Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Running

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a talented runner. I am a persistent runner. I am a determined runner. But I am not a good runner, nor even an average runner. I wasn’t a runner at all until my 20’s when I fell in with a group of friends who exercised, get this, for FUN. It’s true. Even on vacation, they would get up early in the morning and run, because they wanted to. They liked exercising. I was totally baffled. And uninterested.

Then I got back the results of my first ever cholesterol test.

368.

Yeah, not good, especially considering that I was 26 years old and 35 pounds lighter than I am now. OK, so my diet was bad. It's still bad. But it wasn't bad enough to generate that kind of number. Medication was promptly prescribed, which got the number down to the low 200’s. Still not optimal. In between bites of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, I started wondering about the possibility of keeling over from a heart attack at the age of 45. So I considered the whole exercise thing. And then I talked about it with my health-conscious, running friends, who had cholesterol numbers around 150.

If I were ever going to exercise, running met the main requirements:

a. It didn’t require any skill or coordination. I can usually handle the whole left-foot-right-foot-left-foot thing, with a couple of amusing exceptions that we don’t have to go into right now.

b. It didn’t require me to go anywhere except out my front door. I didn’t have to join a gym or a team or wear a uniform.

c. It didn’t require me to interact with other people except for an occasional eyebrow waggle at other pedestrians I might pass on the street.

And so I bought my first pair of running shoes.

It was freaking hilarious. At first, just wiggling my knees for a few seconds caused me to gasp and sputter. I ran slower than most people could walk. Hell, I ran slower than *I* could walk. It would have been pathetic if it weren't so funny. I kept at it mostly because my friends were so encouraging. And peer pressure, of course. There’s nothing like peer pressure to motivate.

Things got a little better eventually. I remember the first time I ran a mile without stopping to walk. The next day I pranced into my friend’s office and announced it as if I had just won an Olympic medal or cured cancer. She, who has run several marathons and ran her first mile when she was 6 years old, praised me lavishly for running that mile. Obviously, she was a very kind person. She was a good friend too.

I’ve been running ever since. Still slowly. Very slowly. Glacially even.

For example, there is a half-marathon (13.1 mile) race in town every year. I’ve finished it four times. That sounds mighty impressive until I tell you my times, which I’m not going to do because it’s embarrassing. Let’s just say that in the first one I did, a power walker beat me. Specifically, a chubby male power walker, clad in purple lycra running pants. He stayed just about 100 feet ahead of me for the entire race. I got to watch his fat rolls undulate under the purple lycra for at least 10 miles. But I finished that stupid race without passing out or throwing up and that was my definition of success.

Eventually, I reached a level of fitness where I could run and fall into that state of mind where you forget that you’re running. It’s a great feeling, part relaxation, part exhilaration. I’ve done some of my best thinking during those runs. The fourth and final time I ran the half-marathon, in 2000 I think, I actually enjoyed it. I was still extremely slow, but I finished with people who were actually running, well ahead of the power walkers wearing purple lycra. Plus, at no point during the race did I feel that I was about to go into cardiac arrest. It was fun, and I’d love to do it again.

But alas, it’s been a really really long time since I’ve felt like that while running. Lately my runs end with me sprawled on the living room floor, yelling “I SUCK!” at the ceiling. If I yell loud enough, Slag will come downstairs to see if the house is being burgled or I'm being assaulted. That's kind of fun, but not enough to make up for the blow to my self-esteem that each bad run brings. I don’t remember the last time I ran a mile without stopping to walk and catch my breath. My knees hurt. Those extra 20 pounds probably aren’t helping either. I’m sick of this. It’s pissing me off. I want to enjoy running again, and I’m starting to think I never will. Getting old sucks.

So why do I keep trying to do it? At the moment, I have no idea. Just felt like whining about it. Thank you. That is all.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Rachel said...

I applaud your efforts.. i wouldnt even attempt to WALK a whole mile. i'm a lazy ass.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Whippersnapper said...

Don't laugh, but I do the stairs in our house. Really, I time myself and run up and down for twenty minute stretches. About two weeks ago, though, I literally almost broke my back when I slipped, and came crashing down right on my bottom vertebrae. It hurt, and it also scared me. So I'm sort of in the same position as you right now, what am I going to do for exercise in the winter if I can't do stairs? (I refuse to run, although I admire those who do.)

Hey, I thought you had a Nordic Track? With that you can exercise AND watch television...

2:38 PM  
Blogger Stucco said...

I think if I ran, the lycra-clad flabber-walker would wince. I could run to the end of the block before being out of breath...

2:42 PM  
Blogger Evil Spock said...

I run like 4 times a week, about 4 miles each time. When it gets warm, I start to bike.

Might I suggest picking up cycling? It's a great way to build endurance, and it's so different from running, but it compliments running quite well.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Jazz said...

Well, at least you actually get up of your butt and do it.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Scott from Oregon said...

Well, go pick up something that weighs twenty pounds and contemplate runniung with it.

If you're packing 'em, you are carrying 'em.

I have been trying to upstart my running regimen after a ten year lay off. The extra weight affects my knees and back, and I have to be careful and do this slowly. Almost purple-lycra slowly...

10:04 AM  
Blogger Em said...

Whine all you want, I understand. The last time I was on the treadmill this week I thought I was gonna die! And that was during the warmup!

3:43 PM  
Blogger Schmoopie said...

I think it's great that you run. My knees are too bad to run outdoors, but I try to run on our treadmill a bit during my walks. I find that the treadmill allows me to control my pace and I can work up to running more easily. Don't quit! Your heart will thank you!

7:48 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

I run from bad dogs.. does that count?? I never have gotten the running bug.. Love to walk and live in the biking capitol of the NW.. Ill stick to those 2 forms of self humiliation.....

10:06 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

Real friends don't let friends exercise without cocktails flowing from a camel pack.

Deep down, I think you know this is true.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

rachel, I'm thinking that you get plenty of exercise having three children under the age of four.

whippersnapper, Yikes, watch those stairs! We can't have you breaking any bones. I do have a Nordic Track, but I'm having the same issues with it, i.e. aching knees, going slower, etc. Though watching TV does help. :)

stucco, The lycra-clad walker deserves to wince. I say, put on your best pink tutu and give back to him! :)

evil spock, Cycling might give the knees a rest. Staying upright on a bike does take more coordination than running though and is a little riskier. When a couple of my friends were training for a marathon a few years back, I used to ride my mountain bike along with them on their 20+ mile runs, carrying water and snacks. I took a legendary wipe-out about halfway through one run. The bike, the water, the snacks and I all went in different directions. I still get ridiculed for it. Physical coordination is not my best thing.

jazz, Yep, so far I still do it. So far. :-\

scott, Maybe we should run together. Sounds like we have the same pace....

em, Maybe it's post-holiday lethargy? Dunno.

schmoopie, The treadmill is a good idea. I'm not planning on stopping, but it does give me plenty to complain about. :)

cheesy, I'm betting that you get plenty of exercise doing your job. Plus you pprobably get to meet lots of cool dogs too.

kara, Oh, you are so right! My running friends don't actually drink WHILE running, but they can put away an astounding quantity of booze when they're not running. Everybody's getting camel packs for Christmas this year! They're going to love me! I'll give you credit for the idea, of course.

7:36 AM  

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