I wasn’t always a runner. I was on the track team in grade school but spent a lot of my time tying my shoes. I hate to admit that I really hate to run except when I’m actually doing it and then I love it.
As a child, running was something I did naturally and was quite fast. I could run barefoot and out run most anyone that I knew. I wanted to be on the Olympic team and race around the track barefoot just like Zola Budd. As with most things in my life, I excel at them easily until it becomes something I must do and then it becomes a chore and generally something I will begin to loathe. And, so began my love and love to hate relationship with running.
I grew up in an area known as BFE. There were a lot of cornfields and dirt roads and running in almost any direction would certainly get you chased by a dog (or 5). We had two kinds of dogs where I grew up: mean and meaner. The farmer’s dog up the road was a huge, mangy looking Cujo, only he was lightening fast. He may not have been that fast it may have simply been that as soon as he jumped from the bushes my shoes would turn to lead and although I could look down and see my legs working harder than any cartoon, I would swear they were going in reverse. He wasn’t the scariest dog…. just the biggest. Nooo… the scariest dog in our neighborhood lived on the other side of the lake. I preferred running in that direction because the road would open up towards the railroad tracks and a larger road, whereas, heading in the direction of scary, mange dog led me deeper into the country and in my mind, possibly more dogs where they could eat me for dinner and no one would ever hear my screams. Have I mentioned that I had an over-active imagination? The scariest dog in the neighborhood was named ‘Brownie’ or ‘Chocolate’ or maybe it was ‘Tiramisu’ I can’t remember although I’d scream it enough as I ran away in terror. It seemed like all dogs at that time had names of desserts. We had a Shar-Pei named Mai Ren which is not any kind of dessert as far as I know. For fun, we will call that little bi… ahem, that dog, my favorite dessert Key Lime Pie. One of two things would happen when you were running by Key Lime Pie’s house. Either Key Lime Pie was already waiting by the road (if this happened, it was best just to turn around promptly and take another route) or Key Lime Pie was up near the house and wouldn’t have time to get to your ankles… oh? didn’t I mention that the scariest dog on the PLANET is a cocker spaniel? no? stop laughing, she was really very scary! and she had spittle!! All of the scariest dogs (like Cujo) have spittle that flies through the air and crazy eyes. Key Lime Pie definitely had spittle and crazy eyes. I used to wish she’d trip on those long ears but she never did.
Eventually, I moved away from there and was able to live on my own in a place that did not have any scary dogs. I went to college and joined the track team. I continued to run (off and on) for the next few years, running alone, running in the rain, running in the cold until my legs itched so bad I couldn’t stand it. I ran while pushing my son in the baby jogger (which was ok until he turned 9 and then he was just way too heavy…whew).
When I was thirty something I got tired of running and decided that utilizing the equipment at the gym was much more fun since I could read my book AND burn calories. Sure I would sometimes give running a try but something happens to the body when you haven’t run in awhile. It’s almost like parts of your body have solidified and your legs find running about as natural as wrapping around behind the head (but at least you could sit down to attempt this). It was during this time that my dear dear friend who found much glee in torturing me (she was also my personal trainer) asked me to run a 5k with her. I’d never run a 5k and 3.2 miles certainly didn’t seem like very far so I agreed.
I was so excited about the run that I was the very first one there. You think I’m joking… I’m not. It was still dark out and freezing. I called Kara to find out if she was on her way…. she was still sleeping.
I knew I only had a limited amount of time to run the race because I had to teach a yoga class across town immediately after. I was ready to go at the start and we took off. I was running so fast and it felt like I might die. Trying to keep up with Kara proved to be harder than I thought and I took a slower pace and told her to go on and I’d catch her on the way back. I settled into my pace and kept a look out for Kara. It seemed as though a lot of time was passing and I still hadn’t seen Kara. I did see a number of people coming back around and knew that I must be close to the “end”. I wasn’t. In fact, I ended up running my first 10k that day. How might one go to a race to run a 5k and end up running a 10k? Well, you see, you would have to miss this GIANT white billboard that says “5K TURN AROUND”. I think if it had maybe said, “yes, you!!” that I might have realized it was for me. But I didn’t and so I ran on and on and on until I got to the turn around point for the 10k (by that time, I was just thrilled to be turning around). Stopping wasn’t an option because I had to teach my class. As I was running back towards the finish line (the last 3.2 of my 10k) I was considering how one misses a turn around sign when an 80 year old man with an oxygen tank passed me. He was in fantastic shape… like ‘Iron Man’ shape (this is what I have told myself since that day so please do not question my little piece of fiction).
After that day, I couldn’t deny to myself that when I pushed myself that I could do it. Whatever “it” was, I knew I had it inside myself to succeed and that felt really great. Who cares if a few old people with oxygen tanks pass me up…. sheesh! There are worse things… like Key Lime Pie. 😉