Stopping and starting

Well, this blog, like many other things in my life, started in my mind with great fanfare, only to fizzle almost immediately.  Not for lack of vision, but lack of follow-through.  (More on that later, undoubtedly.)

I joined a running club in December, and went to an orientation meeting in January.  As I introduced myself, I emphasized how slow I am, how much of a beginner I am, etc.  Veteran members told me not to worry about speed, to just join them and run.  So I joined them at Sunday track practice; the first time in my life I’ve been part of an athletic group.  A few weeks later, I showed up at the lake in Evanston for a Saturday morning group run.  I was definitely the slowest of the bunch, and one of the women kept pace with me the entire 3.5 miles.  At the end she mentioned that the club’s motto is, “No one runs alone.”  That melted some of the hard part inside me that feels the need to figure things out on my own.

Then 2 Saturday’s ago I was running with the group and felt pain in my left foot – enough to force me to stop running and hobble the remaining mile and a half back to my car.  I was scheduled to run my first 8k the next Saturday, but by Wednesday I still couldn’t bear weight on my foot.  This week I took myself to a podiatrist who immediately told me I had a stress fracture and put “the boot” on my foot.  Wait for it – four weeks!  To say I was bummed is putting it mildly.

So here I am sitting in bed like Emily Dickenson (I wish) deciding how I’m going to handle this “situation.”  So far I’ve been feeding off a stew of denial, anger, humor and self-pity.  In my stronger moments I came up with 2 ideas:

1.  Give myself the gift of a personal trainer when I’m off the boot.  (I can feel muscles turning to flab as we speak.)

2.  Accomplish some things I’ve been wanting to do.  (I’ve got half a country song scribbled in my purse.)

I started this blog as a beginning runner.  Sitting here with my thoughts, I’m realizing that there are some life skills where I would also call myself a beginner.  Facing adversity with grace for starters. 

Let the lessons begin.

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Being Light

I ran this morning and reminded myself again and again, run lightly.  Running in minimalist shoes requires a light touch.  And suddenly I was back in my childhood home, tiptoeing around the house so as not to disturb my father.  The burden of treading lightly.  And then another scene popped into my head; I was out in the park across the street from my childhood home, running like a little gazelle, unconstrained by time or rules.  Two perspectives on “being light.”  Both happened, both are within me, and I can choose every day to approach “lightly” however I want.

Rain fell on me like a fine Irish mist until it was dripping off the brim of my hat.  When I got back in my car, my face glowed back at me from the visor mirror.  Long ago I loved how it felt to run in the rain.  Lightly, lightly.

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Beginning of what?

I never thought I’d be a runner.  But about a month ago, I decided it was the only way for me to lose the jiggle around the  middle.  I’m 51, and I’ve slowly seen some physical changes that I’d rather ignore.

A week after that decision I was at the library, sneaking down an aisle to eat a Lara bar.   As I quietly chewed, I looked up at the shelves and there were all these books about…running.  I pulled down one titled Run For Life, by Roy M. Wallack.  He told me I could run till I’m 100, and he wrote about Helen Klein, an ultra-runner who hadn’t started running until she was 55.  And he wrote about Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton, who runs marathons barefoot.  Something started to light up inside me, something I hadn’t felt in a while.

So I went to the gym the next day and I took off my shoes and I ran around the track.  I felt like a kid again, albeit a little self-conscious.  I’ve never been a “runner” per se; I’m a 15-minute mile jogger on the treadmill, just to get my cardio done.  But this barefoot run around the track!  I felt light, I felt young, I felt free.

That first day I ran a  mile, the second time two, and the third time three.  I even tried some intervals, running as fast as I could on the straightaways.  On the last lap of the last run, I ran a sub 10-minute mile all the way around the track – and felt like I could keep going.  But I stopped, because my right Achilles was starting to bother me.

The next day, my ankle swelled up like a half a grapefruit.  But I knew I was on to something I’d never experienced before.  I iced my ankle, I laid off it for a week or so, and I went to physical therapy, where I learned that running barefoot can be a shock to muscles that haven’t been challenged in fancy gym shoes.  My physical therapist said he’d never  seen such tight calves.

Now at the office, under my desk, I’m writing the alphabet in the air with my feet every day.  I bought some Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves so that I can run “barefoot” outside.  (I’m not ready to run truly barefoot in a Chicago winter.)

I walked, jogged and ran 3.44 miles today.  I calculated the distance afterwards by mapping out my route at www.walkjogrun.net.  What a neat little site!

I’m reading Born to Run, about the Tarahumara tribe members in Mexico who run hundreds of miles together for fun.

This feels like it might be about more than running.  Every so often in your life (and I can say this now that I’ve got a few years under my belt), there are events that feel like they might shift the ground underneath your feet.    I’m chronicling the journey so I can look back one day and see where I’ve been.  I hope you enjoy the trip with me.

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