Running: a love/hate relationship
I’ve never really considered myself a runner. I know that I probably should, given that I’ve run 5ks, 10ks, 10 milers, half marathons and even a (even if it was slow) full marathon. But I’m not like friends of mine who are, without a doubt, runners. They run nearly every day, keep a miles diary, compare notes, work on pace, hills, speed…they mean it. They care.
It’s not to say I don’t care. I just don’t have the time to do it. Would I love to be running right this second? Heck yes. But until someone designs a triple jogger, it just can’t happen.
If I want to go for a run, I have to schedule it, sometimes even get a babysitter. For an hour? It just seems selfish. So I usually wait until the weekend, when Matt’s home.
Here’s the thing, I teach a lot. Maybe not a lot, but often enough that my muscles get a full workout nearly every day. Most times when I do run, it’s my second workout of the day.
What I love about running is that I’m alone. There’s no one with me, nagging at me, crying at me, hanging off my legs. I can listen to my music, or no music. I can go left or right. I can go fast or slow. I can stop and take a photo or I can put my head down and just do it.
What I hate about running is how I’m so personally competitive. I have a hard time of telling myself, “Yes, dear, you did run a 5k in under 23 minutes THAT ONE TIME. But that doesn’t mean you have to run – for fun – at a 7 minute pace. Just stop.” I have a hard time of letting myself find that pace that’s right for me. If I go too slow, it hurts my joints (I know, weird.) If I go to fast, I’m ruining the chance of making it a long run.
And let’s not even start on my thoughts of the terrain. Western PA makes for some strong runners, let me tell you. Hills, anyone?
I wasn’t always a runner. When I was a kid, if I wanted to get somewhere, I’d bike or rollerblade. I had a paper route that I would bike, four times a week, up this giant hill. When I had to take Jake, our crazy nutso golden retriever, for a walk, I’d use roller blades so he could go fast and I wouldn’t die of exhaustion.
Truth is, I hated running.
Carly spent a year doing track and would drag me out with her for runs. I’d go a block and I’d be grabbing my sides, with that awful pain gripping my rib cage, and Carly would tell me to suck it up. She’d put me through core drills and stretches and so when I’d watch her at her at her track meets, doing the triple jump – an impossible thing that I lack all coordination to even begin to understand, I’d smile and say, “I helped that, just a little.”
But the running was so painful.
One thing about me, though, is I hate being bad at something. I’m OK with being awful at some things, like foreign languages and math, but if it’s something that I can take control of and improve, I try.
I hated being bad at running.
So wasn’t it a huge surprise when I decided to join the Army, and was told that I should probably get in shape before I go to basic?
No? Just me?
I showed up at reception in Missouri with a bunch of other young, naive, future defenders of America, with running shoes in hand and was told to run.
“I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU HAVE ON YOUR FEET, PRIVATE, GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR AND MOVE.”
And for 10 weeks, I ran. I ran in the rain, in the hot sun, in my combat boots, in my running shoes, on the gun range, through the mud, past tear gas, up mountains. On a broken hip, broken foot, broken spirit.
When I came home, I still hated running. I still wasn’t good at it. Difference was, I was told to stop running – and to never run again. My orthopedic doctor told me that what I had happen to me, and the way I broke my hip and the way I continued to run on it ruined me for life. That I would never run again.
Guys, I’m the worst at following instructions. The worst.
I graduated high school, moved to Oakland to start the next chapter of my life, and I ran.
I ran at 6 am when I couldn’t sleep, I ran at dusk when Ian could tag along for safety. I ran trails through the woods, concrete through the city, up and down stairs, past the Cathedral of Learning, up Lothrop hill, through the Hill District, past Flagstaff Hill, through Panther Hollow, all over. I ran for clarity, I ran for peace, I ran when times got tough, when my roommate had friends over and I didn’t want to be in the way, when I was avoiding a boyfriend, when I got out of work early, I ran.
I was told I’d never run again, so I ran. I ran to prove to myself that I can heal, that I wasn’t broken, and that I know my body better than any doctor could ever try to.
But I never ran a race.
When Luca was just a baby, almost one, I ran my first ever timed race – a 5k. I finished in 26:02. I didn’t train specifically, only had a few miles at a time under my belt, but I wanted it. I wanted that feeling.
I know a lot of people who run and never race. I know people who only run to race. It’s a personal thing.
I’m doing something I’ve never done before with running, however. I’m training, for the first time, using a schedule. On August 1st, I’ll be participating in the Liberty Mile – a one mile road race that takes place downtown. One mile, all out, balls to the wall, breathless, give it everything you’ve got, run. I’m trying to redeem myself from last year, where I finished in just under 7 minutes, but that morning, I had taken Body Pump like an idiot. My legs were shot.
My personal best mile ever is just under 6 minutes (5:50 I think?), when I was in the Army. Pre-hip breakage. I won’t get that this year, but my goal is somewhere around 6:30.
What my favorite thing about running is, is that you don’t have to be good at it to be one. You don’t have to be fast, you don’t have to wear the most up to date gear. You get a good, solid, meant for you pair of shoes, clothing of some sort and go. You just…go.
Tomorrow is National Running Day. To all my running friends, novice or expert, I say Happy Running Day to you.