My relationship with running has been weird. I, like Peter Sagal in the fantastic book The Incomplete Book of Running, started after I got divorced as a way to get fit and spend more time outside. Unlike Peter, I never was fast and my “running” was more of what I liked to call a slog, or a slow jog. My half marathon times were around three hours, and my only full marathon took more than six to complete because I fell apart, vomited around mile 15 and never truly recovered.
That being said, I sort of loved it. I also hated it sometimes, but those things go together, right? I loved the time outside. The fresh air. I even loved doing work on the treadmill to boost my speed so I could get closer to my 10-minute mile goal. Heck, an 11-minute mile would have been good. I logged all my steps and followed my training plans to the letter. I did one full marathon, a bunch of half marathons, half a dozen triathlons, three Tough Mudders and a whole host of other smaller races—with and without mud or electrocution involved.
I was always moving at a pace slower than some people walk. When I was training for my marathon, some young men took the time to yell out the encouraging words, “you’re slow as shit” as they drove by me on mile 17. I just waved and kept running. I did a marathon relay with my dad, where the emergency ambulance and sweep team trailed me the entire way (they were all so nice). I finished dead last behind a woman who was seven months pregnant, but none of that ever really bothered me.
That is until I started getting sick. Long story short: Over a few years, I got missed diagnosed with a variety of lady problems, ulcers, gluten intolerance and a whole host of other weird things, until last year when they found a giant teratoma cyst growing inside of me and removed it. Huzzah, I finally felt human again.
But back when I first started feeling crappy all the time, I was slowly pounding out laps at the crack of dawn while other eager fitness friends lapped me. I overheard one of the coaches laugh and loudly whisper, “is she still finishing her mile warm-up?” As I plodded away around the track I could hear some pitying giggles.
That one moment took all the joy I’d ever experienced while running out of my sails. I didn’t quit then, either: I finished my laps and workout, happily doing the short sprints (which I like to think I’m better at) and jogging up steps, but that moment haunted my mind for a long time. Every time I went to put on sneakers, I thought, what’s the point? I felt physically awful most of the time anyway; why was I torturing myself? After a neck injury, that attitude overflowed into all the other types of exercise I used to love, too.
Flash forward a few years, and I’ve gained back any weight I lost during my “running” days (and probably then some), but I’m finally not sick and throwing up all the time! For the last 8 months or so I’ve been happily rediscovering my love of working out. Because of my weight, I was told not to run. Instead, I’ve been throwing things at the walls,lifting things and walking on the elliptical. Then I read Peter Sagal’s book and I really, really missed running. And then I got a personal note from him (thanks to my amazing friend Micki) and it made me even more motivated.
So, I got some new running shoes, redownloaded the Couch to 5K app (which I highly recommend) and did some short bursts of “slogging” at the gym. It feels like I’m reliving day 1 over and over again, and might be for a while. I want to be happy and know I’m not going to injure myself before I move on, but even running for a minute at a time brings a smile to my face. I hum the mantra I adopted long ago after a brief meeting with running and walking aficionado Jeff Galloway. I told him I was slow, and he chastised me, saying that was nothing but a four letter word. So if you see me jogging and talking to myself, I’m muttering, “slow is a four letter word.”
While I may never be ready to do another marathon, or half, or hell, even a 5K, I’ve finally been able to make peace with the voice in my brain asking, “is she still finishing that mile?” The answer is yes. Yes, I am. It may take 15-20 minutes depending on the day, my feet and the hills, but I am out there running (or walking) a mile or two. And I am really, really happy about it.