Four kilometers in four months. That’s how far I’ve managed to get to since I “started over” back in April. It seems like a lifetime ago that I resolved to become a beginner again when I wrote this post.
I was no longer starting a fitness regime from a place of being relatively fit. Instead, I swallowed a heaping dose of humility and mentally and physically put myself back on square one.
I laced up my sneakers and started running from lamppost to lamppost, literally. At the start, I could maybe run a stretch of about 25 metres at a time. Walking the 25 metres in between. My total distance was a humbling 2 km. All the while, the voices in my head—like a tiny angel perched on one shoulder and a devil on the other—competed for my attention.
“This is embarrassing! You are so out of shape! Go home, sit down.” My inner naysayer reminded me over and over again all the reasons I couldn’t and shouldn’t be out pounding the pavement in lycra leggings; all of my love handles on display for passing motorists.
Straining to be heard above the din, my inner encourager (who, sadly, lacks volume and presence) whispered, “Look at you go! You’re out here moving your body! Good for you!” But she’s oh so quiet and hard to hear most days.
Thankfully, she’s persistent.
It wasn’t long before I was able to run the distance between two lamp posts. And then three. And then a whole block between cross streets. Each run, pushing myself to go a little farther than I had the time before.
Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. By “pushing myself” I actually mean, praying desperately to reach the arbitrary landmark I had set as a goal.
“Please get me to the stop sign.”
“Please get me to the next corner.”
Breathing heavily. Panting. Gasping for air with lungs that refuse to expand. Legs aching: lactic acid flooding the muscle cells, also gasping for oxygen that isn’t coming. There’s simply not enough to go around.
It’s still not pretty. But, here I am almost five months in and I am able to run about 4 km at a stretch. Depending on the elevation gain or loss of my route, sometimes a bit more, occasionally a bit less.
But the most important point that I don’t want to get lost in the story is that I’m still doing it! (Insert sounds of celebration here!)
I’ll be honest though, some days it’s a tough slog just to get out the door. Besides understanding the biology and physiology of pain and lactic acid build-up, learning to run again has also been a physics lesson. Specifically one addressing inertia: “a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.”
In other words, an object at rest tends to stay at rest.
Can inertia be considered a medical condition? Because, if so, I definitely suffer from it. Apparently, I LOVE rest. Thankfully that external force required to change my behaviour lives inside my head and mind over matter occasionally wins the day.
With that in mind, I’m looking ahead to a loose goal I set for myself back in April. Built-in accountability—a 5 km run. On Sunday, October 2nd, I’m going to be participating in the CIBC Run for the Cure. And, I’ve officially registered, so there’s no turning back!
It will be an anniversary of sorts for me. My very first formal run was also a Run for the Cure—21 years ago—in 1995. It was another “starting over” for me, only four months after my husband at the time had walked out on our marriage.
It was a tough slog then too. I was younger, undoubtedly in better shape than I am now, but I was still gasping for oxygen – struggling through circumstances that took my breath away. Gut-punched regularly by the rejection that characterized my days.
And yet, I did it. Set a goal. Worked diligently toward it—faith carrying me when I didn’t have the strength to carry myself—and proved to myself that there was good in me. Not only that, but God brought alongside good friends who ran with me, encouraged me, cheered me on.
And now, 21 years and another four months later, I’m doing it again.
I’m still terribly hard on myself. I still have another kilometer I need to get under my belt. I’m glacially slow when I run. (You may think I’m exaggerating, but trust me, I’m NOT!)
But I can see that finish line on October 2 and I’m going to cross it.
The tag line on the registration package for the run this year is “We are all changemakers!” That phrase resonates with me deeply. I know that in this case, it refers to the powerful impact that fundraising and awareness can have on a disease.
But, I take it more personally than that. I am not the same person I was 21 years ago. Or 10 years ago. Or two years ago. Or even four months ago. I believe that change is implicit in growth. And change and growth for the good needs to be celebrated.
This year, I’ll celebrate with a run. Who’s with me?