Day 20: On Running and Being a Runner, Pt. 1
I have yet to blog about running. Once I talked about what I saw and thought on a run, but it wasn’t blogging about running. The next couple days I’m going to make up for that because it turns out I have a lot to say about running. I am a runner. In this post, I’m going to tell you my personal running story.
I wasn’t always an athlete. I remember one day sitting on the bleachers at my older sister’s indoor soccer game and my friend’s mom asked me if I played any sports. My friend, a guy who was a little older than my sister, said, “She doesn’t play sports. She flirts.” I think I was 12. Maybe 13. I think I’m still probably running out of rage about that comment.
In high school, I played field hockey. I was left-handed, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle the stick very well, so I volunteered to be the goalkeeper. I loved it. And I was good at it. I made the all-city team my junior year. I still regret not trying to play in college. I didn’t think I was good enough.
It was my sophomore year in college that I really began to run. One day, a friend asked if I wanted to go for a run. She said it’d be a long slow run. I thought. Ok, 3 miles. 7 miles later, I had to stop and walk. We ran out Old Country Road in Williamsburg (pictured above). It was beautiful. I was tired. I started running regularly, three times a week or so. I liked going out alone, following the paths and streets that college students didn’t usually see. I worked out my nervous energy. Or my rage. I just let my mind go.
When I worked on Capitol Hill, I would run on the mall. I ran with a senior Democratic aide. (Perhaps that was the beginning of the end of the GOP for me.) One day, we ran by Lindsay Graham. Hello, Congressman. He nodded back. Running on the Mall in DC early in the morning when everything is quiet felt moving. Maybe it’s why I like to go run through historical places when I visit: the Circus Maximus in Rome, Yellowstone, the Altstadt in Dresden, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the riverfront in San Antonio, the parks of Austin, Memphis, Vancouver, along the Charles in Boston, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, in various towns on Crete, along the water in Nafplio, along the Tiber in Umbria. I feel like I’m a part of things if I can run through, not a tourist anymore.
In graduate school in Philadelphia, I ran three or four times a week and started doing longer runs–the Broad Street Ten Miler and the Philly Half. But it wasn’t until I moved to South Texas that I really got serious. I moved alone, leaving behind the man I’m now married to whom I had just starting dating several months before I left. I was alone and a little bored. It was August. It was about 100 degrees everyday, and I just started to run. Every day. Almost. I’d wait until 7 in the evening–the days are shorter in the summer that far south–and I’d go. I mentioned my running in a class I was teaching and a
non-traditional student who was about my age told me about some of her friends who are runners. I started running with them. I remember the first time I ran with this new friend we were about a mile into the run and she told me she was pregnant. I couldn’t tell so I said, oh you don’t seem that far along (I have since learned that you should just never tell pregnant women what they seem like). She said, I’m five months along. She joked that the kid was standing straight up inside of her because she was barely showing. She ran until her 7th month. She introduced me to another running friend who was also a running coach. She was training for some things and I was fast enough to pace her so we would do long runs after Saturday morning. I started learning about tempo runs and speed work and long runs. We ran once a week in the evenings at Bill Schupp Park. Sometimes even now when I am doing speed workouts I picture Schupp.
I learned a lot about running with that friend, but she started running at ridiculously early times and I just couldn’t hang. So I ran by myself for awhile, and then I found out that Valley Running was hosting group runs. I ran with them the last year I was in Texas and I learned even more about how to become a faster and a stronger runner. We ran intense hill repeats and speed runs. My running watch had died and I was pissed with Garmin for the planned obsolescence so I didn’t have a run. Others with watches would yell out times as we ran. It felt like a team. The tempo runs were nice because whatever tempo you were running you could find someone going your pace. I learned something from Valley Running about the importance of the mental game. And having running friends. Some of the people I met there put on a 10k trail run on the Mission Hike and Bike Trails. I won it in 2012. I think it was called the Mimisbrunnr and the winner won a cup on a huge chunk of granite, which I have in my office.
Now I’m in Indiana and I’ve run two half marathons a year since I’ve been here. The first half marathon in Indy was the Indianapolis Women’s Half. I spent the summer moving and didn’t feel like my training had been very good. I realized in the last mile that I was going to PR (personal record, not an actual verb, but used by runners to mean “set a personal record”) and I was so overwhelmingly happy and surprised that, in the last half mile, tears starting strewing down my face. I guess running makes me so happy I could cry. Six weeks later I PR’d again in the Purdue Boilermaker Half. I’m glad to still be getting faster at my age.
I have to stop writing this post to go for a run. On a treadmill, which isn’t the same. More on that in Pt. 3. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the one book that changed my running life, actually two books. The day after about freeing myself from the demand to run. Stay tuned.