Monday, January 31, 2011

The little runner who could. Or couldn't. We'll find out soon enough.

Okay. That’s 37.1 down; 413.9 to go.

Almost inexplicably, I’ve become a runner. Let me rephrase that: I'm not a “real” runner because I log nearly all my miles on a treadmill, and I’ve never run a road race, and I’ve never considered myself even remotely athletic. Ask anyone who knows me: I’m not. Not by the longest shot.

But last year, I started worrying about my health. I weighed more than I ever had without being pregnant – maybe even without being pregnant. (I never put on more than twenty pounds or so with my pregnancies, even when I was carrying twins.) I worried about my sugar and my blood pressure. This was no good and just because I was getting older, I didn’t have to get fatter, did I? If I kept going at this rate, I’d be ten pounds heavier every ten years. No thanks.

So last spring, I started a diet. I’ve been on it ever since and have lost about thirty pounds. (I can't believe I had to lose thirty pounds but I did. That's what happens when you tell yourself things like, "I just need to lose maybe 10 or 12 pounds." Except you really need to lose much, much more.) Not to say I don’t indulge once in a while in truly decadent food but much more often, I consider and am aware of what I eat.

Last spring, I also started walking on our treadmill, and then walking and running a tiny bit, and then running slowly for a little tiny bit of time and then running faster and longer. And now I’m running a 5k a few times a week in under thirty minutes.

That’s not amazing or anything – I get that - but for someone like me, it’s very nearly miraculous. Who knew? If you’re someone who has been running for twenty years, you’re thinking a combination of “this is barely worth noting,” and “what took you so long?”

You're right but even with my very delayed start, I like the energy it seems to give me. I even like challenge it still presents every single time I get started. I like that I’ve been able to pull some of my favorite clothing out of my closet, clothing that I tell myself I've been “resting” for a couple of years.

It’s never easy but it is satisfying on some level. I sometimes have a few days go by and worry that this is the beginning of the end and I won’t run another step for months. That hasn’t happened in the past eight months but still, it could. It might. It really might.

But I have few illusions about this. I don’t ever expect to run a race of any kind because that’s not what running is about for me. It’s about blood pressure and cholesterol and being grateful for the healthy body I’ve been given.

Here’s how I’ve been able to keep going. Even when I really want to quit, I break my time down into tiny bits and convince myself to stick with it. “My God, you can do anything for another two minutes, can’t you?” “Okay, another 8/10th’s of a mile. You can do 8/10th’s of a mile, right?” “You’ve run for 26 minutes. Four more? Four more? I think so….” And it seems to keep me going.

But even that gets tedious. So when the new year started, I thought about what could possibly keep me going all year. What could I track in a bigger way to keep me slogging through, week after week?

I decided to run to Toronto, on paper anyway. That means over the course of the year, I’ll need to run 450 miles. Or, since I’m nothing if not anal about numbers, that means I need to cover 37.5 miles a month. And as you could see at the start of this post, I’m not too far off my mark.

The bad news is we’ve done something that has to be almost unprecedented in our home. We’ve owned two treadmills in the past twenty-five years or so and after years of on and off use, we wore out the first one. Over the weekend, we wore out the second. It's under warranty and we're getting it fixed but who could imagine that? How often does Sears get a call to fix a treadmill, much less two calls from the same household?

So I need to get my miles in elsewhere. Not impossible but not nearly as easy as wandering into my basement a couple of nights a week. Especially when it’s a pretty miserable winter. When it’s not snowing or sleeting outside, it’s seven degrees. That’s super.

Maybe this little note to myself – and you - will help keep me on track. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll get as far as the greater Scranton area and find myself figuratively hanging around there for months on end as I lounge on the sofa. Or I’ll get in a good hundred miles, take a break, and still have 345 miles to go on November 30. For now, I’m looking at the next month, and another 37.5 miles.

Which is about 9.4 miles a week.

Or about 1.34 miles a day.

Or 2.34 miles, four times a week.

I can do that, right? For another 48 weeks or so?

I guess we’ll find out.

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