I hate to be a pushy Perdita, but after Ken showed a glimmer of interest in partaking in the Hermosa Beach Triathlon with me, I thought it would behoove both of us to get him outside for a run. I feel that the run is often the hardest part of the tri, not only because it is the last of the three events, but because it has a tendency to take more sustained bang to get through than a lecture comprised of reading the phone book backwards. So Saturday became Runday.
Ken is in far better shape than I was when I began running. We paced through a mile, and then ran/walked the next mile, before hitting up a steep hill for sprint repetitions (the whole time I wondered who this fitness buff next to me really was) before we ran/walked back two miles to the car. But watching him begin the process of being able to run three miles took me back three years, to a time when I was struggling to do the same thing.
I began running because I was bored. Upon finishing graduate school, and wrapping up the jobs I had held for the duration with a neat little bow, I found that I had absolutely nothing to do. All of my friends had jobs, so obviously, they were at work all day. All my friends also had money, so at night, they were going out to coffee or renting movies to watch with snacks they had purchased. I lacked the funds to do any of these things.
But I did have an old pair of aerobics shoes that I had used during three years of marching band, and two years of Jazzercise. At one time, they had been gray and lavender, though by that time, they were a uni-color of washed out brown. I put my beat up sneakers on, locked the door behind me, and started jogging up the sidewalk.
Approximately eight minutes later, I had stopped jogging, and walked myself home. My entire workout had taken me less than fifteen minutes. I went home, lay on the cushy, block patterned rug, and panted for air. My cat licked the sweat off my forehead, which under normal circumstances would have been revolting, but I was too pooped to notice his scratchy tongue.
An few hours later, I was bored again. Being that I was lazy as well as unemployed and out of shape, I had yet to change and shower from my first run. So I went outside and did it all again, and returned inside and wondered how anyone would subject themselves to longer periods of this torture. It was a boiling seventy degrees out there! And running made you so tired! What was the benefit?
Boredom prevailed, day after day. It occurred to me that I should walk around Lake Merced, which was a short drive from my house. Not only would I get exercise, but it would be an adventure at the same time. (Trust me – driving my car felt like an adventure at that time. That’s how bored I was. Or how bad of a driver I was. Either way.) Less than a mile into walking around the lake, I was bored again. Rather than turn around and head back to my trusty car, I willed myself to complete the lake path, which was about four miles. There had to be some task I could accomplish in a day, and this was it.
But I was booooooored, and wanting the walk to be over. So I started jogging. I literally started running because I was impatient. I wound up jogging most of the rest of the path, fueled by the though of being finished and getting to go sit in my cool house and probably do something completely unawesome, like check my MySpace account (why oh why could I not be doing something more cool with that time? Listening to the Mars Volta? Practicing my French horn? Watching Star Wars?).
For some reason, I made this a daily habit. I think I just needed to do something in a day, to prove somehow that I had a purpose. Eventually, I was able to run the whole lake, and much later, it stopped hurting so much to run. That is where the good part began. When the pain ceased, and the air slid down my lungs like water, and suddenly, my head was able to chew on every thought about every topic as if it were a juicy Portobello mushroom. There was clarity in my world of uncertainty. There was running.
So when I hear about any new runner who struggles, I want to give them that peace of mind. I want to encourage them to stick with walking or jogging until they get to a point where it no long hurts, where they do not have to suck down air like it is going out of style. There is sanctuary in the run, a birdhouse for your brain. You just have to work a little bit to get there.