pay more attention to it at some times than others.  Sometimes it gets boring and you try something else that seems more exciting.  But it's always there. It's easy.  Running welcomes you back with open arms as long as you've got a decent pair of shoes and 20 minutes to spare.  Believe me.  I've quit running so many times I've lost count.  Even though it's not much more complicated than placing one foot in front of the other...a bunch of times, over and over again, running will surprise you. 

When I moved back to California and triple-digit summer temperatures, I gave up running and said I couldn't handle the heat.  Then I found myself waking up at 5am to squeeze in a run before the heat of the day settled in. 

I told myself that 5k was a suitable goal for me and I didn't need to be any kind of fancy, long-distance runner.  I thought having a baby would certainly derail my mediocre running career.  In 2010 I found myself pushing a jogging stroller and training for a 5-mile race. 

For years, I ran alone and enjoyed every minute of it.  I never wanted to run with anyone because I didn't want to feel pressured to keep a different pace.  Or speak.  I liked being alone with my thoughts as I ran.  And then I ran a 5k with three other friends and loved the new social aspect of running that I had never experienced. 

I really didn't think I would like running at all because, well, I'm not super great at it.  I can do it, but I'm not fast.  I'm not the best.  I don't run impressive distances and I'm not sticking around for award ceremonies at any of the races I enter.  But wouldn't you know it....the most memorable race to date was with my daughter, a 1.5 mile race for kids, where she (we) came in dead last.  I mean last, by like a mile.  She crossed the finish line a good five minutes after the kid just ahead of her.  What I love is that she wants to do it again.  She didn't even notice she was last.  All she noticed at the end was that there was a great crowd waiting to cheer her on to the finish line.  Oh, and there were Oreos on the snack table. 

One foot in front of the other.  Nothing fancy, but it just might surprise you.   Take it from this band geek that now calls herself a runner. 

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