The first time I did it, I was in my early 30s. I hated every minute and vowed never to do it again.
The second time I did it was twenty years, a marriage and two kids later. I was 51, needing something to build bones and cardiac strength. So, I bought some cheap shoes at Target, put on shorts and a cotton T-shirt, loaded a C25k (“couch to 5k”) running app on my iPod and got off the couch.
I felt ridiculous.
But I did it. And I hated it. I’m not big on faith, but I put my faith in the program and worked it, motivated to not wind up like my mother with emphysema, osteoporosis and dead at 73.
You start the program easy, with a short “run” consisting of intervals of walking interrupted by followed by shorter intervals of running. Walking, I was good at. Running? Were she alive, my grandmother could have been my running buddy as we shuffled along a little slower than, well, a couple of ninety-year old women. That first run segment was only 60 seconds long, but I couldn’t wait for the 90-second walk that followed.
I kept at it, though. My husband was proud, but I still hated it and thought lovingly of my couch every time I dragged myself out the door. I owe my dog a debt of gratitude for hogging my favorite seat.
Then, it happened. I started loving running. Even though I was slow, I was still faster than everyone sitting at home watching “Survivor.” I was the survivor! I was mighty! I was a runner!
I started hanging out at running stores. I bought running shoes—real running shoes. I bought running shirts (they wick sweat!), running shorts (they wick sweat, too!), running skirts (they hide hide sweat!). When the weather turned nasty, I bought running pants. I even asked for, and received, a pair of quilted thermal shorts to keep my buns toasty in the winter.
I had all this stuff, but I was still missing the promised energy and endorphins. Again, I put my faith in the running.
Two years later, I was booking miles at a time, without a single walk break, and still hadn’t had a runner’s high. Feeling accomplished? Yup. Euphoric? Nah. But I still loved running, even without the high.
Then, at the end of a six-mile run, coming down a hill on a prairie trail near my house, it came. As I looked out over acres of Big Blue Stem grass, glowing copper and rose under a pristine blue sky, I felt it…a feeling of exaltation better than any hypomanic state. And a deep connection to my mother, born in October, when the prairie burns with the colors of a perfect sunset.
I run because it’s good for me: it builds my bones, strengthens my heart and gives me energy. It clears my head when I’m down while a more upbeat mood gives me the tenacity to go longer, farther. But, more and more, I run for the joy of the perfect moment when the run and I are whole.