Sunday, September 5, 2010

I Run

I have big boobs, and short, fleshy legs.  When I was 12 or 13 my friend, The Equestrian, decided she wanted to go out for the track team at school and she wanted to me do it too,  I had never really done any running at the time, but if she wanted to do something, chances were, I’d try it as well.  So I found myself standing, in shorts, in Van Cortland Park, waiting to do run a hundred yard dash.  I ran.  I came in last.  My time was atrociously slow.  It felt like I was running backwards. No matter how hard I pushed, I was slow. I was not a runner.

A year or two later, my father, started jogging.  He was determined that I needed exercise, so he woke me up at 6am and made me go with him.  I hated it.  I was not a runner.

Shortly after that, I joined a soccer team.  I was good at the kicking, the dodging, the maneuvering.  I sucked at the running.  I was not a runner.

Many, many, many years later, I was trying to get back in shape after having a baby.  I tried to run.  My boobs bounced, my legs jiggled.  My partner, baby strapped to his chest ran ahead of me and I couldn’t keep up.  I was not a runner.

I live across the street from Central Park.  For years I have watched people jogging.  Around the pond, around the reservoir, through the roads and bridle paths.  I watched and wondered how they could get out there day after day, pounding their feet along, springing, sprinting, keeping slow and steady pace.  I didn’t understand.  I was not a runner.

A couple of years ago, I heard about a program to turn people into runners.  Couch Potato to 5K.  It sounded easy, reasonable.  You started slow, run for a minute, walk for a minute and a half.  I tried it.  I hated it.  I struggled through each slow second of running and cherished the too quick moments of walking.  I stopped.  I was not a runner.

Last week I talked to a friend.  Yes, the same one who got me thinking about religion and god and all that.  He runs. He runs distances, he runs even when it hurts, he runs to prepare for a marathon.  He is strong, toned, muscular, as I want to be and am not.  I told him that running has never felt good, and he put out the idea that maybe I had never tried it long enough for it to feel good. That maybe once I was stronger, more toned, more conditioned to it, I would enjoy it.

I was skeptical.  It’s not that I’ve never been in shape.  I have been.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy exercise.  I do.  It’s just running that never did anything for me. I have been trying, for years to get back into swimming or rollerskating, or something that I enjoy.  I tried Bikram Yoga and loved it.  I took belly dancing classes and loved those too. This past spring I forced myself to make time for the gym and found it passably enjoyable.  But with all of those things, I had to devote money, needed special clothes or equipment, needed to block out time I felt should be spent looking for work or getting my house in order, or taking care of kids.

Suddenly, when I talked about running with him, it sounded like such an easy thing to do.  Put on sneakers, walk out the door.  So simple.  No driving to a gym or class, no lugging big skates to an ideal location with smooth ground.  No pool schedules to adhere to.  Just walk out the door, into the park and run.  Easy.

I decided to try the Couch Potato to 5K thing again.  I was certain it would last a day, maybe two before I found it unbearable as I did before.  I hadn’t even started and I was prepared to stop.  I  imagine the shin splints, the bouncing boobs, the pain in my lower back. I was ready to hate it. But I decided to try anyway.

Out the door, up the hill to the track, I popped headphones in my ears, set the stopwatch and began to walk.  At 1 minute 30 seconds I kicked up my feet, picked up the pace and started to run.  10 seconds in I realized I was moving too fast.  I was running, not jogging, I couldn’t sustain the pace.  And yet, it felt kind of good, kind of free.  My lungs clenched on a breath, but I pushed past it and forced myself to breathe from my stomach. My legs screamed.  I thought I should slow down, really, before I hurt myself.  I decided I’d finish out the minute slower, I looked at the stopwatch to see how much time I had left.  
I was at 2 minutes 40 seconds.  I had exceeded my minute by 10 seconds.  

I was shocked at how quickly the time went by.  I slowed to a walk, catching my breath, feeling the muscles in my legs tighten and ache. At 4 minutes I was surprised that I was ready to run again.  I had enough air, the aches were manageable. I ran.  

I moved around the track again and again, alternating running and walking.  I was happy for the walks, ready to regain my breath and slow my pace, but I was equally happy for the bounce and spring of the running minutes.  I liked feeling my muscles spring beneath me, enjoyed keeping pace with the music coming from my ipod.  I got lost in the music and the pace.  I forgot to stop at 20 minutes - went for an extra lap, finished at 22 minutes, 30 seconds instead.  

I walked home feeling all kinds of aches and pains I hadn’t felt in years. I got in the house and took a handful of motrin.  Once the discomfort subsided, I felt energized, focused, and calmer than I’d felt in weeks.  Good.

The next morning I woke up, ready to run again and it was easier the second time.  The third day it was hot and humid, I feared running in such heat, but to my surprise, it was easier.  My muscles didn’t scream and complain.  The sweat dripping down my face and body were barely noticeable as I pushed myself a little harder than before because the rest of it felt so good.  I pushed each running time by a few extra seconds and shortened the walking times.  On the way home I did lunges and skipped sideways. I had so much energy, my body felt so good.  The sensation of using my muscles was delicious.

On the fourth day I got an unexpected call to help a friend and there was no time to run.  I thought about it all day, missed it, couldn’t wait for the next morning when I could do it again.

When that morning came I was up early and back out.  I pushed myself harder than before and loved every second.  For a while I ran with my head tilted back, the sun on my face, my eyes closed and it felt like I was floating.  

At the end of my last jogging minute, I suddenly wanted to see how hard I could run, I pumped my legs hard, and had that sensation I had when I tried sprinting as a kid - the feeling that I wasn’t moving anywhere at all, almost that I was moving backwards.  I pushed harder, faster and the world started spinning.  I slowed down and everything flipped over, my stomach rose up into my throat, my heart tried to jump out of my chest.  The nausea and dizziness were overwhelming for a moment.  And then everything subsided and I felt this RUSH of energy.  My whole body tingled.  What was this?  I still have no idea, and it feels strange, bizarre that I actually want to experience it again.

Yesterday, I took myself off the track.  I jogged and walked through the park, up and down hills, across rocky areas, on dirt bridle paths and paved walking areas.  It was too much and eventually I returned to the track, feeling slightly beaten - but energized as well.  

Suddenly running is a challenge to be met rather than a torture to be avoided.  I am curious about how much my body can take, how far I can push myself.  I can feel my muscles working and I imagine them growing stronger and more capable.  I think of things I can’t do and can clearly see a time ahead when they will be easy.  

I think, maybe, for the first time in my life, I am a runner... or at least there's a possibility that I could be.

1 comment:

Dr. Bels1dus said...