Every year, a few of the teachers at my school who are serious runners train some of our kids to run in a local 10k run downtown. The run is in April, and they start training in January. They run three afternoons a week, with a proper warm-up and cool-down. They learn to pace themselves, they learn to breathe correctly, they learn to move their arms properly. They work very hard, and every year, there are between 20 and 30 kids between the ages of 9 and 13 who participate.
Oh, I’m not running three times a week. Nor am I planning to actually do that 10k run. Oh no, I’m far too busy for that, what with my Pilates class, my twice- or thrice-weekly sessions at the gym, and my power-walking on my off days. And my time spend lounging with my laptop. But I did commit to running every Friday with the troop.
So far, I have gone three times.
And I have thoroughly hated all three times.
I only joined because I was really starting to enjoy my running at the gym. I had always liked the machines, but in the past year or so, I’ve quite liked the breaks in my routine where I get to run. True, I’m running on the spot and in a clean, dry gym environment, but I’m still working up a bit of a sweat and having to breathe properly and feeling my heart pound. I thought, well, if I’m into this at the gym, it’s likely that I’ll be equally into it outdoors – what I consider to be real running. As well, I figured that since I seemed to be pretty much in shape already, it wouldn’t be too much of a change to pick up the pace and take it outside. Plus it would be a change in my usual routine, which is always invigorating.
The first time, I started off WAY too fast for someone who hadn’t really run since high school. I quickly exhausted myself and ended up walking a lot. All the kids passed me. All the other teachers did too. Then my thigh muscles kinda seized up – which was when I realized that actually going for a run is very, very different than anything I was already doing. In shape? Maybe – but not necessarily for running. Still, I consoled myself with the thought that I should be walking for part of the circuit, being a beginner and all. Why would I expect to be Jackie Joyner-Kersee (pretty much the only female Olympic runner that I could think of at the moment) right off the bat?
Anyway, I was sore for a couple of days, but my body actually did recover much faster than I thought it would. Score one for my previous fitness level! But session two loomed ahead.
That time, I set off more slowly. I’ll run more this time, I told myself. I’ll go slow and steady. I won’t win the race, but I will run more and I won’t be last this time.
Well, sort-of. I did run more than I had the first time, but I still walked a good three quarters of the route. All the kids passed me again. But this time, I came in ahead of one other teacher. He probably felt sorry for me and decided to encourage me by not passing me. The good thing that day was that my body didn’t hurt at all afterwards. It seemed to have adjusted to my new activity quite well.
Session three was today. In the pouring rain. Oh, yay. I came in last once again. But I did run, albeit slowly, for about a third of the circuit. I would have run more, but there was this boy who wanted to tell me all about his upcoming speech in class about the snakehead fish. He explained snakehead fish quite eloquently, and was obviously extremely interested in them, so supportive teacher that I am, I listened carefully and made comments and asked questions when appropriate. While we walked. All the other kids passed us. All the other teachers passed us. Then, with the school in sight, the kid took off, leaving me in his dust – or puddle, I should say. Did I mention it was pouring rain throughout all this?
As I jogged into the school parking lot, soaked hair dripping into my face and down my neck, sodden runners squeaking with every step, a thought occurred to me: I actually don’t like to run. I don’t look forward to it, I don’t find it exhilarating or fun while I’m doing it, I don’t even feel satisfied with myself when it’s over. Runner’s high? I don’t think so! So why the hell am I doing this?!?
I don’t know. It might be because it’s a challenge I’ve set myself. It might be because I actually can see some progress in the three weeks I’ve run so far. Also, it’s a point of pride with me that I very rarely back out of commitments, and I committed to run every Friday.
So I’ll be back out there next Friday after school. I’ll be easy to spot: I’ll be the miserable-looking woman in the purple Lululemon hoodie, either trotting slowly or walking along, far behind a group of kids and three or four other adults.