Cafe de Desiree

July 12, 2011

A Runner’s Diary: The Triumphs and Tragedies of a Beginner

Filed under: Athletics — desi83 @ 7:06 am

I sit here in my own sweat, with achy legs and feet, trying to muster up the energy to go take a shower. The shower is what transforms me from the exhausted runner to the normal lazy person that I have known for awhile. My boyfriend, Glen, has turned me on to this phenomenon, running for fun and even paying to run to the point of exhaustion. We train together, and we keep each other motivated.  I have on my new kicks, New Balances from Running Warehouse.  These are the first decent running shoes I have owned since high school. I ran in hiking shoes for the first two weeks of training, and that is when Glen offered to help me find some actual running shoes. Hey, it was either that or work shoes. I also donned a Frederick’s of Hollywood bra underneath an ill-fitting Wal-Mart-special sports bra during the first month of training. Then, I broke down and bought my first decent sports bra. No wires and no bouncing? I never thought it possible. I had no idea how much was going to be involved with this running thing. As it turns out, it is pretty complex, and quite an investment.

Running is free, but being prepared to run without injuring yourself is surprisingly costly. I also had to buy running socks, a running hat, running shorts, and pay for the 5K events themselves. It is also a lifestyle change. I am a night owl. I like to stay up late, not just kind of late, but into the early morning hours. I write, read blogs, watch shows or clips on Hulu, and basically just stay up for the hell of it. I have always been this way. However, sleep is very important for a runner. I have tried to train on days when I didn’t sleep much the night before, and my body simply refuses to cooperate. I feel as though I am running through molasses when I am sleep-deprived.  I am still not disciplining myself in this area, as I am writing this at two a.m.  Then, there was diet, something I didn’t need to worry about in terms of weight. I used to eat breakfast and coffee, have a danish and coffee for lunch if anything at all, and then I’d eat a dinner composed of whatever beef or pork entree that my dad whipped up. Rarely were there vegetables involved, but always present were grease and carbs. Then, I’d follow it with ice cream or several miniature candy bars. You see, I was blessed with high metabolism. I can eat anything I want, as much as I want, and the most I may gain are love handles and a slightly bigger butt. Yet, with clothes on I looked pretty damned good. Then, I started running. As it turns out, foods without nutrition don’t give me energy, and junk-food gives me cramps.

Running three times a week, along with twice a week work-outs at the gym, actually caused me to crave healthy foods. So, I loaded up on fruits, vegetables, protein bars, soy and almond milk, soup, fish, and lots of water. I started to feel healthy, athletic even. I have been claiming to have an “athletic build” for awhile, though “skinny” was probably the better word. My waist started shrinking, my legs started getting toned, and my abs started forming. I could finally say honestly that I had an athletic build. This has not come without a cost. Every now and then, I’d be sitting in my chair wasting time on the computer, and I would feel my muscles spasm in my legs. I freaked out. Was there something wrong with me? Did I have MS or Parkinson’s or some other disease or condition that was causing spasms? No, it was just my muscles reacting to the sudden stimulation that I was giving them that they were not accustomed to. Then there were the blisters and the calluses. I have always been proud of my feet. I have nicely shaped feet, very feminine. I don’t have knobby toes or toes that are of weird sizes. I don’t have big feet, chubby feet, or squarish feet. Yet, I suddenly felt self-conscious about my feet. I was worried that if I wore sandals, people might be disgusted with my feet. Then I realized, I had runner’s feet, and it was something to be proud of. My boyfriend also had rough feet from constant running. My feet were working hard for the first time since high school when I ran cross country for a short time “for fun”. So, I had embraced my worn out feet, my spasming leg muscles, my new diet, and my new investment. Now, I was facing my first 5K. My goal was to run it in less than 27 minutes. During our training sessions, my boyfriend and I averaged between 8 and 9 minutes, so this seemed feasible.

Once I got to the 5K, I decided that my goal would be to merely run the entire thing without stopping to walk. I looked around to see people who were obviously avid runners, probably just doing this to prepare for bigger events. Then there were older people, overweight people, and even kids. This really was an event for everyone. We did our warm up walk before the run began, and we stretched. My boyfriend and I began running together. Then, he increased his pace and I lost sight of him. I decided that I was going to run at the pace that felt comfortable to me, and I didn’t need to prove anything besides the fact that I could run an entire 5K. I didn’t need to win the race. I was doing alright, when I came to the first water-stand. A man was sitting at the table, and a little girl with a bored look on her face was standing beside the table, which was holding several cups of water. On TV, I had seen the people at the water-stand actually hold out the water so that the runner wouldn’t have to stop. I guess this was too difficult for this poor girl. So, I stopped to get a cup of water, and I downed the whole thing. I threw it in the garbage, even though apparently I was supposed to toss it on the ground so as not to have to interrupt my running, but alas, it had already been interrupted due to the girl’s laziness. I began running again, and a cramp started in my side. It was as if someone had stuck a knife through my side and left it there to give me continuous pain. I stopped to walk. “Fuck,” I mumbled. I began to curse myself in my head. I told myself that I was a loser and a failure. I could not finish the race by walking. Everyone started passing me, and they made it look so damned easy. How did they do it? I let myself walk until the cramp subsided. Then, I started again.

There were two guys behind me, and the three of us ran close together through most of the rest of the race. I kept trying to lead them, but we kept switching positions. It gave me new motivation, racing these guys. I was feeling capable until I came to the first hill. “Holy Fucking Shit,” I said maybe a little too loud. This hill went straight up. I couldn’t see what was past this hill. I had no idea that I was going to be climbing a hill during this race. “Fuck it,” I said as I began to walk again. I figured I could continue running after the hill, and this wouldn’t hurt my time too badly. I was hoping to at least finish in 30 minutes. That is not really that great, but it’s not embarrassing. As I climbed the impossibly steep hill, I noticed my boyfriend walking up the hill several paces in front of me. Neither one of us had trained for hills. I didn’t feel so bad. After we crossed the hill, I saw him begin to run at a fast pace, and I slowly began running again several paces behind him. It didn’t take me long to lose sight of him again. I think at this point it would be incorrect to call what I was doing running. I was jogging, but it was better than walking. I saw people in their front yard a few feet ahead, watching the 5K runners and cheering us on. I couldn’t look pathetic in front of these strangers. So, they motivated me to start running. I whipped past them, sweat dripping into my eyes and my stomach warning me that the eggs and toast that I had consumed might make its way out. Once I passed them, I slowed to a jog again. The guys that I had been racing were behind me, but not far behind. We were soon racing again, so I jogged a bit faster to lead them. Then, the unthinkable happened. There was another steep hill! What the hell? I decided that I needed to try to run up the hill so as not to feel like as much of a loser. I pounded the pavement with all my might, but my legs were feeling too weak. So, with a sigh of defeat, I halted to a slow, shameful walk up the mountain-like hill. The guys that I had been racing jogged past me. Screw it, I thought. I didn’t want to be last, and I didn’t want to walk the last of the race. It would be the walk of shame, and my pride would not allow that. So, once I was on an even path again, I began to jog again. A couple of girls who had been so far behind me throughout the race that I hadn’t noticed them until now were running close behind me. It was just like my race with those two guys again. We switched back and forth in the lead of this three person race within a race, and I saw a sign that was like an oasis to me: 1K. There was only one kilometer left, which was much less than a mile. I had to finish this without walking. I didn’t increase my speed very much, but I got to a pace that was doable.

Then, another breath of fresh air came with the 1/2 K sign. I could see the finish line. I could see the runners who had already finished cheering us on. One of the girls that I had been racing was right on my heels. Then, we were running beside each other, or rather, jogging. Finally, I saw Glen smiling at me and cheering me on to the finish line. “Beat her”, he mouthed to me, pointing to the girl beside me. I smiled a devilish smile and gathered up all of the energy and adrenaline that I had left. I took off running at full speed, faster than I had ran throughout the entire race. His sister snapped a photo of me as soon as I approached the finish line. It is a picture that I would like to see burn and be destroyed forever. That picture said it all. I was in pain. I had maxed out my body during that race, and my distorted face showed it. I decided that my next running investment would be sunglasses to cover up that horrible, painful expression in future races. Once I finished, his sister handed me a bottle of water then looked at me and asked me if I was okay. “I need to throw up,” I said through heavy breathing. I ran to the bathroom and poured water on my face. I didn’t need to throw up afterall; I just needed air conditioning. She came into the bathroom to check on me, and I just laughed and said I was not throwing up. We came out of the bathroom and my boyfriend was there waiting. We hugged each other, and he offered me a banana, the apparent staple of running events. I did not finish in thirty minutes, but I came out of it running, so I didn’t feel too bad. That first 5K did make me realize how unprepared I was for the event, even with all that I put into it. This was not just a frivalous hobby. I was going to have to live the lifestyle and work at it. Because even through all of the pain and suffering that I’ve gone through as a novice runner, I feel more alive and energetic than I have ever felt, so I am ready to live the lifestyle of a runner.


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