Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My first mile... but not my last.

The first time I ran a mile was in the eighth grade as required by Presidential Fitness Challenge.

I dreaded that week for two reasons.

First was the chin up bar. I woke up in cold sweats about that one. Even if I strategically missed school on that day, there would be a make up day. A make up day in GYM, really?! As I climbed up the metal folding chair under the chin up bar, I closed my eyes and stepped off. I decided to face that moment quickly and with my head up high (regardless where my chin was). My moment lasted 3.5 seconds. It was a quick moment, but alas, it was over.

The other was running the mile. The mile, determined my Mrs. Cook, our P.E. teacher, was four laps around our school's parking lot. I've never been super coordinated but I love the idea of being sporty. But let's be honest, in eighth grade, I was not fit. I knew it, others probably thought it, but now- thanks to the President's Fitness Challenge- my whole class would realize it too!

It was a hot day and my stomach was reacting to the conflicting thoughts of just giving up and giving it all I had. I heard the whistle and just started sprinting. I couldn't believe it- I was near the front of the crowd. I didn't learn about pacing in the eighth grade. As my stomach cramped and my knees itched, I had to bring myself down to a crawl for the next two and a half laps...

...until I reached a definitive moment in my junior high life.

One of those moments you look back on and wonder if your life would have taken a different course if done differently. I was walking/surviving my third lap, sweaty and sandy, mentally dreading the last, as I caught up to two popular girls in my class. These two girls were also just completing their third lap, but for some reason our teacher, Mrs. Cook, was under the impression that they had finished their mile and logged their times. They, mischievously giggling, failed to correct her and sat down with the other winners.

Then the moment came...it happened in a split second.

Mrs. Cook looked at me and asked, "Is this your fourth lap too, honey?"
Three little letters- Y.E.S.- is all I needed to say.... but I just couldn't do it. I couldn't lie. Let me rephrase that- I could lie... and in fact lied a ton as many eighth graders do... "yes, I finished my homework..." "no, I didn't kick him..." "I do, too, know the humpty dance..." (Julie R. really did call me out on this one in an 8th grade fight... and no, no I didn't know it...thanks Julie)

I knew I had the capacity to lie... but for some reason... in that hot and exhausting moment... I couldn't lie... at least not to myself. I shook my head, as beads of sweat swung into my eye, and continued on to my fourth and final lap. Sixteen minutes later, I finished my one mile.

Our times were posted from fastest to longest and I scrolled down the list, past the names of those other two girls, all the way to the bottom... and found my name.

This positioning would then whisper, into my mind, for the next 17 years, that I am not a runner. Sure, I would tout that I just finished up 3 miles- but always at the gym... on my own private treadmill, with a strategically placed towel, so that none could judge my numbers (perhaps but me).

I have been working out consistently about three times a week for the past 3 years. I actually love going to the gym.

Some suggest that it's a great place to meet that special someone. But what they don't explain is how to get a great workout in without sweating a liter and the occasional grunt. (not so sexy) Still haven't figured that one out...

While I have loved my trainers and seeing my slow but steady progress.. I have never returned to outdoor running... until... It began about 9 months ago when my trainer friend, Laura, had me running the indoor track at the gym. Of all the miles I logged on a treadmill or elliptical, these were my first steps on non-moving ground.

Boy, was it different. I loved it, but could only do about 2 laps before I wanted to throw up. She was great and we began incorporating it more in our workouts. I also began running on the track on my own. But always indoors... until today...

Today, instead of heading to the gym for my first Vegas work out since returning home, I made my way to Sunset Park. Armed with my ipod, running podcast, and new running shoes, I decided to sqush that annoying whisper and take my first steps as an outdoor runner. Ok, so my first steps were actually 5 min of fast walking and eight intervals of 60 second runs and 90 second fast walking... thanks to this and this... but for those 8 minute intervals... I was a bona fide runner.

While I was probably averaging a 14 minute pace, I didn't care. I loved it.

I loved being outdoors on this beautiful day. I didn't even mind when the stinky pond water misted on me when I passed the 3/4 mark.

I didn't mind being sandwiched behind the 'too close for my comfort' couple walking their dog and the two baby momma's walking with their strollers.

I didn't even hold back when I feared passing the couple because my butt might have a little too much jiggle. (but decided that I didn't care and likely neither did they.)

It felt victorious finishing three miles (take that, Arnold Schwarzenegger!), and I had the smile to prove it. It was contagious, because this really cute guy smiled back at me as I passed him going the other way.

I stepped off the track and thought about my first goal- to run those three miles straight. Sitting in my car, and freshening up in the rear view mirror, I realized that he might have been smiling because I had a ton of snot in my nose (another thing different about outdoor running).

It was then I realized that running is a dirty job...

and I'm up for the challenge...

but maybe tomorrow I'll bring a hankie.


teri said...

Way to go!!!

I hope it wasn't the snot that got the smile, I'm going to believe something different.

That's funny you went to Sunset Park - that was the place I used to TRY to run when I lived at my Dad's (right next to the park).
I used the Couch to 5K too and it was fabulous. I remember after my first skiing lesson the instructor said, "If you didn't hate this, you might be a skier." I bet the same goes for running. If you didn't hate it (and it sure sounds like you enjoyed many elements) you're a runner!

Just a little side note - I know this GREAT woman in the Henderson area, not too far from Sunset Park who would LOVE to have a running partner!!! Let me know if/when you're interested. (Unless the smiling guy gets to you first.)

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