I hate running. I don’t hate it in the way that you hate your least favorite food, or your least favorite person. Instead, I hate running the way you hate things that you know are good for you, like communicating and eating your vegetables. They’re the things that you bring yourself to do with more than a little chiding from your conscience – who sounds strangely like a 1950’s housewife of a mother – that eventually make you feel better about who you are and where you sit in the world.
It’s the second week of half-marathon training. This is the second time I’ve trained for a half-marathon this year; the first time I got to within two weeks of the race and had to admit defeat. My muscles didn’t give out on me, but my organs did. I picked up something in Mexico that made it impossible for me to absorb nutrients, and I wasn’t doing myself any favors by trying to keep exercising. Instead, my running got slower and slower, until I couldn’t even run four miles anymore when I should have been running 12.
I would much rather open my eyes in the morning, look at the clock, then go back to sleep. I would much rather decide to eat cake all day long then be able to say conversationally, “I don’t know why, but no matter what I eat I can’t manage to gain weight.” I would much rather not have a mental catalogue of the fat content of food that I refer to when I look at a menu. I would much rather be able to fly, too.
Instead, I get up in the morning, stick my contacts into eyes still blurry with sleep, sigh, and drag myself into running clothes. I take my time messing around with my iPod, finding the playlist I want, then the stopwatch application. I take another sip of water, then give into the 50’s housewife in my head, “Vegetables and exercise are good for us,” she says, her hands on her hips over her apron. My conscience wears pearl earrings and lipstick, even though I hate the taste of lipstick and only wear earrings at weddings. I imagine her standing at the door as I stumble sleepily outside, wagging her finger at me in her cute little heels. “You’ll feel better after this, I promise!”
I am not a great runner. There’s nothing efficient or awe-inspiring about my running. I am incapable of a lot of speed or any amount of grace. Usually my side hurts, or my IT band, or my feet begin to blister. I doubt there’s anyone who has ever passed me on the road and thought to themselves, “Wow, that’s so great. I should start running.” Instead, their thoughts are probably of whether to come back later and see if I’ve expired on the side of the road.
When I finally get out there and get going, though, some part of me is more than glad that I’m there. That part of me separates from my fumbling body and wanders somewhere else. It helps me forget that I’m running, and reminds me that I’m outside, that the air smells like pine and that sun is out, because where I live it always smells of pine and the sun nearly always shines. Even when I get tired and am puffing away uphill, this part of my mind is thinking, “Wow, isn’t this GREAT?” like that one really annoying friend who always sees the bright side when all you want is for them to admit that their meal was burnt or that the dog shit they stepped in is especially stinky. It’s probably little miss housewife that has come along with me, keeping me from stopping half a mile in and turning around to go home.
When I finish my stint, I do feel better. I have more energy, I can focus better, and I always get more done. I find it amazing that I can feel so much better after exercise yet still have to force myself to do it. I wish it wasn’t this way. When I’m feeling optimistic, I am simply grateful that I have a conscience that is standing next to the bed when I wake up, one eyebrow raised, saying, “Well? What’s your excuse today?”
When I’m not feeling optimistic, I point out that her lipstick is smeared and go back to sleep.
Love and running kisses