A Tale in Two Parts
Running and I have a complicated relationship.
It all started in my college phys ed class when I was faced with the dreaded task of running three miles WITHOUT STOPPING at the end of term. To me that was equivalent to climbing Everest or swimming through shark infested waters with an anchor tied to my leg or beating up Chuck Norris… notgonnahappen. I fretted and whined and fretted some more but in the end I managed to run those three miles … painfully slow but I did it. And promptly shook hands with Running and went our separate ways.
Over the next few years, we would occasionally meet up again – usually when I was struggling with my body image. I would curse each step as I huffed and puffed, believing wholeheartedly that runner’s high was a sadistic myth, perpetuated to keep saps like me chasing a white rabbit that didn’t exist. Running and I were not friends. I used it to get what I needed but was never satisfied with the result. Our run-ins (excuse the shameless pun) were few and far between.
When I started graduate school in PA, I met Running again – but in a different light. I played on an intramural co-ed soccer team and, given that I know practically zip about soccer, I focused on running my little heart out and practicing my brilliant defensive maneuvers of simply getting in the way of whomever I could. And I had a blast. I looked forward to each game just for the chance to run around. I had my first taste of running as something other than drudgery meant solely to burn calories. I started jogging and actually developing a little discipline. And then winter hit with all its brutal force. After a few brave attempts with temperatures in the teens, I stowed away my running gear, with the promise that I would pick back up when the ice thawed.
And I did. But boy, did I take it slow. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, a little voice that sounded a lot like Voldemort’s slithery whispers told me that I was only capable of so much – and ‘so much’ meant short distances at a slow pace. And I believed that voice for a long time. But Running still wanted to show me how much fun we could have together, even if we took things slow.
That fall, I played soccer again and I also joined up with Andrew on a team to run the Tussey Mountainback, a 50 mile relay race. I ran two legs, 3.4 miles and 4.2 miles, which was quite a personal achievement.
I have no idea what my pace was but it was my first time crossing a finish line and it felt amazing. The whole day was a positive experience, as we cheered each teammate into transition zones, listened to silly running playlists and traded random stories. If you have never
been trapped in a van with a bunch of stinky sweaty runners done a relay race, I encourage you to give it a go – you will not regret it.
By the time the next spring rolled around, I had a crazy idea in my head. I was still in graduate school, and it had hung me out to dry. The experiments I had been working on for the past year and a half were going nowhere. So I faced every grad student’s worst nightmare, pulled the plug and started over, devising a completely new project. This, quite frankly, sucked and certainly didn’t leave me feeling like I was a winner winner chicken dinner. I wanted, no, I needed something in my life that I could work toward and actually finish.
I wanted to run a half-marathon.
So, I started training. At first, Running and I kept things casual, meeting up here and there for a bit of training and even doing a dog jog with Sawyer and Sherlock, which of course did not at all go as planned.
I started off with Sawyer, who by all previous accounts, we believed to be the slower dog. But as soon as we crossed the starting line, he took off with me clinging desperately to the end of the leash. I quickly traded with Andrew for Sherlock, who was a bit taken aback by the chaos and more willing to stick right.by.me and go my speed. After a couple of awkwardly timed doggie bathroom breaks, we finally finished up the 5k and I found Andrew. Apparently, as soon as Sawyer realized the run was a loop, he stopped running as if he had no interest in covering the same ground twice – silly dog.
Once summer arrived, I began to take training more seriously. I cracked open Jeff Galloway’s Book on Running and made a spreadsheet
so I could be a Super Serious Runner to keep track of my runs. Saturdays became Long Run Days. I was slow but consistent. Running gave me a respite from everything else – the chaos of my current experiment, a messy house, bills to pay, all of it. I didn’t listen to music – I listened to audiobooks. It was the only way I could keep my mind from drifting to (a) what I could be doing instead (b) whether I was truly satisfied with the ending of Lost or (c) how much my knees hurt.
And hurt they did. I ignored it at first but after several painful runs, I purchased some knee sleeves and started icing my knees after every run. This seemed to solve the problem.
Running and I grew very close that summer, even as I grew more and more stressed over my research. I steadfastly completed each of my long runs, maxing out at a seemingly endless odyssey of 16 miles through Davis on a trip to California.
By the time the half-marathon rolled around in September, I felt prepared. I didn’t really have a time goal – just a goal of feeling strong and finishing. We traveled to Philadelphia and met my parents who had come up to cheer me on. One of my best friends, Ashlee, was also running and she calmed my nerves. The sheer number of runners was overwhelming but soon enough, I was off and running through the streets of Philly. The first six miles were amazing. I felt strong, I felt good. Miles 7-10 were harder but I still felt capable.
And then mile 11 hit and my knees rebelled.
They just plain hurt. I stepped off to the side, did my best to massage them and then resumed running. No dice. The remaining 2.1 miles were an alternating walk-jog-limp. My pace plummeted but I pushed through to the finish, raised my arms in triumphant victory and … tripped on a cable, crashing to the ground. Not the most graceful ending but I was happy to have finished under two and a half hours, despite my ailing legs.
(hoping for a pic of The Big Bad Fall? sorry to disappoint but alas, I did not purchase that super flattering race photo)
After the race was over, I began to have my doubts about Running. My knee pain seemed to be an issue we couldn’t resolve. I had committed to run another Tussey relay, and after completing my ten miles, I decided Running and I just weren’t working out.
We broke up.
Stay tuned for Part Two … Spoiler Alert – we get back together.