Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I Run

Two years ago, I sat on my friend Sarah's couch and said "Have you heard of the Couch to 5k? I think I'd like to try that."

I was just making conversation. I never had any intention of running, anywhere, for any reason. I was 50 pounds overweight, just starting to finally fight the baby weight that came after Katie and stayed for Julia. I have never been an "athlete". I very briefly played volleyball in high school, until they figured out that I couldn't play volleyball. And I discovered I'd much rather hang out with the theater people and get stoned. You can not run and smoke doobies. Fact.

I controlled my weight in my late teens and through my twenties with a steady diet of Marlboro's and Diet Coke. Then babies and thirties hit, and hit hard, and I found myself sitting across from a lifelong exerciser and saying the most ridiculous thing I've ever said.

Imagine my shock when she called me the next week and said "What day can you run?"

The first time we ran (and I use the word loosely), it was one time around the quarter mile track at the YMCA. I lumbered around the track, red faced and sweating, sure that the pounding in my chest was an impending heart attack. I wanted to die. I wanted to cry. I was embarrassed, not only to be doing this in front of other people, but that I had let this happen to myself.

Then Sarah said something I will never forget - "You are not going to die." Really, are you sure? Because it feels like I'm going to die. "You are not going to die." Oh, bullshit. I am going to fall over dead right here and you are going to have to drag my fat ass off the track. I am either going to die because my heart is going to explode, or I am going to die of embarrassment. "You are not going to die."

I ran for the first 2 months in a heavy, cotton, long sleeved t-shirts and long black leggings, and the same pair of shoes that had been gathering dust in the closet for at least 5 years. I wanted to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. If I could, I wanted to blend into the pavement. Despite a sports bra, my boobs flew around like great heaving melons. My butt bounced. My gut...I don't even want to tell you what my gut did.

I made every excuse to not run. It was too hot. It was too cold. I had a plantars wart. I had a hangnail. I had to poop. Anything. Sarah wouldn't stop calling. She kept at me, encouraging me, bullying me, and one day - telling me we were going to run a 5k together. She was insane.

Around the third month of torture, something amazing happened. I didn't hate running. I was almost looking forward to it. My body was changing, responding to what I was doing. I had muscles under all that flab, who knew? When our race day arrived, I was excited, nervous, and in a state of disbelief that I was actually running in a race. Finishing was nothing short of euphoric.

I ran all spring. I got within sight of my pre-pregnancy weight. I started calling Sarah instead of the other way around.  I got pregnant.

What. The. Hell.

I got pregnant. I kept running. I got really pregnant. I stopped running. I had an amazing baby and the weirdest thing happened. I started running again. No one was more shocked than me. It turns out, not only do I not hate running - I like running. I LOVE running. I want to do it and talk about it and plan when my next race is. I want to run faster and longer and harder.

I have spent my life concentrating on doing things that come easy for me - planning parties, making food, eating. I don't really do hard. But running has given me something nothing else has - an immense, deep, personal satisfaction in doing something I never thought I could do. I'm never going to win a race, and it doesn't matter. What matters is that I keep moving - when it hurts, when I'd rather sit on my ass, when it's easier to say I can't.

I run because I can.

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