Column: The reluctant runner
“Not even with big dogs chasing me.” This was my standard response for years when asked if I was a runner. Why run when you can walk? Why jog when you can stroll? Why sprint when you can watch reality TV?
I was no enemy to exercise. I power-walked my way through college. I sweated up enough steps on StairMaster to climb Mount Everest in my mid-20s and I jumped, jived and squatted through many an aerobics class. I wanted buns of steel and abs to match. I was willing to do it all.
Then time caught up with me.
It takes time to drive to a gym for use of the treadmill or to make a scheduled step class. Jogging only takes a decent pair of running shoes and an alarm clock. The big dogs I once alluded to began to bark: Running burns many calories in a short amount of time. And you can start at the end of your driveway. And your pants are a little tight.
So I began as most runners do, and I simply tried to make it to the next driveway, then the next. I tried to run to the stop sign at the end of the street. Just one more mailbox. I felt the pounding of my feet on the pavement. Just one more song before I could stop.
I was sporadic, at best, when it came to dedication. This was more than 12 years ago, and since then, neither my mileage nor my desire to best myself has increased.
Meanwhile, my husband—who also started running 12 years ago—has completed 10 marathons, about 20 triathlons, an Ironman and, most recently, the 127-mile Rouge-Orleans relay with five other teammates overnight.
I’ve cheered twice as he’s crested the top of Heartbreak Hill, the last large incline before the finish line at the Boston Marathon. I’ve stood atop a bridge in Tempe, Ariz. and watched him and 1,800 swimmers tread 68-degree water before the shotgun start to Ironman Arizona.
Does it inspire me to run harder, push further, go the extra mile? Not a chance. When I round that last curb in my neighborhood and know that I’ve clocked my due diligence of 3 miles, I have a smile on my face.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so proud of the men and women who work hard, sweat hard and push themselves further. I am encouraged when I see running partners prod their pals to stay with it. I have tears in my eyes when women, after 12 solid hours of swimming, biking and running, gather their children and cross the finish line with them hand-in-hand. I recognize the hours of dedication it takes to be there.
It is amazing. And some of us are here to be amazing. Others, like myself, are here to be amazed. After all, you need someone on the sideline cheering you on: “Don’t stop now number 208, only 4.6 miles to go. You can make it!”
In reality, I’m thinking: Four point six miles to go? That makes me winded just thinking about it. These people are crazy. Do they have an extra banana at the finish line? I’m hungry. Should I train for this next year? Maybe the half?
Not even with big dogs chasing me.