Some of you know very well and you can verify or contest what I say here.
But some people don’t know.
Before cancer, I ran short distances slow. I didn’t start doing that until my late forties and the first time I tried it was really just an experiment. I wanted to know how it felt.
I set the goal of running around my block. I was going to walk out my front door, proceed to run really slow (maybe even more than I needed to), make four pretty sharp right turns and end up back at my front door. Then I’d just gauge all the signals from my body and determine whether this extreme activity was even possible for me.
I had to stop just short of the second right turn.
Running is hard. It feels like you can’t do it.
After getting a little better at it, I set out for a short run in my hood one day when the neighbor two doors down came out and joined me. She was not a runner. She just wanted to see what it felt like, if she could do it. I assumed, of course, that she would be a natural and would put me to shame and for a moment, that seemed possible. But pretty quickly, about as quickly as I gave up the first time, she stopped short and wished me well.
See, running feels different in your imagination.
In your imagination, Chariots of Fire music is playing (always, it’s inevitable) and you’re in slow mo and there might be a little resistance but it feels a lot like walking in water and you’re SO determined (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been SO determined) that you are just going to determine yourself all the way down the path however many miles you’ve decided to go.
And for a moment your imagination controls the experience. Then gravity notices you. And gravity is a force that is often equal to or stronger than the force of my determination. Gravity is like that T Rex in Jurassic Park. It’s very big and heavy and loud and mad and hungry. But it only sees you if you move. Stay very still, and it will not get you. Move, and it’s teeny round eye will rotate in your direction and then things are going to hurt.
I think it was the first time I ran the Fred and we got to the part when we’d been running all day and the light began to fade and I was thinking pretty hard about how lovely it would be to go home but we had a long way to go, and we came upon a group of pretty good runners. They all looked great and the whole thing was going much faster for them. One guy turned around and we could see he had a tee shirt on with the words “Running Sucks”. We all laughed and loved it and wanted one. And he said something I find very interesting. He said, “Only runners get this.” Running does suck and you don’t know that until you do it, gravity only finds you if you move.
So I always think it’s funny when people say they don’t like to run. You know, as if they would go do it a lot but they just don’t find the experience pleasant. Ah, duh!! For me this is like someone saying, “But I don’t like to work,” as if the rest of us were setting our alarms and heading out in the world for eight hour stretches five days a week because we just like that. Nope. We’d all rather sleep in or go for a walk or watch movies in our jammies or have coffee out with friends or all of those things together. That would be more pleasant than working for a living or running.
This, you guys, is why the run/walk is cool. It fools you and gravity. It promises you can rest quite soon but carries you past that very quick giving up point. You think, “Well, this feels like I can’t do it but I must be able to do it for two minutes.” And you can. And that is my second point.
So, to recap with the points.
1. Running sucks, it feels like you can’t do it.
2. But you can do it.
The last time I updated you, I was doing well with the run/walk. We started with a gentle two minutes of running, four minutes of walking, five reps. That felt real good. In fact it occurred to me that if I just did that three times a week, I’d be getting some nice exercise.
This, then, leads to the next (or third, if you’re counting) point in the progression of how running feels. Because of the T. Rex and the reasonable conclusion that running is impossible, any running success whatsoever (two minutes, y’all) makes you feel superhuman. I, myself, typically experience a quite strong runner’s high after reaching notoriously minor running goals. Yep, I think I have achieved greatness. I’ll chat with marathoners as if my experience compares, I believe I have joined a select inner circle of athleticism. So let’s give that one a bullet point too:
3. If you do, you’ll basically feel like Batman.
Then you get encouraged and you do more of it. But the thing about being at point three is, you can very quickly slip back to point one. Inexplicably, you can have this impressive victory and then try it again, and have it seem for all the world like you can’t do it.
And that is how running feels. Or, that’s how it feels to me. I’m now doing an eight minute run/two minute walk interval, three reps and I’m building up to an ultimate high of nine straight miles of running. That will be a new record for me. We’ll see, won’t we?