6 weeks ago, I started running. And since I’ve never shown any interest in running before, unless it was to a buffet or an open bar, you might be asking WHY??? Why would I decide to do something so out of character, so difficult, so UNLIKE ME?? Well..
A year ago I ran my first and only 5K. I didn’t train for it. I didn’t even know I’d be running until the morning of the race. I’d simply gone to my daughter’s school to pick up her packet and found myself inexplicably signing up to run. Maybe it was the party-like atmosphere? The smiling faces? The MUSIC? Who knows. But it happened. An hour later I found myself stationed at the starting line beside my husband, who’d similarly shown up as a supporter but signed up on the fly. And when I say on the fly, I mean it. John wasn’t wearing spandex or workout shorts. He had on WORK pants. As in KHAKIS. Trust me, people notice when a grown man wearing cargo pants is running a 5K. Regardless, 33 minutes later, we crossed the finish line.
Look at those smiling faces. I now know why people run. TO GET HIGH. Running is a socially acceptable (and encouraged!) way of getting your swerve on, naturally. The problem for me? The afterglow. As in the Next Day. I’m not joking when I say that for 3 days after my first and only 5K, I couldn’t walk. I hobbled, shifting my weight from side to side, moaning like Frankenstein’s monster. My spontaneous 5K turned out to be torture with free root beer. HELL ON LEGS.
So why in the freaking world would I ever consider running again?! Plain and simple. Friendship. I am a sucker for my friends. So when my beloved skating sisters started signing up for the Dynamic Dirt Challenge months ago, my legs started to ache. Because I knew it was only a matter of time.
The Dirt Challenge, unlike a standard 5K, is a hardcore 4+ mile obstacle race designed to challenge your all-around strength, stamina, and mental grit. Think of it as running PLUS a whole lot more. Of course I initially said NO. But DISHY! my friends cried, it’s SO MUCH FUN. It’s not hard! We want you with us! And because I love my friends, and love being with them, I finally said okay. Two months ago, I signed up for the Dirt Challenge. Team DERBY LITE is now 20+ members strong and because I know what to expect (at least in theory) from this not-for-wusses race, I made the executive decision not to do something dumb, like try it untrained.
So, 6 weeks ago, I started running. Not daily, but every other day, with long walks in between. As I am not a runner, I knew I would need support. For a few bucks I bought a “Couch to 5K” app. I get thrice-weekly prompts to run, a (fairly) do-able training program, and encouragements such as “Hey, Awesome Runner, Enjoy Your Run Today!”
Never in my life have I thought, “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to go for a run today?!” Never. Even with this app, running to me is NOT fun. It’s grueling. Each run, I count down the minutes like a worker at the end of a shift. How much longer.. how much longer…??! I gauge distances by songs, or playlists, anticipating when the chirpy voice will break in to remind me “Halfway there!” or “You’re worth it!” I grudgingly keep going, knowing it can’t be THAT much longer. Except what started as 2 minute runs have morphed into 10 minutes, and tomorrow, FIFTEEN. I realize that if you can run for hours straight, 15 minutes is nothing, but for a reluctant runner like me, it’s so LONG.
My husband assures me, “If you are running, then you *are* a runner.” My derby sisters remind me, “If you’re moving, you’re PERFECT!” And I’ve read that running is a “front loaded” sport, meaning the hardest work is in the initial weeks, keeping on, keeping on. 6 weeks of training under my feet; 2 more to go. I’ve logged hours of trail, run up and down hills, leapt tree roots, and dodged bushes. I’ve fallen and I’ve gotten back up. I have sweated and slogged until my glasses have grown foggy. I’ve endured the agony of shin splints, strained knees, sore ankles, and burning lungs, and put much of that behind me. I started training in the snow, and by the end of this month, I will end it in the dirt. Thankfully, I’ll have my friends by my side. Wish us luck!