Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Running Down A Dream

Do you know this song?  It is a Tom Petty classic, and from what I remember, the anthem of our High School Cross Country team.  In fact, I remember going to a Tom Petty concert with my high school friends, Jackie and Rebecca, in celebration of this fact.  (Where Jackie naively admitted that she didn't know that Tom Petty sang about drugs... Oh Jackie...) I always thought that a more appropriate song was the cheesy 80's song, Break My Stride:  "Ain't nothin' gonna to break my stride, Nobody's gonna slow me down, oh-no, I got to keep on movin', Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride, I'm running and I won't touch ground, Oh-no, I got to keep on movin'"

When I think about my happiest moments from the age of 14 on, many of them have been tied to running.  There was the beginning when I joined the cross country team, just praying to make a friend or two before that dreaded first day of school (I was PAINFULLY shy!!!)  Fortunately, they cross country team more than produced.

There was every 6.2 mile Turkey Trot that I ran with my friends on Thanksgiving morning for 10 years in a row. I felt rather entitled to a third helping of just about everything at dinner.  Pure bliss!

Then of course, there was the first marathon at Disney.  Jackie and I had joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training program, where low and behold, we "ran" into our old high school teammate, Julie.  I know that there is no way that I could have had that amazing experience without those girls.  My time wasn't that great:  5 hours, 22 minutes, but it still felt like the biggest thing that I had done in life. I had actually finished a marathon!
Interestingly, a couple of years ago I found an old yearbook from my junior year in which Jackie and Julie jokingly wrote that we should do the Disney marathon someday.  Rather strange given that we did not see Julie again until we all happened to show up for that first Team in Training meeting.  Creepy, no?

I think that one of the more amazing running experiences that I had ever had was my second marathon in Detroit. Just prior to the marathon, I read an article in the Detroit Free Press about a woman that was raising money for MS and hoped to qualify for the Boston marathon in the Detroit.  Wouldn't you know that it was a girl named Lindsey that I ran with in high school.  I happened to see Lindsey at the expo the day before the big race, which was awesome, but didn't expect to see her again.

The next day, I lined up for the marathon and decided to start off with the 3:40 pacing group.  It wasn't that I thought that I had any chance to qualify for Boston, but I just wanted to see how long I could hang on with them.  I found out.  10 miles, then they were gone!  I actually ran behind Lindsey for most of those 10 miles, but I didn't say anything to her because I knew that unlike me she was serious about qualifying.  I just did not want to be a distraction.

At mile 22 or 23 (I can't remember), I was struggling a bit.  Up ahead, I saw someone that looked rather familiar.  It was Lindsey... and she was struggling as well.  For some reason, her back began to have spasms and she was forced to slow down.  When I managed to catch up to her, we chatted and wound up finishing the race together. She absolutely pushed me, and I still can't believe that she finished that race.  I could see that she was in pain the entire time and she actually collapsed at the finish line. She didn't hit her goal, but she officially became my running hero that day.  (And she pushed me to a 4hour 12 minute finish.  Much better!)  Isn't it amazing that just about 10 years after graduation, we found ourselves running like teammates once again?  Runners have a strange bond.

So, after all that, you must think that I love running, right???  Wrong.  (What I actually love is pie.)

I would consider myself a regular runner until about the time that I moved to Springfield, just after that marathon. Coincidentally this is also when I moved away from my running buddies.  I think that was the point when I realized that running for me, was not a love of the sport... It was very much a social thing.  The thought had honestly never occurred to me that without my running buddies, the sport did not hold much for me.

Sure, at first in Springfield, I ran with our neighbors Paul and Gary every morning.  We would meet at 8 am, then sit on one of our porches, and eat homemade baked goods afterward. That lasted for about a month and a half.  Then Paul moved, and the running stopped.  I did one here or there with friends/ squirrels, but nothing regularly.  I just didn't find myself motivated without someone expecting me to meet them for a run.

The last year has been stressful, with re-locating back to Michigan and running has been out of the question. Shockingly, given that there is no Andy's Frozen Custard in Michigan, I have also packed on a bit of weight.  Not enough where I am out of a healthy range by any means, but let's just say that my clothes do not fit me the way that they used to (and I don't make quite enough for a fabulous new wardrobe).  My options are: slim down or get a second job.

I tried to motivate myself to start again.  I got the Nike timing chip and even told friends that I was thinking of doing the next Detroit marathon.  Not enough.  Then I went to the doctor and  found out that my blood pressure is slightly high.   What the what!  (Again, not a dangerous range or anything, but still... I am too young to have a high anything.) It is time to do something.

So, last week I decided to take dramatic action and signed up for a beginners running class.  Yes, I know, I know.  I am technically not a beginner.  That being said, I really do feel like I am.  I am starting over with the intention of fostering a new appreciation of running.  What I hope to walk away with is an actual love of the sport itself.  I just need a coach and a group to get me started.

Running and I have been in a relationship for 17 years now.  It is time that I learn to learn to love it.  The fact is that I have always felt great and a huge boost of self confidence when I have achieved a running goal.  It is not a sport that is dependent on someone passing you the ball, so to speak.  It is completely, 100% self motivated.  If I succeed, it is because I made it happen.  Needless to say, when I succeed in running, I tend to succeed in other areas of my life as well.

So here is my strategy:  No big races.  No stressing about times.  No obsessing over goals.  In fact, if anyone asks if I "am a runner" the answer will be "no" for a while, because it is not about that. For the time being, I am going to try to live in the moment and just enjoy going for a short run.  The other stuff can, and will, come later.  Running isn't social quite yet, but it may be again in the future...  I just have to catch up to my friends first.