Approximately two months ago, Hugh signed us up for a 10K happening in DC on July 31st. Having never been a runner or having any interest in running, I saw the two months of preparation as a challenge that may result in any combination of injury, shame and complete failure.
I had doubts when I was running one mile every other morning in about 13 minutes and feeling the burn the rest of the day.
I still had some doubts after my first real set-back inspired my first really successful run.
I first felt truly confident when I finally passed the four mile mark with a month left before the race.
And when I finally ran over five miles just days before the race, I was still teetering between I can totally do this and Something’s definitely going to go wrong.
But Sunday morning came and I was cool as a cucumber. I got up before the sun, got dressed, pulled my hair into a tight enough ponytail, laced up my sneaks and headed to Hugh’s for pre-race breakfast.
Some water, some debate over whether to have coffee or not, and some peanut butter toast later we were driving across the Key Bridge and hunting for parking.
We were so early that we checked in, stashed our new shirts back in the car, milled around scavenging for freebies (including some vitacoco, which we were thankful for since there was pre-race water but no cups to drink it out of ) and did some light stretching mixed with a little sitting/yawning.
Whoever was working the mic had everyone corraled at the start line, did some talking about various charities, played a recording of Mariah Carey singing the national anthem, and while pretty much everyone was still disorganized and unsuspecting, he yelled GO.
So we ran. We passed some people and some people passed us. We got in our groove — rather, my groove that Hugh so graciously slows down to accommodate — and settled into a slightly-
faster-than-usual pace as we made our way along the C&O Canal Towpath. I felt great the whole time. No annoying cramps and no onset of exhaustion. My knee pain didn’t kick in until the last mile or so. We just trucked along, chatting about nonsense, mentally chanting slow and steady when someone who’d charged in front of us had to stop to walk.
And after crossing the finish line amid cheers from a group of strangers — race volunteers and other participants — we high-fived to the accomplishment of both of our 10K goals:
- Finish the race.
- Run the whole thing. No walking.
And we achieved both our goals within an hour and eight minutes, looking red, sweaty, and incredibly attractive.
Tired, happy and starving, we dragged our sweaty disgusting selves to Jessie & Troy’s for showers before sitting down to a massive brunch.
There was champagne involved. With a side of orange juice.
So I’ve checked ‘run a 10K’ off the life list, and it feels pretty good. Maybe I’ll run a longer race next. That’s a maybe.
I’m not running at all this week. That’s a definite.
To stay in shape — or rather to shape up — I’ve forced myself to exercise in all sorts of ways. I did Zumba for a while, but it was too much money for only one class per week. I did and loved Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred back in January and February, but then I got sick a couple times and never got back on the horse. I ran once last fall sometime.
I’ve said before that it’s not a matter of hating exercise — I love sweating, feeling my heartbeat rise with the effort I exert, and relishing the muscle soreness of hard work. I enjoy this in the form of the occasional hike, city tour, or trip to the batting cages. But, like I said before, you can’t do those things every day. And if you can’t do it every day, it’s not a good enough form of exercise to keep your mid-twenties from creeping up on your rear end and setting up shop on your hips.
Most people go to a gym or run or do a combination of both. But I don’t like running and I’ve never been comfortable in a gym [at least not since I got elbowed in the forehead playing basketball with the boys at open gym night during high school]. Okay, I’ll concede that gyms are not that bad — who would want to buy all that fancy equipment for themselves anyway?
But running? It doesn’t seem logical to me.
I know plenty of people who like to run for fun. Or they run for exercise and tend to enjoy it, I don’t know which is true. But if there is nothing chasing me, no giant animal or crazy person, no prehistoric reptile squashing skyscrapers in its path, then why should I be running?
I’ll tell you why.
- It requires little equipment
- It is free
- Those other forms of exercise are not cutting it
- I like to eat
- Hugh and I signed up for a 10K
I’m not going to lie and say I’m on the running bandwagon, but I have to agree with the logic that if you sign up for a race, you will run. Because sign up we did and running I am.
And I have to admit.
Wait for it…
I’m kind of liking it.
<<Pause for gasps>>
It’s been two weeks, so don’t hold me to that, but it’s been a welcome lesson in discipline and benefits so far. It’s also been a lesson in running. A person might think that because she’s relatively athletic, or at the very least has a history of being athletic, running will be a piece of cake for her. Silly girl. It is true that I’ve been a flag football MVP in recent history and I’m not too bad at backyard wheelbarrow races, but I’ve learned that this does not automatically translate into a 7-minute mile pace. Accepted. I’m okay with that. I learned quickly and moved on.
My default run is a 1.5 mile lap in and out and around my neighborhood. Until this weekend, I hadn’t really attempted a longer run. On Sunday Hugh and I had the bright idea to run straight up Washington Blvd. into the middle of Clarendon — a 3.1 mile distance. At 11:45 a.m. it was close to 95 degrees with standard East Coast sticky humid air, we’d been out late the night before, had consumed little water and eaten little real food. The odds were stacked against us and rightfully so. We had to walk most of the last mile because I was really close to passing out on the sidewalk from heat exhaustion or dehydration or embarrassment at the bright red color of my face or something.
But after Sunday’s failure, still believing that I should really be able to run 3 miles, I set out last night to double my lap. I had a lot working in my favor: The weather cooled down to the mid 60s with little humidity, and finally the air was breathable; I know my neighborhood route now — I don’t like running it alone, but I know it and it is not dark and lonely and scary; And I had the added motivation of having to wear a slightly form-fitting dress this weekend. Woof.
Once the motivation struck me, I was dressed and hitting start on my endomondo app within minutes. At 2 miles I was still feeling great and I knew that I was more than capable of making it through three (and kicking myself for not trying harder before). At 2.5 miles I was already back to my starting point (I think I cut my first loop a little short), so I started running smaller loops around our building. I was determined not to stop until I’d hit 3 miles, no matter how crazy I looked to the kids playing whiffle ball and the couples walking dogs.
And then the endomondo robot popped up in my earphones and said to me
“Three miles in thirty-one minutes, thirteen seconds.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I know everyone else in the world runs a million more miles than that in the same amount of time. I was just happy that I knew I could do it, so I tried, and I did it.
To me, that’s something.
As I cooled down, I realized that I couldn’t wait to run more. I couldn’t wait to try to run further, for longer, at a faster pace.
And for the first time I really thought to myself that a 10K may not kill me.
I may actually be able to do this.
Am I starting to like running?
Have I gone to the dark side of endorphin addicts?
Only time will tell.