I was never a great runner.
My body type isn’t made for running. I’m more of a gymnast, or a cheerleader, or a dancer. Short, muscular, you know. I have no real stamina. I also hate running. I never liked it as a kid, and I didn’t like it as an adult, either.
But when I heard people talk about it, describing the way they felt when they ran, discussing the shoes they were purchasing or the races they had signed up for, mulling over the six or seven minute miles they’d finished that morning before work . . . well, I guess it bit me. The running bug.
So for about a year, I became “a runner.” Or something like that. With the help of Trusty Trainer Paul and a running magazine, I figured out how to go from nearly passing out after running 1/4 of a mile to running a 5K and then heading to the gym and running 3 more miles just for kicks. It happened slowly over time, but it was nothing short of a miracle for someone like me whose list of excuses for not exercising (I currently haven’t worked out in over six months) includes hating changing clothes and not wanting to create more dirty laundry.
Last night, I went to bed early, exhausted after a very tiring week. I’ve been talking to a few friends lately about starting some sort of exercise regimen again, whether it be yoga, running, walking, step aerobics, or standing on my head for hours on end. All joking aside, the bottom line is that even though I am well within my ideal weight range, and most of my stats are fine, I know that I am severely out of shape. I’m flabby. I have no muscle tone. I am not flexible. When I rake leaves, I end up sore for days. When I pack up boxes and put them into the attic, I pull muscles. There’s clearly a problem. I need to get in shape. I also know I’d benefit in other ways. I’d sleep better. I’d have more energy. I’d release stress. Yada, yada, yada. Those are all benefits I could really use in my life right now considering where I work right now.
As I lay there contemplating changing my lifestyle and incorporating exercise into it again, and making time for it again somehow, I tried to remember what it felt like to work out. Not the negative stuff. Not the sweat. Not the groaning. Not the soreness. Not the stuff I hate and the reasons I give for NOT doing it. The good stuff. I was trying to motivate myself to WANT to do it again.
And out of nowhere, little tears started to slide down onto my pillow. I remembered the best I’d ever felt as an adult physically as a result of exercise, the most momentum I’d ever had as a result of pushing my body past limits I’d set for it. It was the day I’d run the only 5K I’d ever run in February 2007 in Batesville, Arkansas. I ran with the Trusty Trainer Paul. We had coffee afterwards with his wife/my friend Brandi. I still had so much energy that I decided to head to the gym and run some more, so I did. When I showed up at the gym, my old high school buddy Jennye and her mom Peggy were there running already. So I hopped on the treadmill next to them, said hi without too much chit chat since I didn’t want to interrupt their workouts, and started running, too. I ran an easy three miles at a slow, steady pace. It was one of those runs when you have your headphones on, and you’re looking at the TV so that people don’t talk to you, but you’re not really watching anything or listening to anything. You’re just zoned out and feeling the rhythm of your feet hitting the treadmill over and over and over again. There’s something, too, about running alongside someone else, especially someone you know and like. You don’t have to say anything, but you bond over the sound of your feet hitting the ground and the time you spend sweating in the same place during the same moments in time.
I didn’t know then that I wouldn’t get to see Jennye again. But knowing now what I didn’t know then, I’m grateful that the last time I saw her was the best run of my life.