Love, Grow, & Overflow

My cup overflows. My laundry does too.

Tag: running

One Foot in Front of the Other

My 5K was a week and a half ago.

I was not ready.  I went anyway.

Originally, I enlisted a running buddy and we developed a pretty straightforward plan: do an eight week training program, run the race at the end of it.  Unfortunately, due to several different factors including crutches, crises and unexpected out-of-town trips, neither of us was prepared to run.  It was important to us to still complete the 5K, since we were participating long-distance in a tribute 5K in memory of our friends’ daughter, so my running buddy became my walking buddy.

Other than the Komen Race for the Cure several years ago, in which I bobbed down city streets in a river of thousands of pink-clad casual walkers, I’ve never participated in a 5K before.  There were a few hundred participants in this one, and most of them were runners showing off lots of thigh muscle in die-hard runner clothing, fancy smartphone armbands around their biceps.  And then there was me, wearing my race shirt (apparently most people don’t wear their race shirts to the race – who knew?) and baggy shorts.  However, I’m pretty sure that once I pinned my race number onto the front, no one could tell the difference.

In addition to the awesomeness of an official bib number, the race started with a pistol shot in the air.  (At least it sounded like a pistol.  I was pretty far back in the crowd because I didn’t want to get trampled by the real runners, so I didn’t actually see it.  But it’s nice to hear a gunshot in an urban area without feeling the need to duck and cover.)  And there were real tables of people handing out water along the way, with empty cups scattered across the grass by the runners who were so dedicated that they did not have time to use the trash can.  Hard core.  And there was a nice person clocking us at the end of the first mile, which was amusing – nothing like official proof that you are not very fast.

We weren’t running, but we clipped along at a pretty good walking speed for most of the race, close to the front of the non-runner crowd.  The race was two big loops around an urban park, which meant that halfway through, we got to watch people who were twice as fast as us cross the finish line.  A few hundred feet into the second loop, we noticed that one of the police cars on race patrol was coasting at our heels.  Apparently, most of the walkers had stopped after the first loop instead of doing the full 5K, and we were the last people in the race.  The very…. last…. people.

Well… we may be newbies to this 5K thing, but we were certainly not about to be last-place newbies.  So we started running.  We ran past several people.  We speed-walked past several more.  And then we saw the orange cones marking the finish lines, and we ran the rest of the way.  I’m sure it was humorous to the people at the line to see us almost-last-place folk carrying on like champions, cheering as we ran across, grasping each others’ hand victoriously in the air.

We felt honored to complete the race in celebration of the life of Samantha, and in support of our friends who will race this coming weekend.  Still, I expected the 5K to feel a little disappointing and anti-climactic.  After all, we’d failed to reach our goals.  Instead, I found it inspiring and fun.  I still don’t understand how people can get addicted to running, but I can see myself doing more 5Ks – and running all the way.

Training Wheels

Photo by rskoon

Today’s run was hard.

First, I psyched myself out.  The training for today called for running two shorter intervals and two intervals that were twice as long as I’d run previously (three minutes – not very long at all, unless you happen to be a non-runner starting a running program).  Also, on the advice of a more experienced runner, I decided to run outside today.  I really struggled with pacing.  Without the crutch of a mechanically-set treadmill, my body naturally matched the fast-paced tempo of my music. After my first short run interval, I was already feeling winded, so by the time I got to the first “long” run I really struggled.

I ran straight in one direction, crossed the street halfway through and came back on the other side of the street.  I’ve never quit a training session on the treadmill, but there is comfort in knowing that if I had to, I could.  As the blocks passed, I realized that if I collapsed into a puddle of quivering sweat in the middle of my run, it would be a long crawl home.  On the plus side, the second half of my session was easier since I was physically coming closer and closer to the finish.

At one point during a running interval, I approached a corner at the same time as a little blonde girl on a bike.  She was on the sidewalk and her dad was riding next to her in the street.   I slowed down and jogged in place to let her pass (which, by the way, seems a very runner-like thing to do, but I couldn’t really think about that because I was busy willing my legs to keep moving).  Instead of passing, she stopped directly in my path, put her foot down and gave me an open-mouthed smile, her tongue pressing at the back of her top teeth.  Her dad laughed apologetically as I circled around her and kept going.

After I’d passed them, it all clicked –the absence of training wheels, her dad trailing along, the back-and-forth shimmy of the handlebars as she stopped.  This is a kid who had just learned to ride.  She has worked and wobbled and now, she is a bike rider.

I’m realizing I need to draw a distinction between what I have done and what I am able to do.  I got intimidated by the fact that this run was twice as long as I’d previously run, but I was capable of running it.  It was double my previous accomplishments, but it wasn’t  double my capabilities.  My life is not static like a dusty record board etched with names on a gym wall.  In slow, small ways, my abilities increase.

She rides a bike.
And I run.

Starting Somewhere

Photo by Sasha Wolf

I’m running a 5K.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened.  Those of you who’ve known me awhile know that my lack of athleticism borders on legendary.  But a couple friends have mentioned 5K training programs for non-runners, and it piqued my curiosity.  I downloaded an app to check it out, mentioned it to my husband, and recruited my pal to be my running buddy all before I was really sure I wanted to do it.  I’ve never even considered running a 5K before, but here I am.  (I plan to share more about the inspiration for my run in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.)

So… I am 5K training.  I’ve been going to the Y for several months now, but mostly, I do brisk walking on the treadmill.  (I tried an aqua fitness class which could be a blog post in itself – apparently aqua fitness classes appeal to very quirky people, and the fact that I am one of them is not lost on me.)  I love the treadmill, actually, but it feels pretty pointless.  Sometimes, I try to switch it up a little, so I put on Melissa Ethridge’s “I Run for Life” and begun to run.  It is a very dramatic and purposeful and stirring song, and I run very dramatically and purposefully until two minutes in, when I sputter to a walking pace, out of breath. The thought of running an entire capital K seems impossible right now, let alone 5 of them.

I am using a program called Couch to 5K, in nifty app form.  The first workout was hard, but not too hard.  And the next two workouts were just a little less hard.  I’m looking forward to getting in shape, and I’ve already convinced myself that I can see runner’s muscle in my calves and thighs.  But mostly, I am sold on all the perks of 5K training.  The program recommends three work days a week with rest days in between.  Those days when I don’t go to the gym aren’t lazy days anymore.  They are rest days.  I have to make sure my body recovers in between workouts.  It’s very athletic of me, you see.  And I only jog for a short time before going back to walking – not because I’m out-of-shape, but because I am interval-training.

This morning, I went to the Y at 7:30am.  At 7:30am, all the work people are off to work, but the casual-workout folks aren’t out of bed yet, so it’s just me and a bunch of buff old guys.  I walked in and thought to myself, “Hello, old guys.  How are you feeling this morning? I am feeling buff with all this training and athleticism.”  I hopped on my treadmill and did very well until the last run interval, when the plastic book-holder that someone had left on my treadmill clattered to the floor.  I thought one of them might shout “Imposter!” and recognize me as the clutzy gal who made a fool of herself a few months ago, but instead a nice gentleman picked it up and handed it back to me.  I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just held it awkwardly while I finished my run.  But, I finished.

All sixty seconds of it.

Gotta start somewhere, right?

Running

I sometimes dream of running away. Here’s what I have so far: I find myself stressed out and overwhelmed, so I fling open the front door and take off at lightning pace. After about twenty feet, the details get all fuzzy. It isn’t the most well-thought-out dream, I admit. And, really, my endurance for running is only about two minutes long. But still, running away is one of my favorite dreams.

Truth is, I don’t really like running. I have bad knees, foot issues, and I hate the way my throat gets all dry. So I’ve surprised myself with my affinity for the treadmill.  Before I was a parent, hopping on a treadmill was a boring alternative to going outside in winter (and if there’s one thing I dislike more than running, it’s outdoor winter activities). But not anymore.

Now, it’s so appealing that I feel a little guilty when I head out the door and go to the Y.  I finish entire thoughts. (I forgot I had entire thoughts.) My heart rate rises for good reasons. The loud crashing sounds are infrequent and are not my responsibility anyway. Everyone cleans up after themselves – usually, quietly. They wait their turns. They maintain appropriate personal space. No one tries to climb up my leg or pokes me in the face while shouting “Eye! Ear!” And when I decide to stay for thirty or forty-five minutes, I’m usually finished exactly thirty or forty-five minutes later. It’s very grown-up and blissful and a little miraculous.

Ultimately, I don’t think escape is what I need. I think it’s rhythm. Space. Time to pray, and search out the foggy parts of my dreams. Time to engage my heart and muscles and brain all at once and let them take off together like unleashed pups. And when I’m done, I get to come home to my three-year-old and one-year-old, freshly bathed with hair that smells like strawberries, running little circles in footie pajamas because mom is home.

And that, I realize, is the perfect ending to my dream.

A Little Bit Brave

I joined the gym.

Actually, I joined the YMCA. Besides having a contract that doesn’t involve the life of my firstborn child, it also has a fun theme song. The people there are friendly, too, which is important. I need all the grace I can get when it comes to athletics.

The first time there, I didn’t bring a lock. I ended up hanging my jacket on a hook near the front-desk staff. The next time, I showed up with lock in hand and went into the locker room, only to have a bunch of ten-year-olds in swimsuits grow silent and cast sidelong glances my direction. Turns out the Y has a girls’ locker room and a separate women’s locker room.

Today, after locking my possessions up in the grown-up locker room, I found a treadmill in between a runner and a very petite, toned lady who was tearing it up on the stair machine. I always want to run on treadmills, but I have a tough time staying upright when the ground is standing still. So, I put on my headphones, started playing some David Crowder, and began my brisk walk.

About twenty minutes into my walk, I was feeling great – heart rate up, muscles engaged, spirit buoyed. The music was a little quiet, so I turned it up. It still seemed quiet, so I tried to adjust my ear bud. That’s when I realized that the headphones were not plugged in all the way. The stair machine lady and the runner had been listening to my music whether they wanted to or not. I apologized. The stair machine lady complemented me on my music choices. Grace.

After the runner and the stair machine lady finished their workouts, I was still walking. My program on the treadmill ended, and I started it up again and kept going. I thought of my mom who just started college after graduating from high school forty three years ago. She’s brave, my mom. So I figured I could be a little bit brave too. And I ran. I watched myself in the mirrors on the walls, and actually I didn’t look very clunky or cow-like. If someone blurred there eyes a little, I could even pass for an actual runner.

I was graceful. I was fierce. I was brave.

After the workout, I went into the hallway and got a cup of water. My hand bumped into the tank as I raised the cup, and water spilled all over the hallway. So my fierce, brave self got to go back into the room for paper towels. And then return for more paper towels. And a third time. The others in the room were polite enough not to stare. Grace.

I am learning that it’s OK to be vulnerable and a little unsure at times. Being vulnerable means being honest, and it gives me a chance to grow braver in big and small ways. It also gives me a chance to practice grace with myself and to savor it from others. I’ve learned there is a big difference between gracefulness and grace. I don’t have a lot of gracefulness, but I am surrounded by grace.