Josh activated his Runkeeper app on a drizzly, oddly humid morning over the Thanksgiving holiday. “Activity started,” chirped the robot-voiced lady. I’d quickly and readily agreed to run with him that morning and didn’t back out even when it was clear the rain and drizzle wouldn’t be letting up anytime soon. Inspired by seeing friends and acquaintances running via social media, as well as THIS article, I finally decided that being a runner wasn’t some weird, twisted daydream that a thinner, more agile Katie did. I could do it in the body I have, and I could do it on my own terms.
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Though I saw the appeal of running for physical and mental/emotional health, running never seemed like an activity I was meant to do. I’m short, kind of squat, and while I can sprint for short distances, I putter out of steam (and motivation) quickly. Running always felt jarring, hurt my lungs, and made a bit too apparent the amount of jiggle hanging out on my posterior. Plus, I’m slow. Painfully slow. Like, my jogging speed is equivalent to my speed walk. So, anytime I’d halfheartedly try and become a runner, I’d quickly decide that I must have been delusional when I’d embarked on this new hobby, and I’d quit. Then I took up biking and I blissfully abandoned any obligation I felt to give running another go. I was a biker! I didn’t need running! I felt powerful as a cyclist and fast, like a cheetah. It was easy to jump on the biking bandwagon. I didn’t have to worry about being a clumsy elephant, huffing and puffing down the trail.
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One thing I love about getting older is feeling less pressure to look a certain way or be anything other than what I am. Sure, I still have my hangups and anxieties (plenty of them, actually), but I just generally feel more at ease in my own skin. And isn’t that refreshing? I like spending quiet evenings at home, enjoy going to bed at a reasonable hour, and prefer an early morning to sleeping in. I also don’t like drinking games or drinking to excess and, even when I was in my early-mid twenties, tended to try and avoid these activities at all costs. But I felt so self-conscious about not partaking in these activities then. I felt, in some way, that I was missing out on some integral life experience by not getting drunk on weekends, sleeping in late, and waking up hungover.
The reality of the situation was I was putting too much pressure on myself, and it was not a big deal at all that I wasn’t interested in drinking more than 1 or 2 drinks at a time or preferred coming home in time to enjoy a bit of reading or a movie by myself (introverts gotta introvert, you know?) before going to sleep. I know and see that now, and it’s only been getting older and growing more comfortable and confident in the person I am that has brought me out of that shallow way of thinking. Life is too short to spend time doing activities you’re not interested in or not doing an activity you’d like to try, even though you’d be a newbie.
So when I read the article I referenced before, Why Writers Run, and felt the tingle of excitement to try once again to lace up my sneakers, I didn’t shy away from it. I didn’t stuff the desire down the hole of no return — the place where secret longings and desires go when you don’t feel brave enough to tackle them. I didn’t make excuses or give into anxiety about how slow or bad I might be. Instead, I shared the article on facebook and said, “I’ve always admired people who run, but have never particularly desired to run for sport or hobby myself. Reading this article, though, makes me think I should maybe lace up my sneaks…” I also, serendipitously, placed an order for a new pair of running shoes from amazon, slated to arrive in early December (thought it was prime shipping, but they weren’t!), simply thinking at the time that my old ones were looking and feeling a bit too worn.
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I didn’t announce to Josh that I was packing my worn-in sneakers and workout clothes to take to his folks for Thanksgiving. He was surprised when I volunteered to run with him Friday morning. And though the rain came down, we suited up and started our run through the neighborhood he grew up in. Our pace was slow, between an 11 and 12 minute mile. My breathing was heavy and loud. My whole body felt heavy and clunky, and my shins and the arches in my feet started screaming at me louder and louder through our 1.5 mile run. But I never stopped. I kept going. And then, 20 minutes later, it was over. I hated every moment of it, but I loved the feeling of accomplishment after it was over.
Conveniently, my new sneakers shipped out much faster than anticipated, and they were waiting for me when Josh and I got back today from his parent’s house. I asked Josh if he’d go with me to my dream run location: the River Trail through Scott’s Woods, which I’ve referred to on here as Fern Gully. And because I have a supportive, encouraging husband, he agreed.
The run location was as beautiful and dreamy as I hoped it would be. The air was crisp. The woods were beautiful. The river sparkled. In sharp contrast, I huffed and puffed the entire time. When my arms got tired pumping at my sides, I put them up on my head or let them wobble awkwardly by my sides. I couldn’t engage in conversation with Josh, because every ounce of concentration was put toward moving my body, making it to the next bend in the trail, or the next bench. I baby-stepped my way through the entire run. Thirty minutes later, Runkeeper told us we’d run 2.39 miles, which is the most I’ve run… ever. It wasn’t pretty or graceful, and I was passed by several other runners along the way, but I didn’t care. I did it all on my own. The only difference between me completing a run like this now verses attempting to do it in the past is that this time I decided I could do it. Nothing more.
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Hopefully I’ll keep up with running to the point where maybe it’s enjoyable the entire time, not just when it’s over. Maybe I’ll get to a place where I’m able to think about other things as I run, instead of only thinking, “Make it to the next bench…. Ok, now make it to that bush… Ok, now make it to the start of the bridge.” I’ve learned a few things about running, though: Now I know that when I run again, I can at least do 2.39 miles, and I can do it without stopping. And if I look like Phoebe Buffet from Friends running… who cares? It’s my running and I’ll look however I want!