Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Adventures in Running (Or How Chubs Learned to Pick Up the Pace)

I have always hated running. I detested it in elementary and high school when we were forced to circle a dirt track during P.E. class. I loathed ending up in a cross-training or boot camp session where sprints became the main activity. It hurt and didn’t provide any enjoyment to me whatsoever. As a 16-year veteran of the dance studio, I’d much rather try and burn calories in a kickboxing or some other choreographed cardio class. I just never could tap into that joy and determination that avid runners seemed to thrive upon.

My opinion of running has changed in the last three weeks or so. This is, in part, due to my participation in the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® in honor of one of my cherished friends who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. (She’s since undergone surgery and is steadily kicking ass each and every day – my hero!) Having no prior experience in a 5K race, I was not exactly cognizant of the actual distance. I mean, I know 5 kilometers equals roughly 3.2 miles. But I didn’t know what 3.2 miles really felt like. So in an effort to satisfy my curiosity prior to the race, I hopped onto one of the treadmills at my gym and walked/jogged the distance. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised at the end…it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I was even able to alternate a brisk walk (usually around 3.3-3.5 mph) with 3-minute intervals of a light job (4.5-4.8 mph). No crazy cramps or side stitches. Yeah, I broke a sweat and managed some heavier breathing…but nothing out of the ordinary from what I experience in some of my workout classes.

Had my increased stamina from the last few years of maintaining a somewhat decent fitness/gym routine helped me turn the corner? Could I possibly learn to enjoy running?!

I can tell you for certain that my experience in the actual 5K race both helped and hindered my decision. Again – I had never done one before, so my expectations were nil. I was fairly excited that Saturday morning, hoping I could somewhat recreate my pace from earlier in the week on the treadmill. Boy, was I mistaken. Unless you’re one of the first ones across the start line, keeping any sort of decent pace in a crowd of almost 20,000 people on smallish, neighborhood streets is nearly impossible. My first 5K turned out to be less than a road race and more of a suburban off-road/cross country adventure as I bobbed up into people’s yards and jogged on tip-toe along curbs and gutters in order to try and weave around those who were only interested in walking. Honestly, it’s a wonder I didn’t crash and burn as a result of a dewy lawn or collision with a mailbox. But I was able to maintain a few spurts of jogging and whatnot along the route nonetheless.

I have no idea what my time was; I can’t remember when we crossed the start line. The clock read 59 minutes and some change as I crossed the finish line, so at least I know I did it within an hour. Not bad, all things considering, I guess. But I finished. And that in itself was a pretty neat realization.

I chatted with two of my girlfriends after the race. One has completed a local women’s running clinic and several 5Ks before. The other has run in the Chicago half-marathon…a fact which continues to inspire awe and amazement. They’re not avid runners, but they are interested in it and continue to work at it as part of an overall fitness regimen. But they’re not built like those marathon-hogging Kenyans…they’re just like me, i.e. full of curves and boobage. So if they can do it, I mused, so can I!

And just like that, I decided to give running a fair shot. I’m always looking for the next project; the next adventure. And since the runners’ culture is becoming extremely prevalent here in the area and among my peer group, why not try running?

I’ve decided to follow the popular Couch-to-5K method, but I’ll save that story for another entry. Suffice it to say that maybe there’s a running somewhere inside me after all. You’ll just have to hang in there and find out with me!

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