Running? Really?

Credit: Ronald Saunders, Flickr via Creative Commons

Credit: Ronald Saunders, Flickr via Creative Commons

After almost three months of silence on this blog, I’m going to write a post on running. Me. The girl who has never run unless coerced by a creepy gym teacher threatening to give me a bad grade. The one who, due to *ahem* certain anatomical generosities, has found most bouncy athleticism to be awkward and a little painful. The girl who’s been saying for months that the zombie apocalypse better freaking happen so there’s actually a purpose to me developing this skill.

Yes, I’m going to write about running. Even though I’m only a few months in to this experiment at all, and can really only barely call what I’ve been doing running. Because some things are happening in my brain as a result of this experiment, and really we all know what happens in my brain is infinitely more interesting to me than what happens with my body. If I could I would choose to be a floating head. So here’s the sneak peak.

  • I’m not someone who finishes things. I start things. A lot of things. Pardon the analogy but I’ve always said I’m more of a sprinter than a marathon runner. My wiring is so damn all-or-nothing, so I love throwing myself completely into a thing until I’ve given it all my blood, sweat, and tears. In the moment. Once the moment is passed what is, is. I probably won’t be going back to the thing. So starting a running program, with checkpoints and deadlines and schedules, just seemed like a set-up for failure. But what the hell, right? So I started. And I couldn’t come close to actually completing the very first routine. I was able to run maybe half of the time I was supposed to. Week one of the program took me two weeks to actually be able to complete. And almost every time I started I thought, this might be the last time I do this. The chances of me actually completing this program are, well, come on. Not very high. But I’ll do it today. Then I was on week two, and thought I really might die this time. Week two took me a few weeks as well. Then week three, which more than doubled the running time during the routine. I laughed out loud the first time I saw the breakdown. Three weeks in, and yesterday I was able to complete the entire routine on a trail. I completed three weeks of the program. Part of me feels like this totally doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t count. Because the program isn’t complete. But the thing is, it totally counts. Because I’ve completed three weeks of routines, which means more than a dozen individual workouts. I don’t finish things. But I’ve finished these things.
  • I’m a pretty fragile person. I know I seem all strong and tough and independent and resilient. And in some ways I am all of those things. But I’m also easily hurt, easily broken. A lot of my strength has developed as a result of learning to protect my overly sensitive little soul. The dark side of this reality is that I often tell myself that I’m weak. This is one of the more damaging refrains that cycles through my mind in the self-deprecating moments. So when I don’t finish something, or can’t do something perfectly on the first try, the berating begins. Yesterday I finished a mile on a running trail in exactly the same amount of time (to the second) that I’d done on a treadmill the day before. I’m usually so much slower running outside, and wasn’t paying any attention to my distance at all. But when I realized that the times were identical, a brand new thought went through my mind. I’m so much stronger than I think I am. This is not the reality in which I live. But looking back, and not to get too serious, I’ve survived a helluva lot of trauma. And I’m a fairly well-adjusted, loving, lovable person on this side of it all. I’ve recently had a little heartbreak happen, and the truth is for a second I thought it might swallow me. But that’s super lame. This is such a small thing compared to almost anything I’ve faced and overcome. I am so much stronger than I think I am.
  • I really like things to be black and white, all or nothing. Love me or never speak to me. Do a thing perfectly or don’t bother doing it at all. None of this middle-of-the-road nonsense. And having a surly attitude about this running business is sort of cathartic, so I find myself saying I hate the treadmill because of x and hate running outside because of y. And this creates a general sense of utter dread for the activity, because all versions of it are surrounded by a list of things I hate. I talk about how much a treadmill sucks because the movement feels artificial, and I hate when people have the televisions on stupid reality shows, and the grey gym walls are horrible. I can describe a truly dismal environment. But the truth is, I also really appreciate the steady pace and the familiarity of the gym I attend and the recognition from certain people who see me there. Every day. And are encouraging me in that. So I turn on the trail running because it’s so unsteady, and it’s getting dark so early, and I’m super intimidated by all the other people out there. But the truth is, I also love being surrounded by nature, and the fresh air, and the nods of the other runners when they pass. At the gym, I find community and acknowledgement and consistency. Outside I find space to breathe and think and connect with myself. Neither place is all bad.

I believe a lot of lies. I never finish anything. I am weak. I am too extreme. Running isn’t necessarily making those things less true. But it is re-framing the narrative. Those are answers to pointless questions. Because I’m finishing some things. I am stronger than I think. I can see the beauty and purpose in the hardest of things. We humans are so resilient. So capable. So fully wrapped up in beauty and significance. I hope we can all find our paths to embracing those realities. They are the deepest truths we can possibly carry.

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