As expected, despite the best of intentions and planning, there’s pretty much nothing that can combat the feelings of frustration and immobility I’m feeling post surgery. I’m not a person that was meant to sit still, so this business of sitting in a recliner, no matter what is attempting to entertain me at the time, is pretty much a mental death sentence. I have come to resent the fancy HDTV (Sorry guys, Scott already called dibs on it), as well as the laptop, the magazines, and even my Nook. I know what you’re thinking. This is going to be one of those annoying blogs where the writer throws a pity party and I click “Next blog” to save myself from being sucked into her narcissistic depression. Not so fast, Jose!
Granted, I’ve grown a little bored with the Nook. That’s only because I’m reading it not because I want to, but because it’s a lack of options. I already read through Dean Karnazes’ Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, in which I was half inspired, half grossed out, by the level of commitment that crazy fool has demonstrated for the love of running and the love of humanity. He is amazing, and completely insane, and I
am scared of love him. My goal isn’t to be anything like him. My goal is to be about 1/50th of him. It would be hard for any running story to follow Dean’s words of inspiration, so in all due respect I should have switched gears to a different genre. Instead, I followed it with Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners. Also a good book, also with many inspirational stories. I think it would have been a fantastic book for me to read when I first started out running. It would have provided me with a lot of inspiration as well as education about running, gear, and grit. Reading it now sounds familiar, as if many of these stories took tiny bits of my life and stretched them across many different tales. After reading about the 20th story of another underdog/out of shape/middle aged/overcoming tragedy/bittersweet tale describing the entrance to running, I lost interest. That might be too strong. It’s not that I lost interest, but in reading so many stories with such familiarity, it made me reflect on my own personal journey into running. That, I feel, is a tale worth telling.
I started running in 2009. Similar to reading Chicken Soup, it wasn’t so much done out of desire as out of a lack of options. I was one of those people that was occasionally very committed to going to the gym. I would get a gym membership, and go religiously for a couple weeks testing out each of the different ellipticals before becoming “too busy with personal obligations” to continue fine tuning my elliptical skills. When my job was relocated 60 miles north, getting to the gym before or after work became a real challenge. It was about this time that I coincidentally had started taking my health a little more seriously, was eating better, losing weight, and was determined not to let this latest challenge unravel all of my hard work.
This is where my friend Kerri comes in. Kerri was an established runner and cyclist, completing grueling long distance races such as the Pan Mass Challenge and the Boston Marathon. Doing this required Kerri to overcome some personal challenges, and she was a great role model. She taught a spin class, which I attended with consistent irregularity, so when we were relocated it was natural that I would turn to her again. Kerri is the original lunch-runner. Her solution to longer hours and longer commutes was to squeeze workouts into her lunch hour. With a little cajoling, Kerri suckered me into coming along.
Kerri promised to start slow, and we would do a walk/jog routine along the perimeter of the company property. She showed me the locker room, which at the time was used by no one but us. Back then, running at lunch was a very foreign concept and we were met with some strange looks by co-workers as we walked through the building in our sweatpants. Our first couple of outings were a little rough, with me gasping to catch my breath while she effortlessly glided along. She doesn’t know this, but she was a mentor, an educator, and an inspiration. When I told her about my blisters, she told me about proper fitting socks and running shoes. When I confided in her about the unsightly, bloody chafe marks I endured under my shirt, she enlightened me to the wonderful world of sports bras.
When I first started running I wasn’t confident enough to go out and run a few miles on the streets. This walk/jog routine may have been acceptable on a lunch break in the confines of a parking lot, but I didn’t want to look like a loser in front of passersby every time I stopped for a walk break. Stupid when I look back on it, but it was a true concern at the time. Instead, I decided to take my walk/jog routine to a local track. It was summer and school was out, so I didn’t have to worry about the track being used by student athletes. I will never forget the first time I went to the track. I was determined to look like a real runner, so as not to look bad in front of the absolutely no one that was looking at me. I grabbed my iPod, did a number of impressive stretches in the parking lot, using my car door for balance, and headed up to the track. My first obstacle was entering the track itself. I remember scouring the chain link fence, with sheer panic, unable to find the break in the fence. Foolishly I wondered if each of the runners on the track had actually climbed the fence to get in. I made eye contact with a runner, and although I was mortified with embarrassment, I hoped he would at least give a nod to point out the entrance to the track. He didn’t. Eventually I found my own way onto the track, and looked for a place to set down my belongings. I placed my water bottle down on the ground, but couldn’t bring myself to set my car keys down. I was convinced that one of the other 3 or 4 runners on the track would swipe my keys and take off in my SUV, so I decided to stash them in my jacket pocket. This was a time long before I realized that I only needed to take that single car key with me. On this track debut, I brought the whole jingle-jangle keychain. I started off in my warm up jog, feeling the weight of the keys, the bottle opener, and the palm tree key chain bouncing in my pocket. The “I won’t tell you where the break in the fence is” runner passed me, glancing over in irritation at my jingling metronome, and I responded by turning up the volume on my iPod and staring straight ahead. I’m proud to say I’ve come a long way since then!
A lot has happened since those initial runs in the parking lot and on the track. I have logged thousands of miles on the roads and trails. My very first race was a 10k, and I’ve entered in at least one race a month ever since. I still avoid the gym as much as possible but instead of dodging stationary bikes, I embraced mountain biking as a form of cross training. I joined a running club and recently received an annual award for their Grand Prix race series. Our lunch run has grown into a group of five, and we constantly support and motivate each other to keep running. My confidence has improved, and I’ve realized that whether I’m running or walking down the street, I’m still doing a lot more than the person driving past me. I hope that someday I can be a role model for others as Kerri was for me. In the meantime, I’m proud to report that I have finally convinced Kerri to join my running club. Now that is an accomplishment!