I’m getting closer to my running goal of 6.2 miles in both calendar time and number of miles that I can now run (ok, jog) consecutively and the time it takes me to run (yes, yes, JOG) those miles is getting shorter.
Last weekend, we spent several days in Paris and the day before we left, I ran 5 miles in about an hour. I ran on a trail that I often use for dog walking because it has a few places where you can turn one direction to make the trail longer or another direction to make it shorter, and it brings me in a loop back to my house. I love this trail for several reasons; its adjustability allows me to slowly add distance to my runs while still guaranteeing that I can find my way home, the steepest, longest hill comes right at the beginning of my run so that I can tackle it while I’m still feeling fresh and not cursing myself for leaving the comfort of my couch, and, most importantly, the fact that it is a loop means that I don’t have to turn around and run past the same scenery I just passed. The loop factor may be the most important to me; I find it very frustrating to do what I call an “out and back” run. Not only do you have the redundant scenery but you also run the risk of passing the same people more than once which is terrible.
When I’m jogging past people on the sidewalk at the beginning of my run and my face is still flesh colored and my clothes are not yet sweat-soaked, I don’t want them to know that I’ve just started my workout. I’d like them to think that I’ve been running for hours and that I’m so fit I don’t break a sweat before mile 20. Conversely, when I’m well into my run and my face is ketchup-colored and my clothes are so sweaty I look like I’ve run through the car wash, I don’t want people to remember me having passed them doing my warm-up walk 5 minutes prior and realize that I actually haven’t been running for very long. The loop is the best solution to both these problems; not only do I get new things to look at with every step, but the only way I’ll encounter the same people twice is if we are running on the same route and I pass them- which is never going to happen.
The first time I ran the loop was also my first solo outside run and it was a very rare brilliantly sunny day. I took enough turns to make the loop about 4.25 miles long and felt great as I chugged up and down the hills of the bike path with the sun glinting off the snow, and I think I finally realized why some people (not me of course) actually enjoy running. When I made the loop 5 miles, it was a normal dreary grey day and my run felt more like work, but I was still left with a feeling of accomplishment when I realized that I had done my 5 miles in about 60 minutes. To reach my goal I would have only had to run another 1.2 miles in 15 minutes. You may be wondering, as was Don, why I didn’t just suck it up and hammer out the last 1.2 miles, and the only answer I have is that I just didn’t feel like it.
While I am still not yet ready to profess an undying love for the sport of running, I am enjoying myself as I work toward my goal. It is kind of fun to have a training plan, put it into effect, and see how it helps me progress, and I’m not ready to wrap it up yet. I’ve given myself until the end of March to make my goal of running 6.2 miles in under 75 minutes, and while I might do it a little earlier, I think I’d like to take my time.
What I’m learning from following a training program (I went with Hal Higdon’s with some modifications about when my rest day falls and what distances I’m running) is that it is possible to learn how to run. I would consider myself the most non-runner-y runner you could meet, but I’m seeing progress in my speed, endurance, and, dare I say, enjoyment of running. I think, like many people, I assumed that running is something that we should naturally know how to do and enjoy doing (we are, after all, animals), and when I tried running and was super slow and got winded before I’d gone 10 yards, I assumed that I’d somehow missed the running gene, but that is not the case. Like anything, running takes practice. You have to prepare yourself to be faster and run farther and, like any other sport, you have to learn the proper technique to avoid injury. I’m finding inspiration in my progress and I’m having fun on my runs in the great outdoors, although I’m still convinced that the best part of any run is the moment you take your sneakers off and collapse on the living room floor.