“I am not a runner.” That’s how I began my last post. But a big part of me thinks: Of course I can run! Really, let’s break it down. You put one foot in front of the other, there’s just a little bounce in between. Besides all that swimming and riding my bike should prepare me! What about all that vigorous walking and housework? I should be a pro marathoner, right?
I soon found out how ill-prepared I was. Two weeks had whizzed by after my initial sign up on the imATHLETE website for The Ocean’s Run ½ Marathon in South Kingstown, RI. In between nibbling leftover Christmas cookies it occurred to me that I should figure out a running plan. I found a training schedule for beginners on About.com and I eagerly printed it out. I felt like a runner already. Then, I read it. Uh oh. 12 weeks, I need 12 weeks to get in shape to run 13.1 miles. Sounds great, for people who have real brains and thoroughly weigh their decisions. Because of my impulsive, margarita induced decision and apparent lack of brains, I have 8 weeks. Then there was Christmas and the Polar Vortex that prohibited all running except to the mailbox in full Eskimo gear. For me it begins with Week #4: Tuesday: 3 miles. Easy. Thursday: 4 miles. So soon?? Saturday: 6 miles. WHAT??
At this rate I’ll never make it to Week #10: Saturday: 12 miles
I guess I get to skip over the easy runs and get right to the tough stuff. Super.
Here in Connecticut we had a lucky break yesterday. The Polar Vortex went back to Canada and I had to take advantage of the 40 degree temperature. Plus, it was sunny. Nothing like a sunny day to feel some pain. I pulled on my sports bra, long sleeve t-shirt, jacket, thermal leggings, socks, and sneakers, clamped on one of my kid’s fleece caps, grabbed another kid’s headphones for my Pandora playlist and I was ready. As I opened the garage door I called out to Greg, “I’m off to torture myself by running 6 miles!” “Great” he said, “have fun!” Right-o.
Out in the driveway I stretch, wind my arms around like airplane propellers and bring the heel of my left foot to my buttocks for a thigh stretch and promptly fall over. Classy. I jump up and start doing more stretches. Because I’m a quick learner I keep both feet on the ground. A little jogging in place. Ouch. Is that my heel hurting? Like Scarlet O’Hara I decide to think about it tomorrow. I go.
I jog out of my neighborhood onto the main road. Left foot, jump, right foot, jump. I’m running. More like jogging. OK, most people walking at a brisk pace would pass me. At least I’m faster than a geriatric with a walker. Barely. But I’m doing it. I tell myself that I am going to run the whole six miles. No walking. No stopping. No pretending to re-tie a shoe. My legs might not make it but my stubbornness will. I round the first wide corner and because I know there is a substantial hill coming I do not look up. I keep my eyes on the pavement because I cannot afford to get psyched out in the beginning. If I can’t see the hill, there is no hill. I am smiling like an idiot to myself over this strategy as I wheeze. Keep breathing. Holy crap, I’m at the top of the hill! My body relaxes a little and I am grateful for a nice gradual descent for the next two miles. Cars fly by but I am singing along to the Pistol Annies and don’t pay much attention. I can feel sweat under my hat and my arms are tired for some reason. Why did I think a descent was easy? Now I’m running like Marsha from the Brady Bunch, arms straight and by my sides. I must look ridiculous but don’t focus on that because I am acutely aware of a now pressing need to get to a bathroom. I shouldn’t have had that handful of granola. Note to self: stop eating.
I am approaching the final turn to begin the last three miles back to my house. I’ve done this run before, more than two years ago. My muscles have a memory like an elephant’s. They remember that I used to walk this section. There’s a sharp rise that banks right with a sweet little brook I would stop to look at. I start to feel that there is no way I can continue without giving myself just a little, bitty break. I’ve run this far, what could it hurt? I am still negotiating with myself when the Eli Young Band comes through my headphones. The lines from Guinevere, a song I’d never heard before tunnel into my ears:
“For as much as she stumbled she’s runnin’
For as much as she runs she’s still here…”
I’m going to keep running. Run, run, RUN! I did it. I ran the previously walked section and I have just two miles to go. My legs feel like lead. Every step has me fighting gravity in ways Sandra Bullock could only dream of. Arms pumping, legs moving I want to see the results of my efforts, some instant gratification because I think I might be dying. There is no feeling in the fingertips on my right hand. But hey, I think my butt feels firmer. I am most certainly hallucinating. I enjoy the hallucination of wearing clothes in a size two, it keeps me from remembering that I have to go to the bathroom five miles ago. Suddenly, I see my street sign. A thrill goes through my body. Or is that shock? Hard to tell. I start sprinting and keep going to my driveway.
I run straight into the garage, through the kitchen and living room not stopping until I reach the bathroom. Once necessary business is attended to I jump in the shower. With water beating down on my head, I monitor my body for damage. My hands have regained feeling. That’s good. Ten minutes later the endorphins kick in. Sweet Jesus, finally. I’ve always been a late bloomer. It occurs to me that I survived. Maybe I CAN do a half marathon. Maybe I’ll even like it. I’ll settle for liking parts of it. There’s just one problem with that plan: the parts I liked best happened when I stopped running: a shower and lunch.
Or as the pros call it: recovery. At that I am a pro.