Running is horrendous

Anyone who tells you it isn’t is either completely delusional; trying to get you to join them in their misery; or they’ve been running for so many years that the synapse that registers pain/misery/suffering/general discomfort has long been severed and lays dormant.

Trust me, I speak the truth.

I started “running” roughly 8 years ago. I say “running” because for the first 5 years at least it was more like glorified shuffling mixed with heavy breathing and frequent stops and lots of swearing.

My father was part of a local running group, along with his twin sister, her husband, and my cousin. They bugged me week after week to join (see above explanation) citing good health, weight loss, self-confidence, blah, blah, blah. I’d only ever run on a treadmill. I loathed the idea of running in the heat/rain/wind/snow/any weather/circumstance, really.

Eventually, I got sick of all the harassment and I decided to give running by myself a go. I strapped on some old running shoes I’d purchased for a college-level gym class of some sort, dressed in my bummiest clothes, and off I went.

I think I maybe made it 20 seconds down the street before I was doubled over and heaving. No joke. I felt like I weighed about 900lbs (truthfully, I was quite tubtastic, but nowhere near as weighty as I felt). It was discouraging. It was terrifying. It was ugly. And yet it was motivating in an odd way.

It took me a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but I ran again. Then again. And each time I went a little bit further, walked a little less, and my breathing became a little less ragged. I by no means enjoyed it, though.

Because misery loves company…

A year or so later, I joined the aforementioned running club with the rest of my family (and even my now-ex-husband joined in on the “fun”). We dutifully attended the 3-4-times-per-week running sessions where warm-ups were often 5-6km worth of “jogging” before the 8-10km run. Um, what? Yeah, I spent a lot of those “stretching” and walking.

I dutifully signed up for races: lots of 5km runs at first. My fastest 5km run was around 33 minutes. I was happy with that time, I felt proud, I felt empowered that I was able to do it without stopping, without a lung falling out, without peeing myself (which I actually did upon crossing the finish line of my first 5km race — don’t judge me).

When I ran my first 10km race, I had my triathlete aunt running alongside me. She’d just completed a full Ironman the day before. This 10km race was her cool down. I felt like a failure before I’d even begun standing next to her, horribly nervous and horribly envious that she had all this strength, determination and drive to do an entire Ironman, and here I was unsure if I’d even be able to complete 10 measly kilometres.

I did finish it. It took me nearly 70 minutes for that first race. Seventy agonizing, horrendous minutes in which I told my aunt on numerous occasions to please just fuck off and let me be as she endlessly encouraged, motivated, and chatted away as if we were strolling down the main street in our Sunday best.

That was 6 years ago. I know because I still have the t-shirt that says “2008 Canada Day Race” on it. I often wear that shirt now when I run and remember every suffered step on that first 10km race. Because it makes me push further.


Why do you run?

I hate running.

I make no illusions about enjoying a run. I’m quick to tell someone it’s been uber beneficial to my weight loss after having a ginormous baby, and it’s been equally good and cleansing for my soul and mind as it’s truly my time, something I do 100% for me. However, 8 years into the same activity (the same movements, process, activity) I’m no “better” at it.

Every step I fight my brain. My mind is my biggest enemy. Before I even strap my shoes on to go it begs me to go back to the couch. To get in from the cold. To run tomorrow. To wait till it’s not so hot. To have a glass of wine instead. And when I do make it out the door it begs me to stop. Just walk for a bit. Get to that sign then that’s enough. Oh, don’t try and do 5km, 3 is enough. You had salad for lunch, you don’t need to run for more than 8 min, you’re golden.

Running is 99% mental. That is 100% the truth.

After all the years of running, I’d never surpassed the 10km mark. Ever. It was a solid wall I’d created for myself. Laughing at the idea of running even 200 metres more than that 10km distance. No, I’d never be able to do that …

Then my marriage fell apart and my husband and I separated. I bought my own place. Became a largely single parent with a rapidly maturing and still-so-needy son who’s just turned 3. I found myself discovering internal strengths (and conversely weaknesses) I never, ever knew I had. I embraced running for the freedom. And I signed up for a half marathon with a close friend.

With a half-marathon training schedule printed and stuck to my fridge, I began the process of tacking on the kilometres. 10km runs turned into 11, 13, 15 and finally 18. I wasn’t to run the full 21.1km till race day. I thought I could handle it.

But running is 99% mental, and I guess I forgot that.

Race day.

It was cold. Stupidly cold. Mid-October in Toronto, Canada, I should have known better. Shivering from the chill and sheer anxiety and nervousness I waited to start my first 21.1km race. I had a plan. I had a pace. I had a goal: 6min kilometres would give me a decent finish time in the 2:10-2:15 mark. I could live with that.

My friend and I crossed the starting gates confident, pumped, chatting excitedly and taking in the atmosphere. At the 1km marker we high-fived and LOLed (as you do). A the 3km mark I informed her we were running a 5:42min/km pace, so we could slow down if we wanted. We cackled joyfully and pish-poshed the idea of slowing down. Why would we? It felt great!

At the 7km mark I had planned a break. Stop for 45 seconds, drink electrolyte water and pop some energy jelly beans and/or shoot an energy gel pack. We did as was planned and continued on our way.

By 10km my legs were starting to feel a little iffy. My next scheduled stop was at the 14km mark. My running partner had a bum knee so she’d fallen back around the 8-9km mark. I wanted to stay on pace as much as possible, and so I kept on trucking.

When the 14km marker emerged from the throngs of pulsating, suffering runners I came to a screeching halt to drink my water and suckle on an energy gel pack like it was the first thing I’d ingested in months. I also waited for my companion for at least a minute or two, but she was nowhere to be seen, so I trundled on.

Around 15-16km, my trooper of a friend caught up with me just as I was hitting a mental wall. To see her there suddenly threw me off. Was I really going SO slowly that she, with a bum knee could, catch me so easily? I told her I needed to stop, regroup, wrap my head around running a full 21.1km race. I was mentally panicking about the whole thing. She told me she couldn’t stop or her knee wouldn’t allow her to keep going, so she went on ahead.

At 17.5km my brain told me to sit down, relax, take in the scenery. Just stop for 20-30 min, then maybe do the last 4km.

By 18km I was nearly in tears. Every fibre of my being wanted to stop. My bum-knee running partner sent me a text at that moment that read: “YOU GOT THIS.” And seconds later she tried calling me. I couldn’t bring myself to answer. Instead, when I hit 18.38km I came to a dead stop, and doubled over in sobs and heaving breaths. I was disturbingly close to calling it quits. I had no reason to keep going. Why would I torture myself?

That’s when I texted my ex, the one person who through all the years I’ve been running has been able to get my ass in gear to get me going, and with the simplest phrases — even after everything we’ve been through. And after writing a too-long-message (as is normally the case) about my wall-hitting marathon predicament, he simply wrote back:

“Harden the fuck up and finish. You’re almost done. Just do it.”

No wishy-washy “You’re amazing!” “You’re a star!” “You’re the best runner ever!” “Think of how good you’ll feel!” just the facts. I wasn’t about to be coddled and babied into finishing this horrendous affair, and he knew that. It was just enough to get me to take a long, shuddering breath and take that step I needed so desperately to take in order to bring the 21.1km torture to an end.

Between 18.5-20km I didn’t even know what planet I was on. I couldn’t tell you which streets I was on, what I ran past or even if I was running with someone or flailing wildly on the edges of the crowd as we all shuffled our way to the finish.

Upon crossing the finish line at 2 hours and 16 minutes, I was so delusional I was convinced the announcer said my name just before I crossed the line and so threw my arms up in exultation (there’s video proof of me doing it and him clearly not saying anything at all resembling my name).

I’m proud I did it, but I still hate to like running.

Now, nearly 2 months after my first half-marathon I haven’t fallen any more in love with running, but I know I’ll sign up for another half marathon at some point. In fact, it’s been a rather disgusting struggle to get back into a rhythm of running since I’ve got nothing to train for anymore.

I call myself a runner. Eight years in and I still struggle with it. Every. Single. Time. I’m not an expert, I don’t even think I’m particularly good, and perhaps my synapses are starting to fizzle out because I am one of those runners who recommends running, but not because it’s good fun. No, because it’ll kick your ass. Hard. Every single time.

I recommend getting your ass kicked on occasion (by running, of course). It’ll remind you that you’re alive, and that’s not a bad thing (trust me).

~ by drivingmsmiranda on December 12, 2014.

One Response to “Running is horrendous”

  1. […] one thing I could turn to in the last few years that’s truly been mine. It’s all mine. Running is completely selfish. I can shut down when I run. Not think about Owen. Not think about work. Not […]

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