Some children are born to run. You can tell it almost as soon as they can walk. Their limbs are long, bend easily, and pound the pavement with a beat, a rhythm that you know they feel in their ribcage. All the while, they have that glow in their eyes once they start that indicates they are never going to stop this wildness, this movement of air that fills their void where they once where. Those children grow into preteens who run on the baseball diamond, the football field, the basketball court, the track, and side streets. They love to move their feet and move them fast.
I was never that child. Never. Born stocky with a passive temperament, content to never push and always stay, I lagged behind in gym class and dreaded the day of “running the mile.” I had enough competitiveness to fiercely desire NOT to be last, but never enough to try to be first…or in the top half, even. I rarely ran, not even during competitive sports, preferring to save my energy and not expend any more than I had to. Thus, I was often picked last for kickball and tried to pretend it did not hurt my feelings.
As with most things that we do not excel at, we prefer to think they do not matter. Deep down, I know that physical exertion is life-giving, and yet, because I’ve never felt able to do it, I ignore its importance. Well, I have until late. Now, out of school, I’m trying to prioritize my life, give credence to things that truly matter. Only 23, I see 30 in the distance, and my dear co-worker Jen says things start falling apart at that age. So I’d like to get all of my parts in working condition before that birthday, so that they can take longer to fall apart. Or something like that.
All this to say, I’ve started running. Recently I’ve been doing an “every other” routine: basically, every other week, I feel guilty and/or motivated to run in the morning before work. And then I don’t for a week…or two. Then I see Shape magazine, a swimsuit, or try on my skinny jeans, and am suddenly motivated to run again.
When I do go, it’s outside. I’ve had gym phases (read: summer 2009), but never legit outdoors running, with pavement and real air and vehicles. Running on the street is completely different than, say, an elliptical. And I’m awful at it. I can barely run a mile without wanting to lay down in the middle of the road, spread my arms wide, and let destiny take its course. I hate it. I hate doing things I’m not good at, and I am not good at running. I am good at eating, sitting, watching tv, and commenting on people’s facebook walls, but I am bad at running.
The other unknown about running outside is other people. Most of the time when I run, I only see two other people, gray-haired ladies, taking it slow and chatting. We smile, or I muster up whatever I can given the point in my route, and I go past them. But today, today was different. I saw four different people and two dogs. That’s a lot for me to handle.
For some reason, I need to prove myself to them. I know I’m not a good runner, but they don’t, and by golly, that stranger’s opinion of me and my running ability matters! So when I saw this woman ahead of me with her dog, I think (through a haze – I’m over halfway through my route), oh no. She’s a ways ahead of me, and I lose track of her around a bend and up a hill, but, to my despair, she’s there at the top of the hill, waiting for her dog to do his dirty work in the ditch. I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other, when she looks at me with her mom eyes and says, “Good for you!”
Those words revolved in my head as I barely stumbled past her and around the bend where I slowed to a walk (instead of passing out, like I really wanted to do). The cynic and defamer in me said, she said that patronizingly. She knows you’re a chubby gal who can barely get off her couch to get a tub of ice cream during a commercial of Project Runway. It’s the equivalent of a pat on the head, an “attagirl,” a “good try.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the lie that defamer was telling me. I don’t know her intentions. Maybe the high school prom queen in her was pitying me, but she just seemed like a nice lady. For a second there, through my glazed over eyes, she looked like my mom. And my mom, if she said, “Good for you,” she meant it. She meant, “I’m proud of you for doing something that is hard.” I’m sure this woman could tell from my lack of form and energy that I wasn’t a usual runner. And she meant to encourage me. To tell me that someone noticed my effort and was commending me for it. It was early in the morning, it was chilly, and I was running instead of the approximately five million other things I’d rather be doing.
Good for me, indeed. I’m going running tomorrow.