This year, I’ve started running. I do a triathlon with my sisters every year, and this year it requires that I run 3.54 miles in a timely manner. But here’s the thing. I don’t like running, specifically, the difficulty in building up muscle and gaining strength. And the pain. And the feeling of wheezing in cold air when it feels like my lungs collapsed 5 minutes ago.
There are all sorts of people out there who rave about the “runner’s high,” and the joy and serenity they get from running into the sunset, spreading their arms out, and closing their eyes as they breathe deeply in the fresh mountain air, the golden glow of the sun highlighting their photogenic running silhouette. Not me. I just hit the wall, over and over and over. And jog like a grandma, while my face gets all sweaty and red and I try really hard not to cry tears of agony. My breathing sounds like a mix between a whistle and a freight train as I breathe in cold, damp air that smells like the creek. It’s cloudy, so I’m not even photogenically silhouetted by the sunset.
So why should I keep doing it? Keep hitting (more like slamming into) the wall when I really want to quit and go home?
I’ve started rollerblading, too. It requires balance, agility, and general determination. And high-quality kneepads. “It’s just like ice skating,” I’ve heard. Well. I can’t ice skate. And I’m not wearing huge snow pants and a giant fluffy coat.
It’s hard to keep my balance, push off, and stop without running into someone or faceplanting. It hurts to fall, even onto the cushioned kneepads and wrist braces. It’s frustrating to be sailing along smoothly one second, exuberantly belting out “Alexander Hamilton,” then flailing like a windmill the next as I desperately try to avoid the pebbles that menacingly dot the pavement, slamming my foot painfully into the icy hard ground. It’s a good thing I can balance well and have quick reflexes. If I couldn’t, I envision mangled knees and bruised faces. I should probably wear a helmet, except it ruins my perm. That sounds stupid to type, my head is more important than a perm. I’ll wear a helmet next time.
It hurts to fall, and I don’t like it. I want to be in control, like when I’m on my bike. I can break down the wall with a vengeance as I push up the hill, then fly down the other side with enthusiastic glee highlighting my windswept face. What’s the difference? I’d rather bike than run, rather avoid all that pain and the ugly crying that happens as I run about town hating myself for being cheap with running shoes. I forget last summer when I hated to bike. I forget all the ugly crying up hills, wincing over sore muscles after riding 5 miles, and sweat plastering my hair to my head in a sticky tangled mess.
There are all sorts of quotes about how getting back up is more important than falling, no matter what you do everything will be pie in the sky just so long as you get back up. But there’s more to it than that. There’s got to be a reason why you get up. If I didn’t have a reason, I’d probably be laying on my back on the sidewalk pondering the shape of the clouds and how long I could stay here without getting hypothermia. Actually, I’d probably be at home, watching yet another Studio C sketch or reading a book on the couch.
At the end of the day, I run because I want to run well for my sisters. I want to run well just to say I did it. I want to run a 6-minute mile just to say I can. I want to run all the way up the hill, full speed just so I don’t have to say I walked up a hill. I want to run without feeling like I have a collapsed lung.
20 minutes after my run, I’ve forgotten my pain, my ranting and berating myself, the wheezing inhales and tornado-esque exhales. I’m proud of myself. I did it. I ran 2 miles with my sister, in 22 minutes. I ran all the way to the top of the hill. I didn’t cry. My side hurt, but I kept breathing, heck, I’m even alive. Baby steps. It’s hard learning to breathe. To walk. To run. To rollerblade.
But I’m doing it. One breath, one step, one minute, one mile, one run at a time. I’m falling, slamming into the wall, getting back up and running again. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’m going to keep falling, then getting back up. and by the end of summer, I’ll forget all the hard parts, and be able to run.
Fall, walk, run. Bring it on.