Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

my affair with running

Running. Me and running. The two of us have had a long and tumultuous relationship. It all started in the fourth grade, officially. My grade school did this little race around the school, and I won some sort of prize. I don't think I won the whole thing, but I won something. It was a proud moment. Because of this, I signed up for the Green Tree Run in Kirkwood, where I won a trophy for my age group. It was big, and pretty, and green. I treasured it. I put it next to all of my summer swimming ribbons (mostly blue and red, mind you).

We took a hiatus (well, we flirted off and on, but it was just in fun) until my freshman year of high school. In the eighth grade, we were asked to pick which organized sports we might be interested in. I knew right away I wanted to swim. I've been in the water since I was born. There was a subdivision pool in my neighborhood, so my sister and I spent every waking moment there every day it was open. I kid you not. From the moment the pool opened in the summer to the day it closed we were there (hello skin cancer). I think I feel more natural in water than on land, frankly. It's so much easier on the ol' joints. Anyway, my little eighth grade mind knew I wanted to swim, and also knew the girls swimming season conflicted with the track season. It was unfair, but a fact nonetheless. I noticed a sport I'd never heard of on the slip - cross country. It mentioned running. My mind instantly flashed back to the prize I won in the fourth grade. This is it! It's my destiny. I got a few more friends to sign up (they had no idea what they were getting into, poor dears), and we were set. Cross country, here we come.

Practice started the first day of school. It took place at Manchester Park. We changed into shorts and a t-shirt, and some scuffy old tennis shoes, in the park's bathroom. My mind thought this would be like track. Coach Smith had us run a few sprints, then once around the park, I think. It's not that big. We were stoked. This was going to be fun. If only someone had warned me.

Shortly after the first practice we were already running 4+ miles a day. We soon discovered we'd need better shoes. I got a cheap pair of Nikes, same as Hoover, one of my best friends at the time (nobody does it like you, the way that you do, nobody has the power to please me...you get the idea). I can remember being at school and having to literally drag myself up the stairs. I hadn't felt pain like that, well, ever, probably. I'd go to school all day, run for hours, then go home, eat like a sonofabitch, and do homework. Why did I continue? I honestly don't know. I guess it was sheer determination. And cute boys. And my friends. Why they continued to be friends with me after I signed them up for this I'll never understand.

Anyway, it turns out I was good. I was the best freshman on the team. I made varsity that year, but unfortunately, our team didn't qualify for state. At the time I was grateful. I had no idea what I was doing, and state seemed so scary. I graduated into $60 shoes (that was a lot back in the day), and had to tape up my arches and ankles every day, as I had the worst shin splints in the world. I had to get orthotics, as my arches are just about flat, which means the shins are pulled wrong, the knees are pulled wrong, and all the way up to the hips. Not a good thing, but I trudged along anyway. I gained twenty pounds of pure muscle that first season. Crazy. I have a really athletic body because of it, though, so I can't complain.

Things went downhill from there. I continued to run all four years, but my body pretty much gave out. I wasn't ever on the varsity team anymore. It was disappointing, but not really. I still had swimming (that's a post for another day, however). I was a heck of a freestyler.

I remember one race we ran without the varsity team my junior year. Coach moved the top 7 JV up to varsity (they were training for state - sadly enough, we made it every year but my freshman year), and I was one of the top 7. The race was awesome. I knew I was running well, and kept passing other runners. I remember running by some spectators (yes, they did exist), and they called out to me that I was in first place. Me? How scary! Yet how exhilarating. This particular race went through the woods, and as it was fall, leaves were everywhere. They marked the course with a single yellow line. I had a hard time seeing it. I worried that I was going off the course and would be disqualified. Finally the woods faded away, and there was a giant straightaway that led into the end-of-the-course ropes. I sped through, sending shreds of ribbon everywhere, knowing I was first. It was the best feeling ever. Who needs drugs with highs like that? For a gifted runner aging before her time, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I've tried picking it back up off and on since high school. I'd get a good rhythm going for a few weeks, then lose interest. I picked it up for a while freshman year of college with my roommate and former cross country cohort Hammertime. We'd go for a jog, come home, (mom and dad close your eyes) smoke a bowl, and cram a nasty pizza from the dining hall down our throats. Good times.

I also picked it up for a while when Q and I lived in Dallas. It was the first desk job I'd ever had (except for my brief stint as a telemarketer - yet another future blog entry), and I put on probably about twenty pounds. Scary. It didn't really help, so I quit again. I preferred donning rollerblades and holding on to Q's bike as he did all the work. The weight magically came off once I moved back home, though. I've determined it was Dallas that made me fat. Damn you, Texas. Good riddance.

Anyway, I've started the affair again, and I'm not sure how long it will last. We're in our honeymoon phase right now. I probably need new orthotics, as I'm still wearing the ones from high school. I wonder if I'm fucking up my body for good with each step I take. I notice new aches and pains, and wonder if that will ever go away if I continue this relationship. I feel like I should feel more of a real connection to it. It led to the best friends of my life, many boyfriends, and many life lessons. It dominated four years of my life. Maybe that's why I can't let it go. Chances are, though, once the weather gets warmer, I'll ditch it for the bike or rollerblades. I have a hard time running if it's not cold, for some strange reason. And I won't even consider running on a treadmill. My boss told me that he runs also the other day, and said he usually goes 2-3 miles at a time. I asked him how he knew how many miles he runs. He gave me a weird look and said because the treadmill keeps count. Duh! Sorry, running on a treadmill doesn't seem right at all. I have to have the wind in my face, my feet slamming pavement for it to be 'running', to be real.

There lies my affair with running. How long will it last? Probably not long. I'm fickle like that. I bore easily. I know I'll never run a marathon, or even a half-marathon. That shit is messed up. Talk about putting your body through hell. I recently learned that mens' nipples can bleed during marathons from the rubbing of the shirt. Why would you do that to yourself? I'm an adrenaline junkie, but come on. There is a line.

I think this is the longest post I've written. Now I need a drink.

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