Tuesday, December 4, 2012

i hate running and why that's okay

Saturday was a bit of a milestone, friends. I did something which seemed virtually impossible to me. I ran my very first 5K.

Now, I know what you're thinking... 5K? Really? Philanthropic college students can run 5Ks when they're hungover. Elementary school kids probably run a 5K in laps around the jungle gym. And I'll be honest, whenever I heard of people competing in 5K races, it's not like I belittled their accomplishments, but it just never occurred to me that it would be something huge enough to celebrate.


Until Saturday, rather, when I got talked into running my own despite the glaring fact that I've never been able to run farther than one mile without stopping IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. That's not an exaggeration. Before this race, my body had no concept of what that might feel like. (Except for the fact that it would probably suck.)

So with four days to "train," I begrudgingly agreed to run in the Jingle Bell Run to support the Arthritis Foundation with Jason, and our two friends, Sean and Brittany.

Enter, my training schedule (read: four days of me freaking out before the race.) Wednesday I was feeling sporty so I decided to give it a go. I figured that a lap around our neighborhood was about a mile, so I cranked up my tunes and about two minutes in, I got that familiar "I want to die" feeling. Still, I pressed on, but after just one lap my brain convinced myself that something was very wrong with my knee. (That brain of mine, she is one persuasive lady.) I was a little bummed with myself, but I was still proud I got out there.

On Thursday, Jason and I decided that we'd crank it up a notch. Our goal was TWO laps, and hopefully if we made it, the 3.1ish miles on Saturday wouldn't be such a stretch. Off we started, and I was feeling really good. Right away I got into a rhythm, and I started to feel confident. You know when you hear runners say that they get this "runner's zen" or "runner's high" when they hit their stride and feel like they could run forever? Well this blog post is not about that. Because that feeling, yeah that never happened. In fact, after about five minutes of my "rhythm," the familiar feeling of pain and discomfort returned. My problem is that I'm not the type of person that can run and think about other things. My mind does nothing but focus on my task at hand and how every part of my body is aching - my feet, my knees, my lungs, my everything. I think about how far I have to go and at any given moment I'm pretty much negotiating with myself on whether or not I should stop. So yes, I'm admitting to you guys loud and clear, I'm a big fat baby.

But this time I didn't stop. Jason did a really good job of sticking by my side and giving me a tap on the shoulder or a thumbs up and I guess deep down I told myself that if I kept going, one of two things was going to happen. Either I was going to eventually finish and accomplish my goal or I was going to die trying (in which case I wouldn't have to run the 5K). So basically it was a win, win.

Before I knew it, we had made it the full two laps. I looked over at Jason like I couldn't believe it, and he looked down at his app which was tracking our run. We did it, he said. We ran a 5K. Apparently without knowing it, our neighborhood is actually about 1.5 miles, so two laps ended up being 3.1 miles exactly, which we ran in about 30 minutes. It felt ah-mazing for about 30 seconds. After that, all I could think was, Damnit. Now I know I can do it. It meant that come Saturday I had no excuse not to run the whole thing because I knew I was physically capable of doing it.

Saturday came, and I actually found myself kind of excited. Since my big accomplishment two days before, I was starting to feel a bit more confident in my abilities. The race was at night, and as we lined up at the starting gate, laced up, race bib on, I looked around and thought, Maybe this could be a new thing for me, a new challenge, this whole running thing. I'll admit, the butterflies in my stomach were exhilarating.

The shot went off and I was suddenly surrounded by all these people working toward a common goal. I felt like a part of something bigger. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Well, guess what. That's where the wonder ended. EVEN with all of that magical race day adrenaline, I discovered something very important about myself. I still hate running. I freaking HATE it, you guys. Is that awful to say? It's so hard. And kind of boring. A part of me really wanted to have this spiritual, uplifting experience from taking on a challenge and accomplishing something huge. Maybe I would if I trained more, or if I made it more of a hobby, but I have to be completely honest when I say I'm just not a big fan. I'd rather be playing basketball or tennis or volleyball if I'm going to feel like my lungs are going to explode.

But the fact that I hate running is okay for me. This is the thing I'm taking away from the experience, and maybe it's something that some of you out there will be able to apply to your own lives. The most important thing I learned is this: Doing things you hate can be a really great thing.

We all encounter things over the course of our lives that we don't like, things that we don't want to do. Maybe it's something small like a task at work, or a family obligation, or a request from a close friend or boyfriend. Or maybe it's something bigger - a challenge in life that you literally don't even think that you can endure. That's when it's good to know that you're capable of doing things you hate.

Part of growing up is about taking an honest look at who you are, the good and the bad. One thing I know about myself is that sometimes I avoid things that are hard. I don't mean to, but I think I value happiness so much that it's easy for me to talk myself out of things that are physically or emotionally demanding because I think why put myself through something unpleasant. Life is too short, right? But I don't necessarily believe that that is a good way to be. Of course I want to challenge myself and know that I can endure things that are hard, because life is hard.

And so, yes, I hate running. But that, my friends, is just fine. Because I ran a 5K. It was hard and it hurt and 12-year-olds were passing me left and right and there were god-forsaken BRIDGES that I ran up (which I did NOT know about until I saw them right in front of me - curse those bridges!) but I did not even for one single second quit. Jason and I finished the race in 28:02, which beat our goal of 30 minutes, and I'm proud to say that I placed 7th in my age group.

(Obviously I'm smiling in that picture because it's BEFORE the race...)

Does that mean I'm so proud that I will even think about doing another 5K? Absolutely not. Not anytime soon, at least. But am I proud that I did it knowing how much I loathe running? Most definitely.

To all of my running readers out there - I sincerely hope my brutally honest feelings toward your sport haven't offended you. You are all my heroes, and your mental toughness astounds me. (In fact, check out this amazing post by my friend Margaret on her running journey. She's amazing.) For now, however, I think I'll leave the racing to you guys and I'll just keep my physical activity limited to things like basketball, challenging Jason to pushup competitions (guess who wins) and keeping up with my body builder of a dog, Plax (whatever guys, he's ALL muscle.)

Do you guys have anything that you really hate to do? Do you feel guilty for hating it? Do you try to challenge yourself on a regular basis? 

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