On Running

Monday June 28, 2004 @ 01:00 PM (UTC)

For several weeks now, I have been running. Some of you will doubtless not realize the overwhelming significance of the statement, ‘I have been running.’ The fact is that I am asthmatic, riddled with environmental allergies, and generally a puny weakling. Whenever I was forced to run laps or the mile in school, I would labor along as far as I could, struggling against the invisible pliers—with handles of 3 feet or so, judging from the force—that tightened around my airpipe. Finally I would lapse, humiliated, into a hurried walk. Sometimes, I just held my head high in haughty indifference and walked the whole time, disregarding the frustration of my PE teachers. I think I had only one PE teacher before college whom I never regarded with white-hot hatred. It’s damn lucky I didn’t end up X-factor positive, because odds are I would have discovered it by detonating some unfortunate PE teacher’s head with my mind or burning them to death with my scorching gaze.

This, then, was my traditional stance on running: running, beyond a short, joyous sprint, is torture; it is a pointless exercise in getting from place to the same place with maximum effort; it is choking, terrifying suffocation; it is mental boredom and physical anguish. Even the endorphins people told me about never seemed to materialize. The only sensations that followed any attempt at a distance run were a throbbing headache; raw, rasping throat; and sore everything.

This, then, is the girl who is now running at least three times a week, gleefully buying her first running shoes, and complaining when her allergies or engagements deny her the chance to run.

I’m not sure when this started—sometime in April perhaps, or May, I drove home through idyllic, mote-dancing sunshine, golden honey-beams dropping off every leaf and wing, and I simply had to get out in it. I wanted to drink in the sun and air…I wanted to (GASP) run! So I did. Strapping on my old, worn, rather clapped-out tennis shoes (no, literally. Designed, bought, and used for the sport of tennis) and pulling on some vaguely workoutty clothes, I decanted my kitchen-work audio-book into a walkman and hit the sidewalk running. Of course, it didn’t last, and I ended up subsiding into a brisk walk. But my breath, though short, was not tortured, and my walking rested but did not humiliate me. After all, I was doing this because I had wanted to, not because some tyrannical PE teach held the (unfair) power of lowering my grade point average. My audio tape held my attention and staved off boredom, and the sunny streets, flowers, parks, and basking kitties made for interesting viewing.

Before I knew it, I had done it again, and soon I was doing it at least once a week, more often if the sun was shining. After a brief lull because my allergies were acting up and making strenuous breathing difficult, I had had enough of my slow weight gain, and decided to run in earnest. I stopped claiming, when people such as sister sledge inquired, that I didn’t like it. I do! I started running whenever there was nothing else to get in the way, and at least once a weekend (this weekend I did it both days).

Last week, I lost weight for the third week in a row (unheard of in recent months), even though I had stuffed myself on wedding food and Burgerville on my trip to Washington. I ran almost every day that week in fear that that wedding food would catch up to me — and promised myself that if I kept the momentum going, I could buy myself running shoes to replace the pinching, tired shoes that were designed for sideways hops on a clay court, not running on sidewalks. I did keep up the momentum, and I ended up splurging on running shoes—lovely bouncy things that grip the pavement like gecko toes on glass—and a running outfit, which is cooler, comfier, full of pockets, and makes me feel confident as I set out for the sidewalks.

I still puff down to a walk between spates of running, but the spates are stretching, and I am doing more circuits of our little neighborhood. Running is wonderful—there is no more primal way to exercise. You don’t need anything but yourself (though shiny bouncy shoes are a plus.) I come back to my house tired and happy, proud of every drop of sweat. Before heading to a bath or a shower afterwards, I sit on the couch with a glass of water, feeling those lovely endorphins that always seemed like a cruel joke in years past. I can feel every bit of my body, and control it, and it has a power I swear it never had before. My quads are bigger already, and I can leap effortlessly up the stairs, enjoying the amazing froggy feeling of coil and release. I stare into the blue sky and feel beautiful, strong, and keenly alive.


I joined a gym when I got back to the country, and have been very good about going at least 3 times a week. (This is possibly because I spent so much of my own money on the membership – in the past, I have just used my family’s membership.)

I considered just starting to run instead of joining the gym, but I have discovered a few things: 1) when I am panting and ready to collapse after an embarassingly short period of time, I am more embarassed if people I sort of know around my neighborhood see me than if it is just a bunch of anonomous people at the gym. 2) watching TV while working out is fun, and it is the only time I do watch it. 3) I like the variety provided by lots of different kinds of cardio equipment, plus I can work on muscle-toning machines as well. 4) airconditioning is GOOD.

It would be nice to be outside where there are actual TREES and ANIMALS, though.

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