Monday, February 28, 2011

Running is Cool

I've been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now.  Usually I think about it when I run. Ultimately, thinking that running is cool must be the thing that keeps me going back out there. It's kind of shallow, I know, but there it is.

See, I don't run because I love it. At least, after one year of running, I don't love it yet.  I do go through phases - like one I am enjoying now - whenI really DO like it and I'm genuinely enjoying it.  But running is hard for me. And though it's gotten a little easier, it hasn't gotten remarkably easier.  At least it's still harder to me than I'd hoped it would be at this point. My goal right now is that I'd like to run a comfortable 5 miles on a regular basis.  I've achieved the 5 miles twice and the most recent one felt amazingly good. But I did that almost 2 weeks ago and haven't done another 5 since and I've continued battling with shin splints in the meantime.

I know some people are built to run. Some people can go out and just do a few miles right out of the chute.  Not me.  Running has never, to my recollection, been something that I've done for the sheer joy of doing it.  It's always been work - even when I was a child. Dancing, I love. Yoga, I love. Gymanstics I love(d). But running was always an effort.

Maybe that's why I think running is so cool.  I think it's because it doesn't come easily to me and I admire those who do it with such grace. My knees don't like running. My feet, which are prone to plantar faciaitis (I have lousy arches) require supportive shoes. My hips aren't much of a fan either from time to time. In fact, as I said to an online friend about a week ago, just the fact that I can run at all makes me feel like a superhero.

I'm amazed - seriously amazed - that my body has allowed me to travel 5 miles in just over 11 minutes a mile. That's pretty darn slow, folks. But my feet keep moving and sometimes they keep carrying me even when I don't believe they can or they ought to.

 Running surprises me.  Often it disappoints me. I think that because I have accomplished something - some speed or distance - that I should be able to do it regularly. But running is humbling. It's two steps forward and one step back for me on a regular basis. But I keep going out and it also gives me happy surprises too. Like that last 5 miles I ran. Dang, I wish I could run like that every day.

 I can never really tell if I'm going to have a good running day or a bad running day. I keep trying to come up with the "magic formula." After a good run, I'll wonder what I did differently and try to replicate it, but every run is different for me. I find this extremely frustrating most of the time. But running continues to teach me things about being a biological being. Some days simply are better days than others; it's not all in our heads, it's also in our whole body.  For example, on days when I feel tired and think I don't feel like running but go out anyway, occasionally I'm surprised with a wonderful run, but more often I find that my body responds tiredly. My heart rate goes up faster over a shorter distance than on a good day and I feel like my body is verifying what my head was telling me, "I am tired!"

But I continue running for those days when my body really does feel like it is moving like a well-oiled machine to the music of my playlist, when my heart is keeping pace with my legs and my breathing and we're all working hard together, but it is a good working. I'm not a fast machine, but I do get the job done, nonetheless! And slowly, slowly, I am seeing distances that were once goals of mine become the regular workouts and new goals take shape. It's slower than what I want. That irks me. I feel like I should be farther along than where I am and I do get frustrated hearing of others accomplishing what has taken me so long to acquire in a fraction of the time. And because of that I sometimes think, "Maybe I'm just not built to run." But I guess I don't really believe that...

I run because it's my own thing. I've never been a competitive and I don''t like competing in front of an audience. I know that some people really do and that there is value in team sports. I respect that, but it has always been a loathesome experience for me. I have always preferred sports for the sake of fitness and health over competition.

I also run, because some days I just don't have time to walk! Acutally, that's one of the ways I started running years ago before I took it up again last year. I was taking regular fast walks, but some days I wouldn't because I couldn't fit it in. But if I ran... well, then, I could squeeze in a little more now, couldn't I?

I also like to believe that because running can be done in a lot of different places, I will be able to incorporate that into my life too. For the most part, I run different routes around my neighborhood. But I could run in other parts of my town if I take time to map out some new routes. And someday I could run while on vacation or like so many runners in Runners World magazine, take a vacation based upon a race. Just knowing that fuels me to keep going, because you never know where those potential paths may lead and I want to be prepared to do that, should the opportunity arise. Crazy, right? But whatever works to get you up and moving.


I do wonder if I will always "just" be a shorter-distance runner. At this point in my life I don't see myself with a goal of a marathon, but I have learned - and running has taught me - never say never. Plus, I want to be able to run while I can. I know there may be days in the hopefully-distant future when I will wish that I could run again, but for some reason or other I cannot. So, I'm just going to keep at it for... well, for as long as I still like it, I guess. And, well, you know, cuz running is cool.
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