Yep, I am now one of those crazy people waking up three or four days a week while it's still dark, pulling on the shoes and hitting the streets. It's an interesting world out there. I'm starting to recognize some of the same people out and about, from the real runners who intimidate me with their teeny shorts and their fast pace to the older couples out walking and holding hands. Then there's that one lady, a grandma in her 60s who power-walks, smiles at me sincerely, and calls out every time I see her, "You're doing great!" I love that woman!
I am doing great, and I am really proud of myself. Before this summer, I had never run a mile straight. In my life. No, not even when the P.E. teacher blew her whistle and announced cheerfully, "It's time for the mile run!" I just figured running was something other people did, not me.
But that's changed, in a really satisfying way. I can't say I love running. In fact, I probably can't in all honesty say I even like it. But there is something so wonderfully pleasing about the fact that I can actually see and feel the improvement.
Three months ago, I had never run a mile straight.
Two months ago, I could run a mile, but it about killed me.
Six weeks ago, I could run a mile and a half without stopping.
A month ago, I pushed myself to the limits and found I could run 1.75 miles.
Three weeks ago, I pushed a little harder and ran 2 miles.
Two weeks ago, it was 2.25 miles.
Last week, it was three miles. Yes, three miles! As in, a full 5K! Well, minus the .1 part. Now I know I'm not going to totally embarrass myself on October 24th when I run my first 5K. Yes, I've even become one of those people who sign up for races they have absolutely no chance of winning, just for the chance to do something hard. Oh, and to get a T-shirt.
I've made exercise an important part of my life for years, but this is different. When I worked out to videos, the progress wasn't so obvious. I could say, "wow, this is a bit easier than last time," or "I'm not as short of breath as I used to be," but it was much more subjective. I love that running is objective. I can add up the miles, the quarter miles, and I can even check the clock as I leave and return, recording how long the route took me.
Which brings me back to the title of this post. I ran into an acquaintance at the twins' gymnastics last week that I hadn't seen in many years. She has three kids and she and her husband are runners, both of them training for a huge relay in Las Vegas. I mentioned how I've taken up running this summer and that I’ve been happy with my improvement. "But how fast can you go?" she asked, "Because that's what really matters."
I have laughed a lot about that since. To me, how fast I can go is so far from my thoughts. The fact that I am running over a mile for the first time in my life is just amazing to me, and I could care less if I run it slower than someone else (though I did check last year's time on the 5K I'm running next month, and I can safely say I will not be last!).
This morning, as I pushed myself to keep running to the next marker and the next, I began making a list of all the things I do like about running:
* I like that I can easily measure my progress.
* I like that I'm doing something hard.
* I like that by the time I'm done running three miles, even my fingertips are sweaty.
* I like that woman who says, "You're doing great!" I really, really like her.
* I like the extra energy I feel later that morning.
* I like that I'm doing crazy things like checking out training schedules for half-marathons, thinking about signing up for long races, and mapping out runs (using mapmyrun) that I am nowhere near capable of completing at this point in my life, like that 7.5 mile route that takes me along the river, up a hill and around the temple.
* I like that I haven't given up even though I've had good reasons to.
* I even like the battle I wage with myself every day:Me: You're getting tired. Maybe you should walk for a while.
Myself: No way. I can go a little further.
Me: No, you can't. You need to stop and walk.
Myself: Yes, I can. I did it yesterday, remember? So I can do it today too!
Me: Oh, yeah. I guess maybe you can. But you're still tired, you know?
Myself: Oh hush!
* I like that it gets easier to keep going the more I do it.
I thought about listing the things I don't like about running, too, but then I realized they're fairly obvious:
* The first half mile.
* The last half mile.
* The middle couple of miles.