Running For the Sake of Running
Running For the Sake of Running
I’ve always been athletic. That may be an exaggeration. I’ve often enjoyed being active. Yes, that’s more like it. Though I’ve never been into running per se, I played basketball in school (and community/church ball where I was one of the good players, loved that) and toyed with tennis and softball. Tennis I liked and, if I tried harder, might have been decent but I got into Speech & Debate at the same time and liked that a lot more. Nerds are way more my people than jocks.
Softball was disastrous. It was church league and they made you stay until you hit the ball (by literally lobbing soft balls, big slow soft balls) until you connected. Strike forty-two, which may be generous, and I finally hit a double. I assume the shortstop had fallen asleep. The failure was not a big deal since I just liked the idea of being on the diamond because of The Sandlot. Legends never die…
Point being, and I do have one, is that I like activity with a purpose. Running to things, like a ball, a goal, a base. Running for running’s sake? Sadistic snoozefest. I like sprinting all right, love suicides (which may actually be called shuttle runs) but anything long distance…shoot me in the foot so I can stop right now. Turns out this wasn’t just the teenager me; I never learned to like it and I tried a few times as an adult. For all its glories, running just doesn’t appeal to me. And by golly, it hurts like hell.
After a bout with the pavement, my patellae are no longer in the proper ratio to my actual knees. Like my knees are Schwarzenegger’s and my patellas are Pesci’s. There’s grinding and smooshing and some throbbing for good measure. I’ve always had bad knees because I used to jump off roofs as a kid. I’m sure that was just as impressive as I thought it was.
Rice friggin’ crispies meets the sonic boom. Occasionally one hip even semi pops out of place. To be fair, my hips have sucked for about a decade because I have sciatica, AKA the server disease. Heavy trays and lots of walking does not a healthy pelvis make. I’m way out of line (physically, not socially for once) and running exacerbates it. Sciatica is how I found yoga and by doing certain poses daily I keep it in check. Barely.
The first time I got shin splints was in junior high, and with every step I thought my legs were going to break. Ironically (or maybe not, I’m not a kinesiologist) the only time my shins did not feel pain was when I ran. At the time I was in school b-ball and church league and played driveway ball several times a week with friends so I was often running. But I remember staring at my shins wondering if under the skin and sinew there were spider fractures just waiting to render me immobile. And the pain made me wish for just that. Most unfair? There was no evidence on the surface to prove my ordeal. Poor little me.
Yeah, I pretty much have all the feet problems but running doesn’t exacerbate them anymore than waiting tables. Or walking to the kitchen. My running shoes are way better than my work shoes so I’m probably better off running as long as I stretch a bit before and after. Ever gotten a steroid shot in your foot? Hot potato.
Such an important tool in running and yet even in my sporty days of running 15-20 miles a week, my lungs never got with the program. Did I have sports-induced asthma? Maybe that is a thing but the inhaler did nothing and I tried it long enough to realize huffing was not for me. My final deduction? I am not built to run. I am that rare breed of human who cannot exercise like a normal person and therefore do not have to. Take that evolution!
I like to do stuff, active stuff. Hiking? Yes please!! Swimming in anything but scummy lakes? Point the way! Playing with my dog without feeling like I weigh 400 lbs.? Yep, that’s good too. I may no longer shoot hoops (though I may be as good as I was twenty years ago, memory’s a funny thing) but I wouldn’t mind saying yes to a day on the tennis court. Half a day. An hour.
I’m not trying to be a runner, I don’t need a 26.2 sticker on my car. I find those mildly annoying; shouldn’t they be on the person’s butt or something? Like, if you can run so far why don’t you just run everywhere you pretentious piece of… okay, I’m jealous. Still don’t want to run a marathon though, I just want to be fit. I want the endorphin rush and I want to know that a ten mile hike isn’t something I have to work up to two weeks before a trip. I can do it anytime cause I fit mo’ fo’.
But I have to do it right, I have to figure out why I’ve failed every time I tried to make running a thing. So I researched and planned and, so importantly, began. The idea is to make it part of an overall fitness lifestyle: yoga, strength and…running. That first is for the aches and pains. The second is to hopefully stop the pain before it starts. And the running is because it’s damn efficient. Like, do anywhere with minimal equipment and instant gratification. (Endorphins are real, man.) Full pigeon pose might be three months away but I could run a mile in a couple weeks. (And the fact that that is a big goal should tell you how bad I am at running.)
A big piece of advice out there on the net? Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. I won’t waste your time explaining that in full, just follow the link if you wanna, but suffice to say it’s about focusing on the tangible and the small-scale. Don’t say “I want to run a 5-K” say “I want to run three days a week”. Also have a time-frame. I do in fact want to run a 5-K (check out my buckets page) but I want it to be fun, with obstacles and maybe a bit of mud.
So first I should run a regular one. These come with the disadvantage of costing money (I’m paying for pain…aren’t there are counselors for this sort of thing?) but the awesome advantage that the money goes to charity. Also studies show that monetary investments give a higher likelihood of follow-through and do I need all the help I can get. A quick search of races here in OKC and I settled on the Thunder Dash on June 24th, only $35 and it supports public education, among other things. I think there’s even a participation medal. (We didn’t have those when I was a kid; we got to stand at the plate for a mortifying fifty-eight pitches until we did something useful. I think I’m traumatized.)
Here’s something cool that I just thought of. I can work this running thing into my wanderlust. OKC might not have a bunch of crazy races but Dallas is darn close. Bigger cities = more opportunities. And there’s a couch I can sleep on in Dallas, so bonus. It doesn’t mean I have to aim for higher distances either. The shorter the run, the more time I have to find delicious microbrews and delightful brunches around town. I think I am on to something.
My running journey will for once be a commitment, most importantly a public one. I may even Instagram my extremely red face. (I left that off the list as it’s not painful as much as scary to see. Not for me, I don’t look at me, I just hop in the shower and it soon fades to pasty. But I’ve been told I look like I’m dying which is embarrassing and soooo vindicating all at the same time.)
For sure. I will keep a log of how I feel (my joints and my mentality) and the progress I’m making. FYI: I’m using the Couch-to-5K Free Trainer App which I like a lot as it dings when you are supposed to start running/walking and let’s you play your own music. Pandora is always a choice — so far Static-X radio has kept my feet pounding and my anger at bay. The only money I’ve spent so far is on some Capri elastic pants (shorts and me do not mix) and a WANPOOL wristband to hold my phone. I’m now that guy, though I figure it may come in handy on hikes too.
I may even get involved in a running community though I feel I’ll be pressured to run longer or more or better or all of those . But who knows? Maybe I’ll want to. Maybe there’s a runner in me after all. And now I know I am running to something even if that thing is metaphorical and esoteric. That doesn’t mean it’s not real.