Sunday, December 5, 2010

What are you running from?

I am a runner. I haven't always been one. In fact, I came to it somewhat late in life. It started when my second child was a year old. His older sister was at preschool, he didn't need a morning nap anymore but was too tired and cranky to be much fun in the mid-morning, so I would put him in the jog stroller and started to run. At first it was only a couple of miles, but it grew, especially when I discovered it was the perfect antidote to the dropping-the-morning-nap crankiness. For the first mile or so he would look around quietly, for the next 2-4 miles he would doze, and then wake up during the last mile and play on the playground while I stretched. And by the end of the summer I realized, *hey, I run a lot on a regular basis, I could do a 10-mile race*. And so I did.

I am not a particularly fast runner, but I am not slow either. Running works for me because I am uncoordinated and lack agility. You don't need either to run distances. You just put one foot in front of the other and try not to trip (which happens sometimes but I persevere). It helps to have the right gear and I confess I have become one of those weirdos who have three pairs of running shoes. All identical. Now that I have asthma I also have to wear something to cover my mouth and nose when it is really cold out. Although it is a loud multi-colored stripe I still look sinister...or goofy, especially when I am wearing a headband to cover my ears and sunglasses. Before I accepted my status as *runner*, as opposed to *occasional jogger* I would be concerned about how I looked. Now I don't care. This is evident in my appearance before, during and after I run. Not only does my attire leave a lot to be desired, my hair and everything is simply unattractive. And I don't care.

I can't say I would necessarily have chosen running as my exercise of choice. Instead I think that it chose me. It was so...peaceful. Quiet. Really quiet. The kind of peace and quiet I hadn't had in four years, since my first child was born. So my son and I continued to run together and once he outgrew the stroller (and the dozing) and had turned into an ornery three year old...four year old...five year old... I kept running. Not only was it peaceful, but I could choose my own music to play on my iPod for the first time in several years. I realized that there are no children asking you to make them a hot dog when you are on the running path. If you come across some siblings squabbling you just run on by and it's not your problem. The only messes I see are from dogs, and since it's not my dog I just keep on going.

It gives me a window of time when I am by myself without anything else I can do For me, that's what makes it different from walking. When you are running you can't multitask. You can't talk on the phone, check your email, send or receive a text message or schedule appointments. I can't be out for a run and pull over to the side for a few minutes to make sure no one needs anything (okay, I could, but when I am running I don't want to. I just want to

I do a lot of thinking while I run - what I need to do with the rest of my day, how I am going to fit it all in, pending projects and so on. Sometimes I think about people I am irritated with. How they make me so angry and I need to let them know as soon as this stupid run is over (which I never do, because once the run is over I feel good and the top priority is a latte and a shower). But the fact of the matter is, I can't stay focused on that for too long because inevitably I need to think about...running. These thoughts are usually not pleasant. Popular running thoughts include: *this sucks, I wish I was done*, *this sucks, my hamstring hurts*, *this sucks, I can't breathe*, *this sucks, my foot hurts*, *this sucks, I can't believe I am only at mile two and have four more to go*, *this sucks, my knee hurts*, *this sucks, it's freaking cold out*, *this sucks, it's freaking hot out*. There are many more, but you get the picture.

There are also some good thoughts in there because I see some amazing scenery. I am fortunate to live in the Washington DC area and have such fantastic places to run. Where else can you do a six mile loop and see Iwo Jima, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and that crazy white box, the Kennedy Center? Sometimes I literally get choked up, and not just from lack of oxygen. I am also amazed at the wild life I encounter. On the tow path in Georgetown I regularly see blue herons. And every time I shake my head (while running, being careful not to lose my balance)and think to myself *a freaking heron, go figure*. And the people are also entertaining. Out on the W&OD there is a guy who ran without shoes. I understand that is now the *in* thing to do, and it is supposedly *orthotically superior* (I also make up new words on my runs). However, *dude*, it's February. For the love of god, put some shoes on. And my all-time favorite so far - Mr. I-am-taking-shots-directly-from-my-bottle-of-vodka-in-the-middle-of-the-day-while-I-take-my-walk-with-my-dog-on-the-W&OD. With my lack of balance and coordination I almost veered off the trail into a ditch in shock.

My goal for 2011 is to run the Marine Corps Marathon. When people ask me why I respond - 26.2 miles of no kids and peace and quiet. What other reason do I need?

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