Saturday, February 11, 2012

See Mom Run

I started running 8 months ago.  It began as walking, actually.  Six mornings a week at 6:30 am I peeled myself out of bed tired, lazy, unmotivated and occasionally hung over.  After 2 weeks of “power walking” I took my first short but breathless run through the flat roads in the development across the street.  I believe the route was barely a half mile.  I ran this simple loop every other day for one week, walking on the alternate days to work out the tight quadriceps and aching shin splints.  
The following week I embarked on my first more “significant” run. I did not expect a whole lot of myself as I hadn’t exercised in any way, shape, or form in almost 4 years.  When I realized that I ran a whole, entire mile - something I hadn’t thought I could do without collapsing – I felt renewed. Unstoppable.  Suddenly I was inspired by the idea that maybe I could run further than I thought, sooner than I imagined, and faster than I predicted. In other words, 
I am stronger than I give myself credit for.  
The compulsivity that I witnessed with other distance runners used to baffle me, but now I was beginning to understand the addictive quality of running – setting and attaining a series of simple personal goals. For me the addictive quality was not the enjoyment of running itself or trying to burn calories or look better. The real addiction was the act of pushing myself to do something that required both physical and mental strength. 

I do difficult things every day as a mother of four and have been through many trials in my lifetime.  Knowing my history, I know that I am capable of surmounting challenges.  So why do I need to engage in an activity to discover my strength when I already KNOW how strong I am?  The distinction is that distance running isn't about knowing how strong you are in the abstract.  It is an immediate experience of doing that which you believe is "too hard" and showing yourself in the moment that NO hard is TOO hard.   Running distances for me reenacts the symbolic challenges we all face in a life full of hurdles and offers a stage in which we can surmount the obstacles.  It is proof in the most tangible form that strength is a matter of will and determination. 
Answering to no one but myself, each stride I take, each mile I run, is a private contract, an inner commitment.  Because I do it for no one but me - for sanity not vanity - the feeling of success that that follows is no longer hitched to external approvals but from a deep sense of self-satisfaction that no one can give or withhold.  
The most challenging aspect of running is not dragging myself out of bed at dawn ( since I only have childcare in the wee hours of the morning before buses come).  It's not the daily runner's mishaps like tripping over the curb, getting attacked by a dog, stung by a bee, caught in a downpour, or pegged by morning lawn sprinklers.  It's the hills.  
Taking the hills is an unavoidable part of distance running.  As running imitates  life, you quickly realize a universal truth –
 The longer you run, the more it becomes obvious that hills are unavoidable
The steepest hills in life are the most dreaded, least enjoyable, and most physically taxing part of your journey. Yet, paradoxically, they are the most gratifying and strengthening.   When faced with a looming hill there are really only a few viable options:  Turn around and go back home, sit at the bottom of it and whine and complain, call someone to rescue you by driving you up, or  tackle it head on.  Certainly, there is nothing wrong with avoiding the hill all together, especially if avoidance is an option.  But most often, it is not.  There is also no shame in calling someone for a ride every now and then.  Hitch a ride every time life seems insurmountable?  You rob yourself of the opportunity to climb that hill on your own.  
From my personal experience I can tell you that running that hill on your own power by force or by choice is far more a feeling of accomplishment than hitching a ride to the top.  I know because I've never been one of those people who have had many other options other than total self-reliance.  

Taking the hill is less physical prowess and brute strength and more a function of mindset.  Once you select your personal channel, chose your perspective, decide you can’t do something, you have pretty much secured your failure.  It is the decision in the head and the heart that propels us forward or keeps us stagnant.  

Will. Determination.  In running AND in life.  So many people remark to me "I don't know how you do it."  I think to myself:  I don't recall ever getting a choice?  Who's going to do it BUT me?  We often convince ourselves we can't do difficult, stressful things, but when we have NO CHOICE other than to be brave, strong and persevere, guess what?  We actually are brave, strong and persevere, but only if we chose that path. 

I'm starting my training for a half-marathon in a few months.  I'm going to run it because I once said to myself that I would never be able to run 13.1 miles.  
And my self said back:  "Oh yeah?  Bring it."  


Elizabeth said...

I'm thinking from a purely selfish point here and going out on a limb to say that you need to pat yourself on the back not only for this accomplishment but for sparking the tiniest bit of interest in me -- that I might possibly be able to do this, too. I'm going to give it a try. Walk first, then begin to run. Thank you.

Alicia (Dr. Mom) said...

YAY!!!!! just take it SLOW, slower than you think you need to take it, because injuries are the number one reason people give up to quickly. you can DO IT!!! :)

kario said...

I love this, Alicia! I found an iPhone app last summer (Couch to 5K) that set me on the path to running - like you, for sanity, not vanity - and I somehow got sidetracked over the holidays. I have found a lot of excuses (I don't have childcare in the wee hours - my husband travels too often) but thanks to this post of yours, I'm inspired to start again. Thanks for the reminder and for the phrase that stood out the most to me, "I don't recall ever being given a choice." That's my life, too. Independence out of necessity. It's time to stop whining about it and get my butt moving.

Alicia (Dr. Mom) said...

yay kari!!!! seriously, it is empowering and im so happy i inspired you to start up again. trust me, i hadn't run since i was 12 and started up again after 40 so if i can do it, i know you can too :)

mb we'll run a marathon together one day???? ;)

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