I've never been particularly sporty.
If you know me at all, then you know that even that sentence is somewhat of an understatement. Poor balance and some health concerns often made physical activity difficult for me, and for the majority of my adult life, I’ve led a somewhat sedentary existence.
Not that that I'm inherently lazy, but I do have some limitations--the management of chronic pain being one of them. I decided a year ago, however, that with a little help from some friends, this trend could reverse. I started working out three days a week, getting stronger, and experiencing less pain.
Then I broke my ankle, suffered a life implosion, and had a harder time recovering than I expected.
So when my friend Alissa suggested that we plan to run a 5k together on my upcoming birthday, I really didn’t take her seriously at first. After all, I've always hated running and joked with people that if they ever saw me running, they should probably be running too, because something truly horrible must be happening.
I also acknowledge that for some of you, a 5k is no big deal. After all, several of you are marathoners, and at least one of you has done an Iron Man! One of you ran a marathon while pregnant. May I just say to you all that I know I’m not worthy!
However, consider this:
I have three pinched nerves in my back, a bulging disc, and a heart anomaly that causes low blood pressure, fatigue, chest pain, and unexpected palpitations/spasms.
Six months ago, I couldn't walk.
Four months ago, I still went with a limp.
Two months ago, I couldn't jog much farther than the end of the block.
This past weekend, I ran a 5k.
I firmly believe that if I can do something like this, anybody can do anything.
Here’s the story:
In October, I started my training. Due to scheduling issues, I had to train alone—a horror for an extreme extrovert like me who already dreads the task at hand. But I’m nothing if not determined, so despite the lack of social interaction and complete paucity of personal satisfaction, I soldiered on.
Per some excellent advice, I started my runs at small intervals over a period of 25-30 minutes per session. (I call them “runs,” although in the early days, it was more like a shamble, which eventually turned into a slow jog, etc.)
From the beginning, I kept a short account of each run for your reading pleasure. I also took a post-run selfie to send to my accountability partners, but I will only share a few of those with you. You're better off that way, trust me.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…
The Running Diaries
Run 1 – (1:00 run / 1:30 walk) Started too early in the evening – still blazing hot outside. I guess I forgot that I live in Florida. I nearly sweat my face off. Although I can’t imagine this being harder, it probably is harder without a face.
Run 2 – (1:00 run / 1:30 walk) Saw a palm frond in road and thought it was a snake. Later, I did see an actual snake in the road, but it had already been run over by a car, so it was okay. Ironically, the palm frond seemed much scarier than the snake. Didn’t know it was even possible for my heart rate to jump even higher than it already was, but when I saw that palm frond waving, I almost went into cardiac arrest.
Run 3 – (1:00 run / 1:30 walk) I actually ran a little quickly for a while, but only because I was chased by two dogs. In retrospect, I should have stopped and stood very still, but I panicked. I later saw a dead bird in the street, which wouldn’t have been too weird, except it seemed that the bird had first been put into bread bag, tossed in the street, and then run over. Which was weird. (Beginning to wonder about this neighborhood…) Ankles, knees, and shins aching after run, requiring ice.
Run 4 – (1:30 run / 2:00 walk) Right knee and ankle throbbing. Tried to favor right leg, which only caused left leg to start hurting. Perhaps should have stayed home or just walked? Or started running before my mid-30s?
Run 5 – (1:30 run / 2:00 walk) Tonight I didn’t jog so much as just hobble. New neighbor (“Franklin”) stopped me and asked where he can buy good pizza. He became confused regarding the directions I gave him, and I doubt if he’ll ever find the pizza place that I recommended. This may or may not have been because I couldn’t breathe and as a result couldn’t talk very clearly. By the time the run was over, my right ankle had swollen up like balloon. After shower, I iced it with a Birdseye veggie medley (because I don’t have any ice).
INTERMISSION: I took a ten-day break. I knew this might be a bad idea, but the joint pain was a concern, and I also had out-of-town company.
Run 6 – After treatments of lemongrass, clove, ice, and rest for joint pain, I’m ready to try again. I also added a knee brace to the other various braces keeping my right leg from collapsing. That seems to help. But I have a different question: Is it normal to feel one’s heartbeat in one’s face? I’m asking for a friend.
Run 7 – (2:00 run / 1:30 walk) It’s fifteen degrees cooler today, and I can feel every degree. Thank you, Florida! The temperature drop is the good thing. The bad thing is that my hair tie broke halfway through my run, unleashing the full wrath of my hair. Also, while I was trying to deal with the hair situation, a white van pulled up next to me and the driver started talking to me. I was all, “Stranger danger!” But then I realized that it was a man from my church, so it was okay after all. Still, though. Heart attack.
Run 8 – (2:00 run / 1:30 walk) Alissa came to run with me! She talked the whole time – I did not. A very strange turn of events in our friendship! As we jogged down the street, a dog got scared of us and ran away. Confused as to why, because my hair wasn’t even down or anything. Alissa says I’m moving more quickly than she’d expected, so that was good to hear. Maybe this is possible after all!
Run 9 – (2:00 run / 1:30 walk) Halloween! Was hoping someone would mistake me for a trick-or-treater and throw candy, but no such luck. Saw lots of mini Batmans (Batmen?) and finished my run just before dark. I forgot (once again) to purchase candy to hand out, so I plan to shower really quickly and then listen to an audio version of Macbeth while sitting in the dark—a favorite Halloween tradition.
Run 10 – (2:00 run / 1:30 walk) Ran through rain tonight. No wonder characters on TV shows are always doing this! It’s amazing! I felt as if I were in an episode of The Killing. Tonight I didn’t see the guy on the bike whom I always wave to. I wonder if it was because of the rain or because the time change has thrown him off? (Note: I never did see him again after that. I hope he’s okay…)
Run 11 – (3:00 run / 1:00 walk) Bumping up to three minutes of running wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. And the heavens rejoiced with me! Came home and rewarded myself with pork potstickers.
Run 13 – (3:00 run / 1:00 walk) Breathing has become more free and easy, but my feet have begun to hurt. I guess it’s always something! Alissa and Karyn say that this is serious and that I need real running shoes or I “might die.” I’m unclear whether or not this is hyperbole.
Run 14 – (5:00 run /3:00 walk) Thanks to a shopping trip with Alissa over the weekend, I tried out a new pair of Asics, and they felt great.
Due to my new haircut, I have the added bonus of feeling my hair flopping up and down with every step, adding a pleasant sense of motion and buoyancy. The five minute running stretches felt difficult, but not horrible.
Run 15 – (5:00 run /3:00 walk) Tonight’s run was ostensibly easier. I do believe I’ve overcome the “running hump,” if that’s a thing.
Run 16 – Completed two 8-minute runs with 5-minute walk in between. Two little boys on tricycles raced me down a side street. They won. They raced me during my second 8-minute run, when I wasn't at my best. Otherwise I would have smoked the little stinkers. Their grandpa watched me jog up the entire street. I gave him a look that said, "You don't even know," and he gave me a look that said, "Who are these kids?" Well, at least, that’s sort of what happened. We exchanged some complicated looks, and I extrapolated our dialogue from that. So maybe he was just thinking something else entirely. And now we’ll never know.
Run 17 – Repeated two 8-minute runs with 4-minute walk in between. Went on this run even though I wasn’t feeling well: everything on the inside of my body wanted to be on the outside of my body. Death.
Run 18 – Decided to try 10 minutes of running with a 3-minute walk in between and wound up somehow actually running two ten-minute miles. WHUT.
Run 19 – It took me 24 minutes to do 2 miles tonight. Much slower than my last run, but there are some reasons for the slowness (health-related energy issues, not injury) so I’m still satisfied. Ran through this beautiful sunset tonight and thought about how happy I am to be able to move around at all – and also how happy I am to be alive! Thank you, Lord, for life!
Run 20 – Ran two miles in just over 20 minutes. So very humid tonight. I’m totally soaked, but only half of it is sweat. The other half is moisture that just clung to me as I ran through Florida’s pea-soup air. The 5k is one week away and I’ve never run more than two miles at the same time. Alissa says I will be fine.
Run 21 – 2.2 miles in 22 minutes—a delightfully symmetrical run! I wish it had been Run 22 to complete the symmetry, though. Happy to report that Alissa says I can now call what I do “running.”
Run 22 – 24 minutes for 2 miles tonight, with the breakdown thus:
Mile 1: 9 minutes
Mile 2: 15 minutes.
The reason for this contrast is that I pushed myself during the first mile to see what I could do, but then pooped out and walked the first half of the second mile before finishing up with a light jog. I guess the lesson here is that it doesn’t pay to push yourself. I will never make that mistake again. Also, I saw a pantyliner in the street. What is the world coming to?
December 14 – The Color Vibe
In all, the run went as well as I had anticipated. My goal had been to run a 30-minute 5k, but I also wanted to keep pace with my Dear Old Dad, who was running along in celebration (it was my birthday), and I’m happy to report that the two of us crossed the finish line together, clocking in at just over forty minutes.
We all even had enough energy left over for some post-run celebratory dancing...
And, of course, jumps!
It takes a village to raise a child, and in my case, it took a village to teach me to run. From the beginning, my friend Alissa encouraged me. Along with Alissa, my new friend Karyn kept me accountable for updates and post-run selfies on run days. Karyn and I just met over this past summer when we were in Alissa’s wedding together. We bonded over an early-morning airport run to Scranton, and I plan to see her next month at the Disney marathon! (She will be participating: I will not!) Jodee, a fellow run-hater, praised me from afar. Coach Ray helped me with strength and cardo. Bethany and Dad signed up to run with us on The Collapsibles and underwent their own training. (In Bethany’s case, though, the only training she really needed was “being Bethany.” But that’s another matter entirely.)
What an amazing support system! I may be weak in athleticism, but I'm rich in friendship.
Love you guys!