Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Running Down a Dream

Until recently running has always baffled me. “You have no ball, you have no stick, you just run – that is not a sport,” I would say. In high school I wondered why people would opt to do track, especially cross-country running, when lacrosse, field hockey, softball, baseball, and tennis were all offered concurrently. Surely these runners had to be mental. Running is stupid.

I started my first organized sport, basketball, as a kindergartener. Sure, I had no clue what was going on, but it was fun. When I was 7 I wanted to play soccer, because the girl down the street from me played soccer and we were always in competition with each other. This was before there were community all-girl soccer leagues. She was the only girl who played in the local league of all boys – until I joined.

When we moved to Maryland when I was 11, I decided I’d go out for the county soccer travel team, but my dad told me I’d have to try out. No problem. I knew how to do all the moves, and I could play 2 positions fairly well – half back and full back. Tryout day came. The rest of the team had formed 3 weeks prior, so I tried out at their regular practice. The only thing I remember about that practice was having to do what I now know as a snake drill on skates off skates, running. The premise was this: run in a line, and when the whistle was blown, the person at the back of the line had to sprint to the front, become the 1st person in line, and keep the pace. I was gagging, wheezing, and turning purple. I couldn’t run. Somehow I still made the team.

In high school, I played basketball for my county (my dad was the coach and never made us run) and varsity high school tennis. I has previously scoped out the tennis requirements and found out the girls’ coach never made anyone run, because he was damn near 90 years old and had bad knees himself. Perfect. And so I played tennis. Three years later, in my senior year, we got a new coach. He was 26. And he made us run. I would bitch the whole time, arguing about why we had to run when all we needed to do was short sprints – perhaps suicide drills at the most. He would tell me running would be easier if I stopped bitching. I didn’t stop bitching, but eventually we stopped running! Ahhh, the power of persuasion.

Twelve years later, and I’ve been playing derby for 3 years. Just prior to derby I started to “try” to run on the treadmill at the gym, because I knew I needed to get fit, and I had heard running could assist one in that quest. I did this whole walking/running alternating program, but had flashbacks to that soccer tryout at each 2 minute running interval. I sucked, and I stopped.

For the past year or so my coworkers and I would do an aerobic workout DVD maybe 3 days a week during our lunch. That highlight of my workday dissolved this past holiday season when people were busy and out of the office a lot, so I decided to go to the gym on my lunch break instead. Luckily my gym is 2 blocks from my office, so getting there and back takes less than 5 minutes. I change before I leave the office, walk over, program 20-30 minutes on a machine, and I walk back. While I’m there I run. That’s right: run.

They say your peak physical performance is when you’re in high school, but I’ve always done things out of order. Work, college, work again, buy a house with a guy, and never get married. It’s all a matter of perception, I suppose. Yet, this running thing just doesn’t seem to make sense.

I guess I started running because I knew I only had 20-30 minutes a day, and I wanted to maximize my short workout time. That, and I’ve gotten sadistic as I’ve gotten older. I think I told myself something to the effect of, “If you can’t run for 20 minutes, then you’re a pussy. Just do it.” And so I did. I proved to myself that I am not a pussy, I can run.

Still baffles me, because I hate running, only now I kind of like it. Don’t tell anyone.


Anonymous said...

I have a love/hate relationship with running. I've run ever since high-school where I did indoor and outdoor track. Running has always gotten my endorphins pumping as much, if not more at times, then derby. I loved the feeling of jamming and getting a great dodge on a blocker, but I also love the feeling of pushing myself through that last mile when I didn't think I could do it. Or when I run three miles in a minute less than I did last time. When I run the first mile, I fucking hate it and want to quit. When I run the second one, I start to think there is no way I can finish. When I hit the third mile, I realize there is no sense in quitting now and that I better deal with it. For the last half mile, I put on the most rocking song on my iPod and just go for it.

Pretty much every sport involves some element of "scoring" but running is just you vs. your body and the pavement (or treadmill). It makes the sense of success all the more rich because it's ALL YOU.

So it sucks and it hurts and it's frustrating, but I feel awesome when I finish what I set out to do.

So keep at it! :)

Megan said...

running is a good idea in theory until you want to puke your lungs out. i do it every now and then because i like the lake.

Megan said...

re-reading my comment - it sounds retarded. i ahve a hangover.

Holly said...

There is no place in running for people like me with short stubby legs and bad knees :).