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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thrill of the Chase, Love of the Run

Six years ago I decided to cart my lazy ass to the gym on a regular basis. Several factors had to fall into place for this to occur, possibly some rare planetary alignment as well. I had always been an active girl, but that had fallen to the wayside in order to make way for college, partying, bar-hopping, daytime beer drinking and flouncing around in high heels in downtown Tucson and on 4th Avenue. I had gained weight (thanks to midnight Jack in the Box after six hours' worth of cocktails).

I was feeling low about myself. I had low energy. And I was in the beginning stages of a relationship with a very tall and sinewy man named Todd who would later put a ring on it, carry me over the threshold and then give me a baby. Anyways. He was super fit, and still is, and was a constant source of inspiration. Here was a man who did kung fu four times a week, willingly got up on Saturday mornings to go beat the shit out of his friends out in the desert sun, willingly stayed til 10pm, once even midnight, on weeknights, to learn the art and spirituality of asskicking. He was fit, healthy, and thin. How jealous was I?

I started off slow. TheYMCA was offering a special where you got to work with a personal trainer to create a 12 week program to get fit. It offered three meetings with the trainer and access to this electronic system where you could log your workouts. Additionally, back then the Y offered a discount for students. So I signed up. As an aside, can I just take a moment to tout the awesomeness of this establishment? They're month to month, family-oriented, easy going about dropping out, signing back up, dropping out, etc. And the staff is just really warm and friendly.

So the trainer I  met with, I believe her name was Stephanie but she has since moved on, was great. She showed me the machines, gave me a run down on efficient calorie burn, the benefits of weights mixed in with cardio, etc. I couldn't even last two minutes on the elliptical at first, that's how out of shape I was. So we started doing walk-run intervals on the treadmill: walk two minutes, run one.

That one minute of running was hell for me. Hell for me, for WEEKS. My shins were killing me, I was so sore that I staggered around my apartment on date nights with Todd, everything hurt. It got better, to the point where I proudly did a reversal on my intervals: walk one, run two. Eventually I got fit enough to hop on the elliptical, and eventually worked up to 40 minute workouts on that beast, with a high resistance setting and RPMs of at least 67. I was proud!

About two years into my workout lifestyle, I returned to the treadmill, determined to run a mile. I almost threw up and died, I almost pulled a Bridget Jones where she falls down after working out on the spin bike, but I did it. And I never, ever wanted to do it again. Until I decided, maybe six months later, to run two. I still remember that horrible feeling, the soreness and fatigue in my legs, the searing pain in my lungs from wheezing for a mile, and knowing that another miserable mile lay ahead of me. I remember staring into the mirror, along which all the treadmills were placed so we could stare at ourselves, wondering why we were doing this, thinking "Why am I doing this?"

Anyways. I returned happily to my elliptical machine, added in some Pilates classes, some Zumba classes and life was good. But the treadmill kept calling to me. I decided to add a miserable mile to my cardio workouts. And then, the strangest thing happened. I fell in love.

Perhaps it was the challenge of it. The pain, the staggering, clumsy pace that eventually ironed itself out into a bona fide rhythm, my feet slapping the belt of the treadmill and my arms pumping in time to whatever music I had on. Or just overcoming the mental obstacle that is, so often in everyone's lives, the real issue, the real thing standing in the way of achieving anything. Whatever it was, I fell in love. I got more and more impatient on the elliptical and more and more excited to run. I was determined to become a runner.

I decided to challenge myself even further, and I looked around online, finally stumbling onto this site, the AZ Roadrunners. It was August then, I think, which must be why I'm waxing nostalgic, 2008, and I signed up for the Get Moving Tucson 5k. I remember my heart pounding when signing up, and then I remember realizing I'd never run a 5k (3.125 miles) in my life. I got started fast, because like this year's race, 2008's took place in October. It was August. What was I thinking?

I trained and did well, although the first time I ran outside I thought I was going to die, or my insides were going to explode. Running outside is mortifingly different from running on a treadmill. The slightest incline kills your pace, the heat makes you want to vomit, the flimsiest gust of wind slams into you like a brick wall, the smallest gap in the sidewalk sends you flailing to keep your balance and not eat shit like a loser. But I did it.

And I ran that race. I murdered my PR (personal record) of 27 minutes and change, and clocked in at 25:11. It was glorious. Some injuries and a pregnancy sort of took precedence over racing, although this past May, Todd and I ran theWarrior Dash and did pretty well considering. But I'm back in the saddle now, injury free and my at-ease pace is faster than when I ran my first 5k. There's not a whole lot of purpose to this post, I just wanted to share a love of mine that at one time never existed, and then due to injury was almost lost to me, but is now firmly in my grasp. And I hope to slay my PR of 25:11 this October.


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