Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Joys of Running: A Potential Prelude

Born to run?
For a long time, I had this fantasy of doing a triathlon someday. The idea is attractive because - aside from being a really great 'I did it!" moment - it would provide a goal to direct my rather hit and run relationship with fitness. I've tried lots of things to keep active and stay in shape, but I find I get bored pretty easily and need to move on often. Martial arts was the one exception, but it required a commitment that my work schedule (and now work commute) makes difficult.

Admittedly, another reason is that a triathlon seems tantalizingly within my reach. I've been biking for years, so that part's easy. While swimming in fresh water is more demanding than salt water, I've done enough of the latter to reasonably believe I could squeeze out a mile or half mile without tons of training. The only question mark is the running; I never, ever jog. Further, when I observe joggers braving winter from the warmth of my car, I think: "Crazy!!!" This is northern Illinois, after all.

However, many of my friends do 5K runs and all other kinds of runs. Their dedication made me think there must be some fun in it. This, along with the lure of the triathlon calling to me like a distant song of glory (or perhaps beguiling me like a siren song), finally got to me. As often happens, one day I just made up my mind: I'm doing this. When I make up my mind like that, obstacles cease to exist. Starting in winter? Who cares, I can bundle up. The fact I haven't even done treadmill running in over a year? I'll tough it out. When would I fit this in? I'll figure out the details later.

And so three days before Christmas, armed with a 'Couch to 5K' program and a half certainty I was going to hate the whole thing anyway, I went on my first run. My planned course was .8 of a mile, way below Couch to 5K standards. I also planned to use a run-walk-run approach so I could ease into it. Modest goals for sure. 

Sure enough, it was awful! My run-walk-run strategy turned into walk-run-long ass walk-run-walk. Meanwhile, in a delightful jab from Fate, it started to drizzle while I was running. I finished my .8 mile run in a far-from-Olympian 13 minutes. As I unheroically hurled my panting carcass through the imaginary tape at the finish line, my shins were burning, my feet hurt, I was winded, I was cold, and it was impossible to not think: "I'm an out-of-shape old fart". In other words, it wasn't fun in any way, shape, or form. 

But I had made up my mind. So I just didn't think about any of this and went on with my day as if nothing had happened. Two days later - still willing myself to ignore my first run - I forced myself to do a second one. Same course, but the results were much different. I still couldn't run the whole thing, but I was notably less winded. The amount of time I ran as opposed to walked was close to two-thirds of the course (an improvement, I'm embarrassed to admit). I didn't ache either (that day, 24 hours later my right thigh is stiff). Progress!

Am I looking forward to my third run tomorrow? No. But I'll be out there, knowing some driver will pass by me and think: "Crazy!!!

Let's see where this goes!

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