Today I ran a 5K. I didn’t plan to, I set out to run my usual 2.5 miles, but halfway through I was struck by how natural I felt running today; my toes sprang off the pavement in a comfortable rhythm; my mind was carried away by the pounding music in my ears. My phone announced my time to me and I had run my fastest mile ever. When I hit 2.5 miles I thought about my New Year’s resolution to run a 5K. I had intended that to mean a “real” 5K race in a crowd of people with a number on my back and a T-shirt or medal waiting for me at the finish line. And suddenly, none of those things mattered to me anymore, I was in a race with myself and I was going to win it. I glided though 3.1 miles (5K) shimmering with sweat. I was tired, but not exhausted. I kept looking at my phone to confirm that I had really done it. If I hadn’t had to get home to relieve Husband of watching the kids, I might have run even longer. It was the best run of my life and it felt amazing.
I reluctantly ran a bit in high school. I had applied to the military academies (and was accepted) as well as for ROTC scholarships so I grudgingly ran enough to pass the physical fitness test. I hated every jarring step of my feet pounding on the pavement. Dance was my passion and compared to ballet slippers running felt clumsy and forced. I also developed shin splints and I had contant joint aches (perhaps my first warning of the rheumatoid arthrtis to come). When I dropped my ROTC scholarship midway through my freshman year of college, I dropped running right along with it. With Husband’s encouragement and desire for a running partner, I tried running again before we had children. We only ran together a few times before I had to admit that no amount of love for him could make me continue. I felt self-conscious and totally inadequate running next to Husband, an actual runner, who ran cross-country in high school and college. I continued dancing along with going to the gym for exercise until I was sidelined by pre-term contractions at seven months pregnant with Older. Three years later, after Middle was born I got back into a regular exercise routine with dance based cardio barre classes, but I could never exercise as often as I wanted. So many times I saw a mother jogging down the street with her kids and thought how nice that must be to be able to exercise with the kids. But I was “not a runner”, much less a runner who could push 100 pounds of kid and stroller along with me. Then on a vacation Husband picked up the book Born to Run
at the airport. He spent hours excitedly telling me about the mechanics of “barefoot running”. I stopped him to clarify, “You are telling me that research shoes that all those fancy “air” running shoes are damaging? And that it is physiologically normal to run on your toes rather than with a heel-toe strike?” The dancer in me had always wanted to run like that. Long ago, on my high school runs, I would find myself running on my toes and then “correct” myself back to a heel-toe strike. That conversation with Husband was a revelation. I wondered, internally (too self-conscious to admit to anyone) if I might become one of those mothers with a jogging stroller. I tried a run (really walking interspersed with short bursts of running) with our stroller and didn’t hate it. In fact, it was nice.
I took a huge leap of faith and went out and bought a used double jogging stroller
. I downloaded a couch to 5K app and every so slowly, giving myself two or more weeks for each level, began to run. I ran until about halfway through my pregnancy with Baby before I was forced to stop due to the unfortunately awful sensation of her tiny head pounding on my bladder and making me feel as if I had to pee the entire time I was running. Over the past year I picked the running back up and, scared to try and fail, increased my time running at very, very slowly, never really expecting to actually make it to a 5K. Once I hit 20 minutes of running without walking, however, my fear started to evaporate and I found that I was actually starting to push myself. Then over Thanksgiving I visited my parents, jogging stroller in tow, and found just before I was to go out on a run that the stroller had a flat, so for the first time since I was eighteen I went on a run all by myself. And suddenly unburdened by the stroller, I ran at a reasonable pace. I felt what it was like to really run and I loved it. The past couple of months I’ve alternated running with the girls or just Baby with the occasional run by myself. I almost didn’t go for a run today. I was tired and achy. It was already hot out by mid morning. But I had the opportunity to run by myself and so given that that is fairly rare – I did. And I am so glad.
As I ran the last couple of tenths of a mile today, realizing that I would reach my goal, my mind lit up with the idea that I could have a new goal of running a 10K. The other part of my mind wondered “Who is this girl?” I like this girl through. I had to buy more workout clothes last week because I’ve been exercising so much that all my my clothes would still be in the laundry when I wanted to run again. What a great problem to have. Lately I’ve found myself lying in bed at night plotting how I can get a run in the next day. I’ve even mused about how I could get in two a day! There are lot aspects of my life that haven’t turned out as I envisioned. 35 years old, with greying hair, unemployed, stuffed with three kids into a two bedroom house that needs work, constantly stressed about money is not the life of my teenage dreams. But today was one of those rare and beautiful moments where something turned out better than I could have imagined. My high school self would be surprised and proud of the 5K running me.