I’ve been staring at the computer monitor in my basement dungeon office for twenty minutes, half-working and half-listening to my husband teach my oldest son about triangles.
We’re on the brink of a busy weekend, but this morning we’re all cozy and all home, drinking dirty chai lattes (two shots of espresso, of course) that I picked up from our favorite cruise-thru coffee shop on my way home from the gym. My back muscles are achy in the good way that usually means you did something different and you worked super hard. And not worked super hard today, but worked super hard yesterday, or the day before even.
I’ve been running.
Running — in addition to hoofing it on the elliptical, weight lifting, spinning, yoga, Pilates, and all the other things I do that are waaay more comfortable and waaay more natural for me, and don’t actually make me bleed on my feet or between my boobs where my sports bra rubs me wrong. (Not bleeding has been high on my workout checklist for a decade or so.)
But now I’m a runner. And I figure I might even be a real runner because along with a blood-stained bra and a really bouncy, really high ponytail, I have an app on my phone that calculates and announces my distance and pace. (Sometimes I mute the audio because the robot-woman’s voice is so damn condescending and tries to break me by whispering that I should veer off the trail and jog right up to the counter at Dairy Queen. I’ve never done that yet, but I’ve thought about it a couple dozen times.)
So yesterday, when I got home from a 3.3 mile run (yes, the point-three does matter –a freakin’ lot), my husband asked how my workout was and I told him it was GREAT and he asked me when it was that I fell in love with running.
In love? With running? Me, over here?
I told him that I have tried to become a runner a few times throughout my life but have always quit because it was hard.
When I was eight years old, my dad and I registered to participate in a spring fun-run race in my hometown. I strapped on my lavender fanny pack and filled it up with race day essentials: chapstick, H2O, and a photo of Joey McIntyre for inspiration. Dad and I found a place in the starting-line crowd, and I bounced up and down and kicked up my knees like real runners do while waiting for the signal shot.
When we took off, I felt excitement and energy in the April air, the energy of being part of something big – something HUGE. We passed the elementary school and began the ascent up Section Street when BOOM – someone stepped across my path and tripped me. I came down hard on my knees, pebbly blacktop gouging my legs, road-rash everywhere.
I cried, of course. Dad helped me up. I limped a few blocks to my house, blood dripping down my legs onto my slouch socks and glittery L.A. Gear tennies . Mom tweezed gravel from my knees and cleaned my wounds with peroxide, then bandaged me up.
“We’ll try again next year,” Dad said, patting my shoulder.
“I’ll try again now,” I stated, heading for the front door, running fast and hard in an effort to catch the slowest runners.
I never caught them. I came in last that day, knees stinging behind bloody bandages, sucking air as I crossed the finish line, then hunching over the brown ground and wondering if I would vomit in front of a hundred people with sculpted calves and fancy heart-rate monitor watches.
I didn’t run after that. I played basketball and tennis, rode my bicycle, hiked on wooded trails, played catch with my dad and brother in the front yard. But running wasn’t for me.
You see, I’m five-foot-eleven, and what my momma (and probably your momma too) would call “big-boned.” I wasn’t built for speed or aerodynamics. On the high school track team, all the springy, slender girls adorably handed off relay batons in adorably short shorts while I stood up on the hill overlooking the track with a discus heavy in my hand and my coach hollering, “Throw that thing now! Get those big strong legs under you!”
BIG strong legs? Really? Do you say that to a seventeen-year-old? Do you say THAT?
Maybe that’s part of it too. Maybe I want to run so badly because not one person ever would actually think that I would become a runner.
Or that I’d be any good it it.
Or that I’d follow through.
Maybe I’m the one who needs convincing.
Maybe it’s been a year and a half since I gave birth and I’m jonesing to do something ridiculously hard that hurts and makes me bleed and requires gobs of focus and determination and honesty and mental toughness.
Maybe I want to be part of something huge.
Maybe I drink too many caffeinated beverages and need to do something with all this buzzi-ness.
I don’t know why. I just know I’m hooked. I saw a t-shirt a few weeks ago that had a graphic of some dumbbells printed below the words I HATE YOU. I HATE THIS PLACE. SEE YOU TOMORROW.
And I will. I’ll show up tomorrow. I’ll run again.
I’ll tighten my ponytail and lace up my cross-trainers and press GO RUNNING on my app.
I’ll get these big strong legs moving beneath me.
I’ll power through with steady breath, chin up, arms pumping, stomping down all the
I DON’T RUNs
I CAN’T RUNs
that I’ve ever entertained, and for a few important minutes turn them into
I AM RUNNING.