Husband and I have been running since April 1st, on a local trail that circles a small lake. On Wednesday, I ran the whole loop: 2.6 miles. Without stopping. I've done it twice this week, and I still can't believe it. I wish running was more like getting a tatoo: one incident of pain followed by an indelible badge of toughness. "Look! I did it! I'm bad ass!" Before I have anything visible to show for my running, I have to keep doing it, repeating the painful stuff.
It occured to me the other day, while running, that one of the major reasons I dislike it so much is that running is undignified. So far, the payoff keeps me going: I feel better and I want to be healthier (read: lose 30+ pounds). But man, the process is humbling. I like presenting myself to the world in the best way possible. I gain a sense of control by how I dress and talk. When it comes to communication, wardrobe, and body image I emphasize the positive and gloss over the negative. This does not happen when I run. It's not a pretty sight. All the wobbly bits I try to disguise are suddenly on display. I breathe hard and my mouth gets gummy and I wipe my face with my shirt sleeve. I sweat and turn bright red, like a cartoon character holding it's breath. I stumble and shuffle and suddenly lose the ability to automatically put one foot in front of the other, like those dreams where you forget how to walk. Every footfall takes effort because it feels like I have cinder blocks on the ends of my legs.
All this makes me a very cranky running partner. If I didn't have J at my side the whole time, I would give up after the first quarter mile, or just collapse in a pile and cry. He talks me through it. He reminds me when to slow down so I don't outpace myself. He points out landmarks as we pass them. He tells me I'm doing awesome. I feel anything but awesome, and his encouragment gets me grinning. But I usually resent him the whole time. While I'm learning what to do with all this insecurity and indignity, he gets the brunt of my bad attitude. I hate to admit this, but the thing that keeps me running is competition. I don't need to win, or finish first, or make better time. I just hate the thought of him seeing me fail. That's what I realized the other day: I'm miserable while running because
I find myself wishing I was all alone, so I could struggle in privacy, master the tough parts of the trail, and then join him again to show off my success. The current arrangement is that I blame him for all the discomfort (I ask myself, "How did I let him talk me into this?") and then take all the credit when we finish our run. The truth is, I couldn't do it without him. Like I said, never in a million years would I have guessed that I'd make it around the whole lake after 3 weeks of running. NEVER. (I still wonder if it's trick photography or something.) But J's shown me I've got it in me. Amazing. I'm going to work on the attitude thing. Thank you for sticking with me, Honey.
I wish I had a grand concluding paragraph, wrapping up all this insight with an applicable anecdote, "How Running Has Made me a Better Person." But frankly, I have a long way to go.