I have a complicated relationship with running.
It’s not uncommon for people to look at me and think I’m a natural runner. I’ve got a moderately lean-ish build and long legs. Stumpy torso, alas, but that’s another story. My walking stride is long, purposeful, energetic. Somehow, though, running has never quite taken with me. Don’t get me wrong: my body likes it. I’ve never been slimmer than when I was running several times a week alongside my regular workouts. It’s just… we don’t mesh.
My first attempt to pursue running in its own right was in my sophomore year of high school. I signed up for the winter session of indoor track (read: running laps of the hallways). Not even a week in, I contracted mono and had to bow out. It’s as if my body knew; it was trying to warn me. “This is wrong! Go down. STAY DOWN.” Every so often I’d dive in again. Gave Couch-to-5-K several shots. Usually worked at too quick a pace, ensuring I’d gas out quickly even as I just tried to get it bloody well over with. Ran a few races. Hated hills. Hated wind. Loved rain, actually. Hated all the bits that jiggled with every footfall. Couldn’t distract myself with music or podcasts or audiobooks, because every single style of earbud is incompatible with my abnormally tiny earholes.
Still, I persisted. My crowning glory was training for a half-marathon. The race was in April, so I spent the four preceding months (in the dead of a very cold, gusty, and snowy NY winter) running outdoors four times a week. I never missed a run, and I never once dropped to a walk… until the day of the race. Two loops of Central Park kicked my ass. Still: got my medal, got my banana, got my bragging rights and the certainty that I never needed to do that again.
Not long after, I set my mind to running a minimum of a mile a day for a full month. Six days in, the pain hit. My right hip radiated agony with every step. I finished my run, stubbornly, gasping and sobbing. Despite orthotic insoles and treadmill testing and carefully selected shoes and gear, my body was not having it. So, we broke up, running and I. It was rough. I have a lot of friends who are in beautifully compatible relationships with running, and assure me I just need to give it a bit more time. A bit more acceptance. I desperately envy them their love, their joy, but realize it’s not for me.
Still, every so often, I reconsider. “I’ll just run one race,” I think.
“I’ll work walk/run intervals.”
“Maybe trail running…”
I know it’s not the right fit, and yet I keep coming back. Hoping against hope that this time, we’ll find a way to make it work. And yes, I’ve been fitted for custom orthotic insoles. I’ve been matched to my (apparently) perfect shoes. I’ve stretched and taken fish oil and watched inspirational videos (Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli running after abducted hobbits totally counts). We are simply not right for one another.
And yet… I am taking part in a 40 day fitness challenge, which coincides nicely as I try to get myself in shape for a physically demanding summer. I’ve got significant weight to shed and serious strength to build. Against all of my history, all of the evidence, all of my angst, I have determined to add three runs week to my regime. I know, I know. It’s never been good. Nothing has really changed.
And yet… maybe this time will be different.
And yet… if nothing else, there are cows.