Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Past Deadline: The End of the Beginning

Now what? As chronicled in The Perth Courier, Sept. 22/09.

The end of the beginning

I did it!

Thanks to my virtual running buddy, Heather, who got me started on this whole running thing, as well as my physical running buddy, Cindy, who I’m sure is holding herself back so her slow friend doesn’t feel hopeless, I have managed to reach the last week of the beginner running plan.

The fact I can now run for 20 minutes without stopping is quite a feat for someone who, until recently, had a personal policy against running – unless in an emergency or to escape wild boars. Or bores.

I’m still not convinced I’ll ever run much faster than I walk. Nevertheless, I am amazed I have come this far. I have probably run more in the last 10 weeks than I have in the last 20 years.
A few people have asked about goals: a 5-kilometre race? The Glen Tay Block Race? To Forrest Gump it across the country?

When I first joined what I affectionately call the Cult of Running, I could imagine these things. Then the aches and pains set in, however, so I focused on a more manageable goal: survival. Learning how to run reminds me a little of raising a small child. Just when you think you’ve got a nice routine going, something changes.

In the early weeks I struggled with Small Angry Muscle, which was a pesky little knot in my calf that, after each run, consumed my entire right leg. With some helpful tips about exercises, I worked through it. Next came Hip of Doom, which didn’t hurt when I ran but flared whenever I slowed down. Not convenient. I couldn’t walk anywhere without pain. With some new stretches I worked through it.

What next? I’m sure it’ll be a surprise.

Breathing has been problematic from the beginning. Yes, I know, breathing tends to be fairly important. I recently had the opportunity to go running with people who, well, run. I marvelled at how they could carry on conversations in iambic pentameter without gasping for breath. In fact, I’m pretty sure they didn’t even break into a sweat. They kindly assured me it will get better – that someday maybe I will be able to run and talk without sounding as if I am about to die.

That would be lovely.

I know there are things I can do to help achieve this, like sprinting or exaggerating my stride and so on, but at this very moment merely getting to the end of an outing is thrilling enough.
Such enthusiasm! Seriously, I do enjoy running. It’s challenging, though, and that’s good. With the challenges come rewards.

I feel energized and healthier. I feel as if my stupid scale needs a tune-up (such as being pitched out the window) because the numbers aren’t dropping. I’m working on the theory my saddlebags are changing to muscle.

Something I’ve definitely learned is it is a heck of a lot harder to get back into shape the longer you leave it. “Don’t ever let me get decrepit again!” I have gasped to Cindy as we run. Then she tells a story about how her almost-nine-year-old son decided to join her on a recent 20-minute run. She was sure he wouldn’t be able to go the whole way. Not only did he do it, but he sprinted at the end and was never out of breath.


Oh, to be a kid again, when running was just a regular part of getting from one place to another. And biking. And skipping. And swimming. And roller skating (that dates me!).

Clearly the secret is to just never stop moving. It’s all about momentum.

Next week I’m moving on to the “Advanced” plan, which makes me laugh because I don’t feel very advanced. “Intermediate” maybe. “Beginner Plus” definitely. In that plan I should be able to run 30 minutes non-stop three times per week after a couple of months. That is my goal.

And if I get to the point that I’m not gasping for breath all the time, then maybe I’ll alter my route to take me down different, more heavily travelled streets. Right now I’m afraid people might try to take me to the hospital. The poor gasping thing….

1 comment:

Sparky said...

Love your writing as usual.