Saturday, April 2, 2011
Today seems to be a day for thought and reflection. Perfect, really, for a day I'd decided on for a yoga routine. :) I was considering earlier the circumstances that may have led to my lifelong hatred of running. I was never a terribly physical person. Tag, hide-and-go-seek, and the like were among my least-favored games. Even as a child, I prefered a leisurely walk through the woods, or an afternoon spent curled up with a compelling story. I also had (and still do) a fondness for food. These in combination have led to me spending my life, as far back as I can remember, overweight and out of shape. Being teased for being fat and slow, and not particularly good at physical games did nothing to encourage me to put down my books and play. And then came the culmination. 7th grade PE. Every morning of 7th grade, first period, we were to run 20-some-odd laps (what I'm told is about 1 mile). No easing into it, no walk breaks for those of us less-fit suckers. No rest days (unless you count weekends when we didn't have school). And all of this with a gym teacher who ran his jr. high PE classes as if he were still in Marine boot camp. Which meant those of us who were slow and struggling didn't get encouragement shouted at us, but rather insults! No wonder I learned to despise running, and to believe it was something I simply wasn't made to do. So, I spent the next 15 years or so making all the standard jokes about it (such as, if you see me running, you'd better keep up) and believing only crazy people could possibly ENJOY such torture! Then, I stumbled across dailymile.com. I registered as a walker at first, but I couldn't help being drawn in by the runners, and particularly intrigued by something they called C25K, short for Couch to 5K, a program designed to take the American couch potato, and get him/her running a distance of 5K, or 3.1 miles, in about 9 weeks. The program looked fairly simple: short bursts of running interspersed with walking a while to catch one's breath, with each week bringing the run time up and the walk time down. Now THIS looked like something I could do! The program (and every runner I've met) advocates rest days between running workouts, to allow the muscle tissue to rest and revitalize. Without rest days, I've learned, the body simply cannot get stronger, no matter how hard you work. Could this be why, in 9 months of running a mile every morning, it never got easier? (Ya think?) And then, there was the encouragement! Here, instead of being insulted for being slow, and unable to complete the distance without walking, there are cheers, pats on the back, and the reassurance that you will get stronger, and it will get easier. It doesn't matter what level you're at. The guy training for his tenth marathon will give you a thumbs-up for completing the first week of training, or for the first time you ran a half-mile without stopping. He'll treat your 5K like a major event, encourage you beforehand, wait anxiously afterward to hear how it went. He can whip out a 5K in under 20 minutes without breathing hard, but for you, it's a milestone, and he respects that, because he remembers when it was his milestone. There's also the pervasive attitude that slow mileage is better than no mileage, and that the victory isn't in acheiving a certain pace or distance for the day, but rather in getting your ass off the couch, lacing up your sneakers, and heading out the door. Thank you, my friends. I have never met any of you face-to-face, but you have made me believe in the impossible, and that is an incredible gift.