Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Moving from my "f*** it list" to my "bucket list"...

Running.  Ah, running. Just a few short months ago, I could not think of anything more mundane.  I mean, really, you set out on the road and just run with no destination?  No real purpose?  Friends of mine who run always told me that running is good for the soul and brings them a sense of peace and self-fulfillment.  I highly doubted that something like running could ever affect me that way.

Around February of this year, I started hearing a lot about other peoples' bucket lists.  I had heard the term before but never in such detail.  People were sky-diving, traveling around the world, losing 85 pounds, and running marathons.  Why?  Simply because they wanted to see if they could.  As good a reason as any, right?  Running marathons resonated with me.  26.2 miles?  Geez, I would surely die.  How about a half-marathon?  Yeah right.  I'd die then too, just maybe not as painfully.  A 10K?  Eh...still dreaming.  A 5K?  Well, that's 3.1 miles, right?  I hadn't run for speed since high school.  I believe I ran a mile in 7 min 58 sec back then.  But that was years ago and I knew I was slower than molasses at this point.  Well, I thought to myself, I wouldn't necessarily have to run for speed; I would run just to see if I could do it without passing out and needing an ambulance.  Ok, that'd be a good goal- run the entire 5K without walking. Don't worry about how long it takes. Yeah....

I have never been a runner. In fact, when I started out that first day at the end of February, I ran to the corner and was already huffing and puffing. Someone told me to buy new sneakers so I did.  Another person told me to get an MP3 player and download some decent running music.  Check.  I had heard about the Couch-to-5K program online and although I did research it, I decided in the end that it wasn't for me.  I needed to go a bit faster than that and see a little more progress week to week.  I was never on the couch; the kids didn't allow me to be. But I was no runner either.

I guess you could say I made up my own program.  It was called RUN UNTIL YOU CAN'T ANYMORE.   GET MAD BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T MAKE IT VERY FAR AND RUN SOME MORE. STOP.  MAKE SURE YOU GO FURTHER THE NEXT TIME.  It was a little painful at first because I felt like giving up right away but I set little landmark goals for myself such as "I just need to make it to that white sign...."  that worked surprisingly well.  What worked even better was when my pregnant sister-in-law came to visit one weekend in March and insisted that we go running.  I couldn't be shown up by a pregnant woman, could I?  Come on now.  And no, it didn't matter that she was in the military and in top shape.

By mid-March was was running a mile and a half without any pain or heavy breathing.  I signed up for my first 5K to take place on May 13th.  I told myself I had two months to double my distance. The weather was getting better and I was feeling healthier.  Things were looking up.

Then, for some crazy unknown reason, I decided that I would accomplish my goal of running 3.1 miles while I was still 32.  That meant I had until April 16th. Only one month!!  It was pretty thrilling because several people had told me my new goal was unrealistic, which provided much-needed fuel for the fire.  I would do it come hell or high water!  Running at night helped because the temperature was cool and I was more relaxed.  I got out there 3 or 4 times a week and pushed myself to run just a bit (even a tiny bit, like two houses) further than the time before.  Before I knew it, I was running two miles without stopping.

On the night of April 15th (one day before my birthday), I successfully ran 3.1 miles. I believe I finished around 9:45 PM and literally crawled the rest of the way home. My body was shaking and I was speechless.  I had set out to run a 5K before I turned 33 and had actually done it.  Running had once been on my f*** it list and was now being crossed off my bucket list. Please excuse the profanity (or fake profanity with symbols) but there is no other way to describe how much I loathed running.

I'll admit that I did slack off just a little after my birthday but got back on the running wagon at the end of April.  I ran 3.1 miles two more times before my race on May 13th.  The day of my race brought pouring rain with no sign of stopping but God generously pushed away the clouds and sun shone down on us the last half of the 5K.  Ok, so the sun was pretty intense and maybe a tad much but I suppose it was better than showers.  Hard to run soaking wet, ya know?  The man in charge said there are usually 100 people who show up for these races but that day there were only 20.  It was Mother's Day and very wet, so we understood the low turnout.  Only the die-hards and I came to run. I knew right away that I couldn't let myself become intimidated by my fellow runners.  They looked fierce and wore those weird 5 finger Vibram shoe things.  They had bicycles strapped to the backs of their vehicles and I overheard a few of them talking about how this was the 3rd 5K they'd done today.  Must not become intimidated...must not become intimidated.....

"Runners take your mark, get set, go!!"  And they were off.  Almost every last one of them.  There were a few behind me but it was hard to remember that while watching the blur in front of me whiz by, nearly out of sight before I rounded the first corner.  Man, they were quick!  One guy ended up completing the race in 17 minutes.  I was only halfway through at that point!

The race was truly mind over matter and the encouraging people at the checkpoints helped a lot as well. I just kept telling myself I could do it and I would finish no matter what.  Time wasn't important; I just needed to continue to run.  I tried to focus on landmarks again, like I did while practicing.  I made sure my favorite songs were in queue in my MP3 player.  One foot in front of the other...

One of the most exhilarating feelings was seeing my husband's smiling face as I crossed the finish line (long after the majority of the runners, I might add).  I was not last but darn close to it.  Oh well; it didn't matter.  I had accomplished something I never in a million years thought I'd be able to do. Running had become somewhat pleasurable. There were muscles in my legs that I never had before!

My new goal is to run my next 5K in less than 34 minutes.  Oh wait, have I become one of THEM now???    ;)