Tuesday, October 5, 2010

a brief wallow and then the tale of The Un-Natural Runner

I confess...I want to wallow. But I'm going to make myself write the post that's been rattling in my mind....well, after this paragraph...skip ahead if you wish. I'm feeling defeated and down. I am unmotivated to conduct a job search when it feels like the energy comes to naught. And I'm just feeling the very word "wallow"...it is not an onomatopoeia (I have to sing that word to spell it thanks to a teacher somewhere along the line) since the word isn't a sound, but it FEELS like one. I'll own that the wallow instinct comes partly from recently seeing an episode of Gilmore Girls (which is 10 years old today...happy b-day GG) in which it featured prominently. The gray weather and painful body don't help. I want to hide under the blankets. With ice cream.

But, I'll move on to a real post and another mental track. I was recently talking to a friend who is embarking on running using the C25K program. I never used a program, though I think that one has a great approach, but it has me thinking of my own "athletic" career. I used the title "The Un-Natural" runner...not to refer to steroids or any such thing, but because it definitely didn't come naturally.

My natural inclinations showed early. I walked on time but towards the later end of normal...about 15 months. I was talking very early and in a more complex manner than a typical youngin'. This makes total sense to adult me...why walk to get a snack when you could tell someone else to get it? At one point, a bit later down the road, my mother noticed I never ran. She thought this odd since most kids enjoy scampering about so she grabbed my little hand and ran me around an empty room in our house. She says I laughed. I'm pretty sure I thought she was completely nuts.

Fast-forward to P.S. 24, my school from first through third grade. The gym teacher must have been a former Army guy...I recall having to line ourselves up grid-like before class with a barked "Line Up" order and little arms pointed to letters and numbers on the wall to find our spot. Next was "Attention" and we stood straight, arms at the side. Then "Adise"...in retrospect, I suppose "At Ease" was the actual order...but it will always be "Adise" in my mind. Anyway, one day three of us were taken into a hall at the side of the gym. We got a special little lesson. I was always in advanced classes (or, at that age, advanced reading groups), but apparently I needed Remedial Skipping.

Junior High. An awkward teen who hated Gym. I excelled at the sit-ups portion of the annual Presidential Fitness test but I dreaded the mile (and the sit-and-stretch but there' s less of a story there, unless you are my PT). I was a trim kid at the time, but not at all athletic and my lungs were especially out-of-shape given years of allergies alongside the sedentary style. One year I made it through the mile but couldn't get my breath after. I was sent to the nurse, where I sat with a boy who lamented his pack-a-day habit and assumed I smoked too...a silly assumption if he'd been thinking straight and seen the type of girl before him. My mom was summoned, I was rushed to a doc, given an injection, and permanently excused from running for the rest of my school career.

I ventured to the gym a few times in college. I thought a mile or two on the treadmill was a huge deal. Junior and Senior year I did some aerobic videotapes. But really, I was still sedentary...and eating a lot of dessert and fries b/c I wanted to lengthen the social experience of the dining hall. It was in law school that I started going to the gym regularly. At first, it was peer pressure of sorts...I wanted to be friends with my suite-mates and they were going to the gym so I followed. Over time, it grew in importance and I went alone too. I liked the sense of accomplishment...especially since there's little feedback in law school (grades tend to be solely based on the final exam) and I've always needed some form of kudos. I kept the habit up after graduation and my Atlanta days included adding in weight training and a love affair with the Stepmill which made me drip sweat and felt superior to all other machines.

In Boston, I turned to the treadmill. It was initially a matter of convenience (there was one in the building) but I fell for the numeric feedback it provided and pnline running logs added to my drive. The numbers, the quantitative feedback of the treadmill's readout, spelled accomplishment. I wanted to get to a certain number of miles a week and, as I do elsewhere in life, I wanted to get it going strong at the start of the week so I started "long run" Sundays (still treadmill...often in front of a food critic show). And eventually I ran a half-marathon. I didn't tell anyone before doing it because I didn't know if I'd go...or if I'd finish. But I did...my quantitative side was annoyed at the 2:01:57 time (I coulda shaved 2 minutes!!), but I did it. I would NOT recommend making a half your first race, especially if you've never run outside before and it is a hilly course and 90+ degrees. But I thought of my past as I neared the finish and there were tears mixed with the sweat.

There are hazards to this late-in-life move to athleticism...and I don't quite feel right with the label athlete, 'gym-rat" feels more apt. I think there's a base in the bodies of people who moved as kids that you can't recreate. I've had every injury in the book...shin splints, a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis (still there), ITBS, achilles tendinitis. Ironically, the injury that may have knocked me out of running for good is an annular tear...a back injury completely unrelated to running that's got me down to a mid-paced walk (and made even that tough),.

So, there are warnings in my story. I didn't always take the smartest approach and probably ratcheted up too quickly at times. But I think I can be a positive lesson too. If the girl in remedial skipping can finish a half marathon, I think pretty much anyone can find a path to fitness.

(edited to add a quick additional tale: Senior year of HS, I had softball for two gym terms and programming class on non-gym days. I had an unspoken agreement with the cute boy (way out of my league) that I sat next to in programming. He caught any balls that came near me and I "helped" with his programs (okay, wrote them)).

1 comment:

Irish Goober said...

We are long-lost twins, aren't we? I *dreaded* the required mile-run every year. But never figured out how to get out of it. I complained of hip pain running the 100-yard dash in 5th grade, I remember going to the doctor (and him saying nothing was wrong...) I'm as un-athletic as it comes. And I flunked out of C25K.

Congrats on the half!