So my run yesterday turned into a death run. I had to step over a dead snake in the road, run around a very surprised looking dead squirrel, and then I heard this weird buzzing sound before realizing there was a dead doe in the ditch swarming with flies. All of this got me thinking about life and death and other deep running thoughts, and then the craziest thing happened! When I made my second pass, I realized that the squirrel was GONE! I even backed up to double check that I hadn’t just missed it. Nope. It was completely MIA. A vulture, hawk, or other bird must have swooped down and scooped it up. This led to me thinking about how fast things can change, which led to me remembering what it was like when I first started running last fall. And I’ve decided that my evolution as runner is as crazy weird/cool/disturbing/shocking as the disappearing squirrel.
Back in July and August, I had signed up for a 5k without being able to run… well… at all. I found the C25K app on my phone, put on a pair of yoga pants (that I used as pjs), my Lorax t-shirt, and my 3 year-old sneakers (with a hole by my right pinky toe – for ventilation, of course!). I remember how hard running for a whole minute was. I got super sweaty instantly and struggled to keep breathing through the whole jog. I hated it; it was hard, and it hurt! But I kept doing it. I wore those cotton yoga pants and a cotton t-shirt and beat-to-crap holy sneakers every other day while trying not to die while running. I honestly didn’t think it would ever get easier (and it usually felt like it was getting harder), but I was totally committed to finishing that 5k. I’d also have these moments, teeny-tiny moments, of the biggest, bursting pride imaginable. Every day that I went out and worked my ass off (literally) I’d accomplish the impossible. Running for 5 minutes while weighing almost 230 lbs made me feel like I was on top of the world. At least once a week, I’d end up tearing up as I ran, because I was so overcome with emotion at the realization that I was actually doing it!
As I kept going, I started reading about running, and I read that running in cotton is bad. That baffled me for quite a while :-). Now, I won’t run in cotton because of how it stays wet and heavy when I get sweaty in it. It also takes me about a mile to even start sweating (which still feels a bit unbelievable!). Looking back, I’m still amazed that I managed to run 3.2 miles without walking after just 8 weeks. It was SO hard at the beginning. I wish I could go back and tell my old self how much better it would get. I never dreamed that I’d actually be running 4, 5, and 6 miles and actually enjoying it!
My Hanson’s book has the following quote in it:
“We tell runners to start at the ridiculous, or what they think is completely beyond their capabilities, and work backward until they reach a point that is both mentally and physically manageable.” (Humphrey pg 10)
That sentence really struck a cord with me. When I signed up for the 5k, it felt ridiculous and impossible – but I did it. Last fall, I cried because I believed a sub-10 minute mile was impossible for me to ever achieve – but I’ve done it (twice!). When I signed up for this half marathon, it felt ridiculous (and sometimes it still does), but then I turn around and remember how far I’ve already come and how much I’ve accomplished. I look at the calendar and realize that it’s only been 9 months, and I’m blown away. It’s an incredibly powerful feeling to look around and realize that a) it’s actually possible to accomplish crazy hard goals, b) I CAN control my life, how I feel, and what I’m able to do, and c) none of it requires anything more than me making the choice to move forward and do what I want to do.
Somehow, my run-addled brain connected the suddenly squirrel-free road with the way my life now feels free and clear (or at least I feel like I can physically move around freely). Sometimes this journey feels never-ending and impossible, so I think it’s important to remember that I’ve already come this far because I chose to – not because I bought fancy equipment, followed a special plan, or discovered some secret magic trick. The only thing I need to do to continue on this journey is choose to – choose to run, choose a piece of fruit, choose to log my food, and choose to believe that I deserve to be whomever I want to be.