There are a lot of things I don’t like about running. But the thing I do like about running is that it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure story. You can run around the block, jog a few miles, sprint a hundred yards. You can train for a race or log miles in the name of maintaining fitness.
My adventure with running started about a year and a half ago, and I wrote briefly about it here. I started training for a 5K while also rowing 3-4 times a week, and I got into shape fast. In the summer of 2010 I ran a four-mile race and two 5Ks was content with my times.
Then school started, and I was faced with the choice of running or sleeping. The latter won out. The spring of my senior year was tough, and I was relying on calories for both comfort and energy. Coming down with mono in the last weeks of school meant that my first month after graduation was spent sleeping, eating, watching Say Yes to the Dress marathons, and crying when these three things exhausted me. Starting an office job zapped any tenacious remnants of fitness that had been doggedly clinging to my body.
One night I poured out my frustration to Clark, saying I wanted to be at a fitness level that would allow us to be active and adventurous together. At his suggestion, we signed up for events at the Kansas City marathon—the half for him and the 5K for me. Knowing I had the potential of disappointing someone else by not following through with training got my butt out of bed and my feet on the pavement nine times out of ten. Around the same time, my coworker got me a deal on a membership at the gym around the corner from our office. Since the beginning of August, I’ve been at the gym almost every single weekday before 7am. I’m seeing results with my appearance, but the real test came yesterday.
Even though I’d been running three miles for a couple weeks and even though I’d participated in races before, I was a bundle of nerves. “I just don’t want to disappoint myself,” I texted my mom. Because unless you’re a professional or intentionally competitive runner, once you cross the starting line it’s just you and your timing chip.
Once I started the race, my head cleared.With my special playlist blasting, I tried to focus on the run itself—not the thousands of people around me or the clock ticking at the finish line. I tried to push the pace, because I didn’t want to cross the line and feel like I’d held back. Earlier in the week I’d run three miles in thirty minutes, and I was convinced that the adrenaline, massive downhill, and flat finish would culminate in a time of thirty minutes or less.
But then the official results came in, clocking me at five minutes slower than I was hoping. Maybe I should have warmed up more. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten pizza for lunch on Friday. Maybe I should have gone for a run on Thursday rather than treat it as a rest day. Or maybe I should have gone to the gym less and hit the road more.
The best and worst part of being mad at myself is that I’m the only one who can fix it. I can quit trying and void the possibility of disappointment altogether, or I use my current disappointment to fuel the next challenge. And that’s what I like about running.