Running, A Love Story

I run. I’m a runner.

This statement would be hilarious and ridiculous to the “Jen of five years ago”. I remember playing bar league kickball. I was tagged out at first and returned to the bench. My slack-jawed teammate just stood there staring at me, and was like, “Wow, I’ve never seen anyone actually run in slow motion before.”

He wasn’t trying to be facetious either. I seriously did not run--like ever. My body could not move in that way. My legs didn’t know what to do. I could move them in something resembling running motions but it was slow and well…awkward.

Then, four years ago I met Sam, fell in love etc. etc. and was like, “Well, running will just have to be that ‘alone time’ for us, because I’ll never be a runner.”

Now if my Facebook feed is any indication there is some weird third-life crisis that hits between age 30-35 where you suddenly realize your own mortality. Everyone starts running in their 30s. That guy you used to party with? Yeah, he just did his first half. That girl who bummed you cigarettes at the bar? She just PR’d.

Maybe you’re very comfortable with your relationships, maybe you’ve had a kid or two and haven’t quite been as focused on yourself, and suddenly you don’t fit into anything…

Probably it’s just the fact that you’re getting older. Suddenly you find out that you have high blood-pressure, or high cholesterol or you have a health scare. Maybe you just feel guilty about all the fun you had in your twenties—drinking, smoking, eating junk, staying out late…

Whatever it is, there seems to be a major “get fit” trend that happens right around this “third-life-crisis” where it hits you—I’m getting old and I’d better fix this! Time is ticking! I’m never going to be this young, this good-looking, or this-healthy again.

So what do we do? We go out, we buy a Fitbit, we download a Couch-to-5k app. We break out that pair of sneakers that we bought on clearance at Shopko five years ago…and it’s kind of ugly and beautiful at the same time.

It was for me.

I wanted to run.

BUT I wanted to run in total isolation, and preferably in the dark, while wearing a sack, and putting my headphones on as loudly as I could to drown out the horrible sounds of my own gasping. I oscillated between wanting Sam to run with me (in case I died, and because I literally could NOT carry my phone in my hand and focus on running at the same time, and thought I’d miss the cue on my app to finally stop) and wanting no one to see me running ever.

Every time the app made it’s little “ping: slow down and walk” noise I would gasp out a “Thank you,” or “Please,” or creative and colorful swearwords that would make a sailor blush.

A year and a half later I can honestly say I’m a runner. I’m still not fast, and I still take breaks. I don’t think anyone would describe what I am doing as “gazelle-like” or even athletic, but I have improved quite a bit. I finished a 10k this fall and plan to do another one this year with the goal to run it straight (no walk breaks).

So, why run? What is the rationale behind trying to do something that is so hard for me, repeatedly, when I’m not that good at it?

Well, when I started out I could only run about 4.5 miles an hour. Just FYI—that’s very slow. 5.0 was pushing it. Now I’m up to 6.5 miles per hour. When I have my headphones on, and I’m keeping the beat to some good music, and I feel like I’m stomping out all of my frustrations…it’s just, cathartic. It’s kind of magical, actually.

When my best girl, Niki and I were running the 10k this fall, I was like, “Do you ever get really cold when you are running after a while? Like you get shaky or chilled and all endorphine-y?” She smiled and said, “Yeah, that’s your soul leaving your body. “

That is why I run....because it makes me aware of my soul (even if it's just because I am painfully aware of my own mortality).