Runners are a strange breed. This I know for sure. I’ve been one for more than 30 years. Most people eye us with distrust, give us nasty looks as if we’ve ruined their day by just being there. Oddly, there are those who try to run us off the road. I’ve never understood this animosity.
For example, it was a frigid, snowy day. A day when no vehicles should be on the road. Feet are okay, if they’re clad in spikes. So there I was heading south on Main Street/Dixie Highway toward the bowling alley, my turnaround. A large truck approached me from the south. A dad and son. No seatbelts from my visual. But hey, if they want to take chances. I raised my hand to wave, when the driver raised his own hand in an angry fist-waving rampage. Ummmm…okay. Gee, did I do something wrong? I puzzled over that one all day.
So anyway, running. It’s been my thing since sophomore year of college. The first time I tried, one college roommate convinced the other two of us to trot around the old cinder track behind Hirschy Hall on the Bluffton College (excuse me, University) campus. My memory is that Emily informed Vicki and I that we would slowly traverse a lap at a time. When I developed a sideache, Em, the veteran, told me to run bent over. I’m sure this looked pretty stupid, but fortunately it was dark.
That was it until about six months later when I decided to try again. Somehow it got easier and I discovered it was kind of fun. Over the years, it became habit. From somewhere within me, a competitive urge popped up and I began races. I actually won a few. In fact, I’d have won one more except they somehow registered me as male. I actually got the trophy 20 years later. I don’t know if it took that long to compute, or if Dick Boehr just felt sorry for me and had one specially designed.
So…here it is almost 34 years later. Miles and miles behind me. Assorted injuries, temporary layoffs (i.e. two pregnancies and one knee surgery, two sacral stress fractures)…and even a few months of thinking I’d never run again. But oh…minutes at a time, we idiots build back up to some semblance of running.
So recently, thanks to an ongoing health problem, my doc looks at me suspiciously and says, “Are you still running.” Guiltily, I peek at my husband, who is glaring at me. Ulp. “Um…yesterday.” How far, says he, the expert? Um….3? How fast? Um…oh about, 28-29 minutes, maybe.
Stop now — you can start again when you’re stronger. Okay, this is not the order I wanted to hear. I wanted to think I could keep up my usual routine — that piece of me that has become as natural as brushing my teeth. But okay, for the sake of saving my energy for some tough times, I agree. Walk, he says. That’s okay.
The next day I find myself enjoying an early morning walk with a friend, who says she is more of a walker than a runner these days. In fact, she explains to me why runners don’t want to be known as walkers. There’s something, she says, about being known as a “runner”. It sets us apart, lets us continue to be the oddballs we like to be. It also allows us to eat just about anything we want…well, at least those who don’t have genetically high cholesterol.
As my walking feet fight my running brain, I remind myself that I’m doing this for a good reason. It’s all about energy. Saving it. Somehow, though, my brain hasn’t quite accepted that. It will. Someday. I hope.