I am fascinated by runners. And so, I spent the better part of my adolescent and adult life trying to be one. It was one failure after another. To be sure, I wasn’t trying to run consistently frequently bogged down by the litany of excuses (kids, career, lack of natural athletic prowess, blah blah blah) that kept me sedentary for months (I shudder to think maybe even years) at a time.
But when the zeal for fitness struck, I sometimes thought I was a fool to try to run. The 1 mile run during the Presidential Fitness Tests of my elementary school days was simply humiliating. I was not fast. I was not graceful. It was just awful. (In case you are wondering, I found the pull up and push up test to be humiliating as well but with someone holding down my feet I managed to make it through the sit-ups.) However, the allure of combining exercise, which has always been difficult for me, with an equally needed connection to daylight kept making me try to run. And, of course, the belief (true or not) in the simplicity of “all you need is a pair of shoes” was appealing.
My earliest memory of trying to run was in high school. I tried running in loops around our backyard pool. My thought at the time was if I could make it around the 120ft perimeter without stopping for several loops then maybe I could make it to the street in front of the house. It never happened. So having now run two half marathons through the streets near that house is feels pretty awesome. I hope to make this a personal annual tradition for myself.
In college, I lived with several runners. These were girls for whom running was like brushing their teeth; they just could not go on with their day without getting a run in. I was in awe of them and I tried running on my own along the very popular riverside path near our college in hopes of emulating them. I never made it more than a quarter mile. So it felt really amazing to run 4.0 miles in row without stopping along that same path the weekend of our 15th college reunion a few years ago. I can’t wait for the future girls’ weekend that involves us running a race together. We may all run at different paces but the experience of sharing that accomplishment will be a much better bonding moment than some of our college shenanigans.
In medical school, I so badly wanted to be a runner that I actively sought help. I was lucky enough to have some runner friends take me under their wing and go out to the local track and lakeside path. They patiently trotted alongside me as we went from electric pole to electric pole. But once again I could not do it. It turns out that I ended up coming back to my alma mater and (though still not with the regularity that I would hope for) running past the same electric poles is totally feasible. I hope that these streets will provide years and years of training for my running aspirations.
In residency, having developed the laser-like focus on getting things done and done well (as all residents must possess) I tried again by supplementing my efforts with what I thought was the right gear. I researched running shoes and I went to Marathon Sports and Fleet Feet to splurge on the kind of running shoes that their experts said would work for me. Once again, I had friends (and also a husband) who indulged in the electric pole to electric pole routine of trying to run. We even had a glorious lake and magnificent city skyline as a back drop to these efforts but it was a total fail. To my delight, the last 4 trips I have taken back to the city where I did my residency all involved long runs along that same running path.
In all those years of fits and spurts of trying to run, I never became a runner. Every time I tried I had to stop due to back pain, neck pain, and jaw pain with each stride. This persisted even in custom fitted kicks. Clearly, I was doing something wrong and 7 years passed and I really never tried to run again. I actually had an elevator script down on running about how “I just don’t have a good stride. It’s too painful to run…I will never be that person who runs for fun.” And, the sad part is I believed it.
Then sometime in early 2011, a New Balance Minimus shoe came on sale at Nordstrom. (Browsing the Nordstrom iphone app for sales is something for which I confess I need a twelve-step program.) By this time, I was starting to focus more on my fitness and was making cardio a more frequent part of my life. I found it easiest to get in cardio during work trips and was in search of a pair of lightweight, packable shoes to work out in. They looked cute and for elliptical jaunts I really had no other requirements than cuteness. Plus, they were on a huge discount so I pulled the trigger (or more precisely hit the ‘purchase now’ key).
A few months later, while on a work trip, the workout room was closed. But I was literally 2mi from the Pacific Ocean and so on a whim I threw on my Minimus sneakers and went for a run. It was August 2011. I fumbled with my Nike Run app and missed half the run. But I put one foot in front of the other for 2.5mi without stopping. It was like a 13min pace and most days on rounds I walk that fast but you know what, I felt the emotions of that person who runs for fun. And I felt good. No back pain. No neck pain. No jaw pain. The forefoot stride was what had been eluding me all those failed attempts at running.
Since then, I have been far from consistent and I haven’t picked up much speed but I can put one foot in front of the other for few miles at a time without stopping pretty much whenever I am motivated to do so. I surely need more motivation to be that person who runs for every day because, well, it’s so much fun, but I am truly a different person. And I have a Nordstrom sale and the minimal kicks to thank for uncorking this potential to be a runner that I probably had within me all along.