You know what I hate about running?
Okay fine, that's a total and complete exaggeration, but sometimes I honestly have to stop and think about why I keep crawling back to this particular past time. Believe it or not, I'm now in my sixteenth (eighteenth if you count those sporadic 7th and 8th grade morning runs with my friend, Michelle) year of my love/hate relationship with this sport.
And yes, I'm getting old. I'm reminded of my age every day at noon, when the 92.9 retro-lunch hour comes on and I get super confused, thinking I'm listening to my all-time favorite mix tape. I'm like, "Boyz II Men! Their harmony is so killer, I'm gonna rewind that part and listen to it again! I hope I don't rewind it too far! Oh wait..."
Yeah, I also sent my husband to the pharmacy to fetch some hemorrhoid cream last night--you know, so the low-fat high-fiber casserole wouldn't burn while I was gone.
Old. I know. Shut up.
A few days ago two magazines came in the mail: Runner's World and Trout Lovers United...or something to that effect. The headline on Jared's magazine said something like, The Top Ten Most Beautiful Places to Fish this Summer. And my magazine? It was all, Ten Tips for Learning to Tolerate Tempo Runs. In other words, How to Hate your Hobby a Little Bit Less.
I held one magazine in my left hand, and the other in the right. I looked back and forth, from one to the other, and thought, "Why? Why, why, why am I still running?" And today, as I'm sitting here at my desk, trying to figure out how I can finagle enough daylight to run six reps on a super steep half-mile hill, in the rain, my "Why?" has morphed into, "Seriously. What the #$%^ is my problem?"
For the next few days, I plan to use this blog to do a little bit of self examination and gain some clarity about the hobby I love to hate and hate to love, the one I just can't quit.
The Sport of Selfishness
Last weekend, I grouped together with four complete strangers and ran a 200-mile overnight relay from Quincy, MA to Provincetown. The entire experience, from the miles to the middle-of-the-night running to the together-time in a mini-van with people I barely knew, was insane. But the crowning jewel of craziness? That would be my teammate Randy, who was slated to run 32 miles total. He's a smoker, he showed up in a wife beater tank top, and I crap you not, this guy had chewing tobacco shoved into his cheek while he ran. Oh wait--I guess I should also mention that he hadn't run a step since January.
Now to be fair, I'm leaving out a pretty important detail here. Randy is with the Special Forces in the military. He's an Army Ranger, a Green Beret, spent three years in Afghanistan voluntarily--pretty much as hardcore as they come.
Our middle-of-the-night conversations went something like this:
ME: Hey, so is it true that when you're a Green Beret you stick each others' heads in buckets of bleach just for fun?
RANDY: No. That would probably make you blind.
ME: Oh. Well I just heard that somewhere. But it is true that you have to stab yourself in the thigh with a dirty knife to graduate Ranger school, right? I mean that's gotta be the case.
RANDY: Uh, no. Not true.
ME: Well that's too bad. I think I'd feel safer if you guys were required to do that.
RANDY: I've jumped out of 4,000 planes and my head was grazed by a rocketing grenade a couple of times.
ME: Okay...I'm starting to understand.
RANDY: I throw my kids out of moving airplanes on their 18th birthdays to welcome them into adulthood.
ME: Dude, my mom bought me a cake and a sweater when I turned 18. You really are hardcore.
And so on and so forth.
We stopped at a lot of gas stations and 7-11s along the way, and every time we'd stop, we'd get the same question: What kind of race are you guys running?
We'd talk about the relay, the person would think for a minute and then, without fail, they'd all ask the very same thing: Is it for charity?
The truth is, no, it wasn't for The Jimmy Fund or The Human Society--it was just a race.
My friend Kristine was running because she's always up for a new challenge, and running makes her happy. Trevor was running because he's insane and he's trying to build up his running resume so he'll be accepted to Badwater. Linda was running because she's damn good at it and she loves to stay in shape. Randy was running because he feels like too many people live in the past--they talk about the glory days and what they used to be able to do.
And me? Well? I was running because....honestly? I'm worth it.
Right now, in my world, running's not about other people. At this point in my life it's not about raising money for worthy causes or increasing awareness about diseases. It's not about my husband or my kids. As uncomfortable as I feel when I type these words, it's all about me.
I like to have a slender body and a strong heart.
I like to spend money on my shoes.
I like to have an hour to myself almost every day.
I like to spend that hour deciding where I'll go without any input from anyone else.
I like to listen to podcasts instead of James's Michael Jackson songs over and over and over.
I like to feel my pigtails slapping against my neck.
I like to be able to eat dessert every day and not stress about my weight.
I like to fit into my pre-marriage jeans.
I like to feel success.
I like to get trophies and medals.
I like to have weekend plans that center around me, instead of just my husband and my kids.
I like to take care of myself, and you know what? Just by virtue of being human, I'm totally and completely worth it.
And guess what! So. Are. You. Now get out there and run!
Just kidding, running sucks, you should take a pottery class.