Sometimes, when I’m lacing up my shoes, I wonder how I got into this in the first place.
Running and I ran into each other, I suppose.
The other day, I met a man here for the first time. We had each heard of each other but had never met. He looked at me and said, “Oh, you are the runner, right?”
“Right.” I replied. Right?
I don’t think I am a runner runner.
Back in the good old days of Phys. Ed. (shudder), my favourite part was Track and Field Day or, believe it or not, running laps. It is much easier to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and run faster than everyone than it is to actually hit a ball or do those darn layups. Quite frankly, we just never played enough football in gym class. Now that was a ball I could manage to throw and catch.
I remember how great it felt to pass others, to run on the inside lane, red faced and gasping, chasing those who were on the track team. I remember the gym teacher bending over me as I lay on the floor after, purple faced and white lipped, hearing “Good job.” It never occurred to me to sign up for the team.
Years later in college, I joined the Running Club which was less a club for runners and more of a club for wannabes, led by our hefty athletic director. It featured a three-day a week training schedule with people grouped by ability levels. The elite group was the group that didn’t do walking intervals. We started in those intoxicating days of fall when the crisp air outside has endorphins floating around and the leaves crunch lustily under your sneakers. We trained for a race, which sadly, was cancelled the day before.
Fast-forward past the years when I was sick and couldn’t run at all to the spring after my first son was born. After all winter on the elliptical trainer when the snow melted, I was ready to get out. I started painfully slowly, with short distances. But, as we prepared to move overseas and wrestled with how to stay healthy and in shape, running seemed like the logical option. So I bought a new pair of shoes and a jogging stroller and moved to Costa Rica. For the next year, I tolerated running. Two weeks into my training, and totally unprepared, I ran an 11K race for experience. As I climbed the hill with the mob of people on the streets of San Jose, I got this crazy idea about running a race in every country I visited, or at least in every one I live in.
I signed up for a half-marathon with my sister-in-law and over Skype, we’d swap training ideas. I bandaged my toes and stretched out my ACL and hobbled around as my playlists lengthened.
I finished the half, but not with the sub-2 hour time I wanted. I thought, maybe next time. So I kept running. People asked me if I liked running and I’d say, “I haven’t decided yet.” I wanted to say no, but decided to give it a fair chance.
I’m not good at running. I’m pretty sure I have bad form. I’m slow. I don’t breathe right. Long runs hurt me. I don’t think I’m cut out for marathon distances. But there is something about it that I keep coming back to. Somewhere along the way, it became “my” thing, my way of staying healthy, staying sane, and beyond that, something that defined me. It grew on me slowly, the way this place is slowly becoming home. So, wherever you find me, you’ll probably find me lacing up my shoes, buckling a child into the stroller and waving hello to the neighbours.