Put Your Head Down and Focus

As anyone who has read this blog for more than a minute knows, I’m no athlete.  Field day was my least favorite day in the school calendar year; I was a scholar and a musician.  I got my geek on and enjoyed it, all the way through school.  It’s why I became a teacher, I loved school so much.  When I think of most of my favorite people in my life, outside of my family (not that all of them count amongst my favorites….), most of them I either met while I was in school or were involved with school somehow.  Well, except Rick Springfield, but otherwise the statement stands.  It’s no accident that most of my husband’s family are teachers; I immediately felt a kinship with all of them.

In fact, I was so nonathletic that when I wanted to become involved with the track team in high school, the only option available to me was the manager role.  Coach Tymrak (hey, didn’t I mention him in my last post?) was polite and all, but me and my short legs just weren’t going to be an asset to his team. In fact, I ended up bailing on the position because it made me just so damn uncomfortable to be around all of those people in such amazing shape (again, see my last post regarding my insane ability to compare myself to EVERYONE and not in a good way).  My favorite quote of all about running came from the 1980s flick “Real Genius” and went like this:  Q:  “Do you run?”  A:  “Only when chased.”

But listen…my inner high school athlete wanna be is kind of cheering these days, because guess what?  I’m a runner.

I’ve been attempting to run since last September.  I started off slowly with the Couch to 5K program.  I was religious.  I was diligent.  I told all of my friends so I couldn’t be let off the hook.  When one asked me how far I could run, three weeks into the program, I sheepishly answered…”Um, about three minutes.”  Because honestly, the program builds you up so slowly that that was the furthest I’d gone without stopping at that point.  And I was proud of it, because I’d never been able to run before, in my life.

I kept going.  I finished the program in November and ran my first race.  This was the critical juncture, because I knew that lots of people just fall off the grid at this point.  They finish, they do the race, they’re done.  They don’t know what to do next.  How to proceed.  How to keep progressing.  But I told myself that wouldn’t be me.  I signed up for another race to keep me in the training loop.  And then another.

I’m not going to lie.  The three races all kind of sucked.  It was hard.  It was still really hard, even after I’d done two of them.  Wasn’t it supposed to be easier?  When was I going to hit that easy groove people tell you about, and get that runner’s high?

I decided to start a new program.  Bridge to 10K.  I never had any real desire to run 6.2 miles, and certainly not in front of Other People and all, but what the hell.  The program would keep me going and force me not to stop.   The six week program ends when you can run an hour straight.  A freaking hour.  Sixty whole minutes.  That’s insanity, right?

Today, I did it.  I ran for 60 minutes without stopping.

There’s a moment that happens for me, in these long runs, usually somewhere just before the halfway point, where I want to give up.  It’s hard, too hard, and I want to let go.  I want to walk.  I want my heart to stop racing.  I want to stop sweating.  But somehow, I force myself to slow down, lose myself in the music piping through my earbuds, and carry on.  And always, always, in a few minutes, things seem easier.  And before too long, there’s only ten more minutes, or five, or two, and I know I’m going to make it.  I’m going to have run sixty minutes, over five miles.  And that knowledge is amazing, liberating, enlightening.  Running is just like every hard thing I’ve ever done.  It’s awful, it’s difficult, it’s something you think you can’t handle.  But you put your head down and focus, and you do it.  You get through it.  And you’re better for it.

So, look at that.  I’m a runner.  Take that, Coach Tymrak.

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