Waltz In Exile

12 April 2012, 9:42 am
Filed under: 5Ks, Family, Not at all what I expected, Running/Racing | Tags: , ,
Roundabout 2 years ago, I started a crazy (also, too, VERY LONG [and not remotely complete]) journey: to turn myself into a runner.  It absolutely made no sense. Honestly, it still makes no sense, and I’m training for my 2nd half-marathon.
It’s a complete cliche, but when I turned 40, I did a quick inventory, and thought “THIS? THIS IS IT?”   Middle-aged, stuck in middle America, and so middle-of-the-road average that I barely recognized myself?
It was not enough.  *I* was not enough.  I didn’t realize it then, but part of the problem was that all of the things I had ever enjoyed or achieved, I had been good at from the start.  (Note: this is why I do not ski. I tried it. I sucked. I took lessons. I still sucked.  I said “Hunh. Must not be my thing.” And I never went back.)
In 2010, my office sponsored a team for the Komen Race for the Cure.  I decided to try it, even though I did not believe I could actually run 3.1 miles without stopping.  I was right: I couldn’t.  But I did less walking than I had thought I would, and I was so high on myself that I went home and signed up for the next local 5K I could find.  I didn’t make it through that one without walking, either…but I was faster by almost 6 minutes.  And I was hooked.
I’m still hooked. Which is weird, because I haven’t really improved. The goats actually mock how slow I am, with exaggerated slo-mo-style running impressions of me. I truly am not very good at this sport, y’all.
And I still barely recognize myself, but it’s different now. I have tried to explain it to people, and this is the best I can do:*
It starts with race day.
Race day endocannibinoids are the gateway drug.  Next thing you know, you’ve given up sleeping in on Saturday mornings to go run “a quick 4 miles;” you stop eating junk food because it makes your next run miserable; you wonder if you can talk your kids out of cable for a few months so you can get a foot pod or a racing watch with GPS or a heart rate monitor.  One January, you join the local running club’s training group for the Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (because if a 5k finish line gets you high, HOW AWESOME WILL THIS BE?)  And then, you run even when your shins are killing you, because you consulted Dr. Google (who is also your trainer) and you think to yourself “my lower leg fascia are slow to warm up, is all.”  You’re a beginner, and you figure it’s supposed to hurt, and even though you come in last of the beginner runners every week, you don’t want to quit.  You pretty much suck at this, yet you do not want to quit.  This is simultaneously foreign to you and totally appealing: you aren’t quitting, and that. feels. amazing.
The not quitting becomes the new high.
You keep telling yourself it’ll get better and all you have to remember is to NOT QUIT.  You deliberately go out in freezing temperatures to run pothole-riddled farm roads, wearing the craziest hodgepodge of layers you can find, because you don’t have the right gear but you’re not going to let that stop you.  You go to the local sporting goods store to buy your son a new baseball mitt, and instead you find yourself in the shoe department being properly sized and analyzed, even though you can’t afford new shoes.  But when the Brannock scale measurement shows your current shoes are a full size too small, you start to wonder if the right gear matters more than you want to admit.
Next thing you know, you’re begging your friends to help you score a new pair, and writing to complete strangers to ask for new shoes so you can chase your next high.  You ought to be embarrassed, but the dignity and pride you rediscovered on those “long run” Saturdays was hard-fought, and you want to keep it.  The only way to keep it is to not quit, and the best way to not quit is to not hurt because you have the wrong shoes.
These days, you DO have the right shoes – and more than one pair. You have (thanks to birthdays and Christmases and crazygenerous friends) a lot of the right equipment: ridiculously expensive sunglasses; ponytail bands made just for runners; expensive t-shirts made just to sweat in. You own (AND WILL WEAR OUTSIDE THE HOUSE) running tights that you probably have no business putting on your 42-year-old body. You sort of LOOK like a runner (well, not when you’re actually out there RUNNING [see: THIS.]) You’re no world-class athlete, but how many of those are there, really?  Not many.
Middle-aged midwestern little league moms who want more out of life, though…..we are legion.
And I suspect that more than a few of us will be out there this weekend, running for something.  Maybe even TO something.  But not FROM. Not me. Not anymore.**
* That explanation began as a “pitch” I wrote to a certain sporting goods company (well, a friend of a friend who works for a certain sporting good company), to see whether they would be willing to send me running shoes.  No one was more surprised than I when it worked.  The only reason I’m not naming them here is because I didn’t check with them (if you really want to know who/what, shoot me an email. They’ve made a lifelong customer out of me and I will recommend them to anyone without reservation.)
**Actually, I’ll be getting my fix for a cause, this weekend.

3 Comments so far
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[…] I’m not “getting my fix” in Atlanta this weekend after […]

Pingback by OSWF*: Sair** « Waltz In Exile

Oh, thank god. Now I know where you’ve been: Outside, running.
Now, what else? What’s going on inside?

Comment by jodi

[…] And so on.  Maybe you had to be there….? Whatever, it was awesome.  Race Day Adrenaline really is the gateway drug. […]

Pingback by Hebetude (Wordless Wednesday)* « Waltz In Exile

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