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.
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.