Going the Distance and Winning the Race

Cooper River Bridge Run 2013I can’t really tell you why I agreed to run a 10k.  I know it happened after a few of my girlfriends had just finished doing our first mud run in Atlanta (a 5k) and we were all in pretty high spirits from that.  Prior to the mud run I had just finished the Couch to 5k program, and sometimes could run 30 minutes straight, but not all the time.  (My body does nothing consistently!)  That was huge for me.  It wasn’t long ago that running a minute and a half at one time was a major feat.  Being able to run a mile at one time took me far longer than I would like to admit.  More than a year.  Maybe close to two.  But the second timeI tried the Couch to 5k program worked.  The first time I decided it was too hard and stopped.  But the second time I did it, my friend Patsy told me that I didn’t have to do it in the nine weeks it sets out.  She said to do it as slowly as I needed to.  That took the pressure off.  If I was having problems with a week, I needed to repeat it until I could do it.  I repeated a week early on….I had trouble doing three five minute runs in one session.  That was the only week I had to repeat…..and the other weeks were much harder.  There is no accounting for it, other than I believe that progressing at running is about 75% mental!  That may be under-estimating.

So by the time I returned from Atlanta, I think I had agreed I would run this 10 k in Charleston.  Over a bridge.  I am phobic about bridges.  Yeah, I can’t explain why I agreed to this.  For some reason it sounded like it would be fun.  The only explanation I can think of, is that it is the company I was keeping.  They lead me to crazy.

In preparation, I began the Bridge to 10 k program at the first of the year (the program’s name is coincidental…the bridge is from the Couch to 5k program to a 10k program.  Still, it is fun that it fit my situation so well!  In my case it was Bridge to 10k over a Bridge.)  I never finished the program.  Especially the last month it was tough to find the time and when I did, I just wasn’t feeling great about my running.  I never thought I would not finish the distance…..I knew I could walk it….but the idea of running the whole thing started to seem less likely.  I decided I didn’t care.  And during the program I ran as many as 53 minutes straight.  Unbelievable for me!  And though my first 10k is over, I won’t put it on the shelf.  I will still use that program to help me progress.  I plan to finish it.

So last weekend, it was time to run the Cooper River Bridge.  I didn’t run it all, but that is OK.  I ran a lot of it.  The crowds intimidated me.  They also interested me….my ADD mind was in overdrive as it tried to process all of the people around me.  There were bands along the route that I passed in a blur.  It was odd…you could only hear them for a few minutes as you passed by.  It was almost like you were fast forwarding a video tape.  There were crazy costumes and interesting people to see.  Some people kept re-appearing.  You would pass them, they would pass you, then you would pass them again.

Then, about 4.5 miles in, my ankle started hurting.  I rarely get injured, so this annoyed me beyond reason.  I don’t appreciate it when my body betrays me…especially for no reason (I didn’t trip, turn it or otherwise do anything that would seem to make it happen.)  I hobbled for a while, but then tried to run again. It didn’t hurt any worse, so I was able to run to the finish line.  It helped that at the last part of the race there were people cheering, cameras that would forever capture my image if I were walking, and the hope of the finish line.

I am rather confident at this point that I will never love running.  As I talk to people who run a lot, though, I find I am in the majority.  That gives me hope that love it or not, I can keep doing it!  My friend Joanie tells me she feels the same way….and she has done a half marathon, is training for her second, and appears to do it all effortlessly in comparison to me.  We were in conversation at breakfast when in Charleston last weekend and talked to a couple who also run.  They said the same thing. They don’t love running either.  But the guy said he tracked his running and was surprised when the program told him he had run every week for 52 weeks straight.  Even on vacation….though when he thought about it he realized that all their vacations had been planned around a run.  That’s what happens.  It sneaks up on you and you don’t even realizing what you have accomplished until you start to think about how far you have come.  We all concluded is we all love the feeling of accomplishment when we have done it…particularly because it requires we conquer the hate and our mind telling us to stop  That is why we continue to run.

I’ve tried to describe what goes on in my mind to people and there are a couple of different dialogues, depending on the day.  Such as “I can’t do this today.  Really…..I don’t think I can even do a mile.  I have to do a mile!  OK….that is what I am going to try to do.  Just one mile.  After that I can turn around and walk home.  So OK.  I’ll do it.  No, I can’t do it.  I really hate this.  Shouldn’t I have begun liking this by now? I may not even be able to do a mile.”  Or “I can’t do this today.  My breathing isn’t right.  Why is it so loud?  Is there something wrong with me?  Maybe I should go see Judy (my nurse practitioner) and have her check me out.  Maybe I should just walk.  No….I am going to run just a bit more and see if it levels out.”  Or “I can’t do this.  I am not a runner.  Stop it….you are a liar.  You are running.  You are a runner.   No, I’m not.  It seems easy for everyone else.  It’s not easy for me.  It’s not natural.  I am not a runner.  I can walk.  I am a good walker.  Just not a runner.  Stop it….you are a liar.  You are running.  You are a runner.” 

When I look at it logically, I know the truth.  I run, so I am a runner.  I will probably never be fast.  My time for the bridge run was 1:23:38.  Nothing to write home about.  But still…for me it’s not bad.  I went from the start to the finish line.  While I did walk some, that actually added to the experience.  I was able to look around me and see some of the fun characters that were also running (though I missed the guy running in just Speedo running “shorts” and shoes that Joanie got to see pass by her.)   I was able to see the beautiful views from the bridge…and the bridge is so big it didn’t scare me in the least to go over it.  Plus I was able to keep going though I felt pain in my ankle with every step (let me point out that I knew it wasn’t a bad injury and I knew it was OK to keep going….I do listen to my body and think that is the most important thing to learn to do for any activity!)

31,449 people finished the Bridge Run this year.  One of those was me!  What was significant to me was not that I finished….I knew I could walk 6.2 miles.  What was significant to me was that I ran a good part of the way.  Slowly, carefully, a bit too tentatively, I think.  I know I could do it faster and run more than I did, but it really doesn’t matter.  I enjoyed the experience and didn’t spend that time sitting on the couch.  That is why I believe I won.  While I am never quite sure how I get myself into doing these things, I am glad I do.  It’s a definite celebration of life and health and a bonding with humanity.  I can do it.  So can you.   Set a goal, and give it a try.  It doesn’t have to be a run.  Try something you don’t think you can do and then keep at it.  You will surprise yourself and learn some great life lessons.  And add a great chapter to the book of your life.

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