Here’s the thing about running around the neighbourhood that no one wants to talk about. First of all, sidewalks are a pain. Literally. Second, your neighbours stare at you like you’re in a really long Scooby-Doo chase and they’re like, “What are you running from? What are you running from?” No, Gary! I’m not running from anything. It’s what I’m running to! It’s what I’m running to….because running is all about the destination! And in every case, the destination is my house. Because the fanny pack I’m wearing isn’t a picnic basket, and I don’t want to pass out on your front lawn because I’m out of shape. I just want to get home. Because I’m hungry. That’s where the food is. I just want to eat something.
How was that for a cold open wrestling promo? Me vs. Gary in a Sidewalk Chalk match.
Some of you may have seen me deliver that rant, via video, on another platform a few weeks ago. Somehow, I still had it memorized.
To clarify: I don’t know anyone named Gary. Creative liberties were taken.
I’ve been putting off this post for about a month, maybe more. I wasn’t comfortable writing it until now because I thought I’d be crossing three lanes of traffic too quickly and didn’t want to disrespect a whole community of runners.
Let’s start from the beginning-ish.
Growing up, I played softball. Most kids played soccer in the summer. I had no interest in it. You know how frustrating soccer is when you’re a kid? You spend the whole game screaming, “Pass!” at someone who’s surrounded by every member of both teams because no one understands the concept of spacing.
And then everyone’s like, “Why didn’t you pass?”
At least with softball, I could be the pitcher, hold the ball more than anyone else, and have some control over the action. Does that make me selfish/greedy? No! It makes me smart. That, and I was one of two people on the team who could actually pitch, but regardless, I was smart. That’s the takeaway here.
I had a tournament one Saturday, a few towns over. I was about 12-years-old at the time. Our first game was at 9am.
To “wake us up”, my coach had us running around the outfield from right field, to left field, back to right field. It was the worst. I had no stamina. The grass was long and the morning dew was dew-ing it’s thing.
Nothing like preparing for a whole day of games by immediately wetting your socks and tiring yourself out.
Energy food on the bench that morning was a bucket of sunflower seeds and a 50 pack of timbits, or as the Americans reading this call them – donut holes. Shouldn’t they be called donut plugs, though?
Fast-forward a few years to when I was in Grade 9. I had gym class, first semester, first period. At first, it sounds great. Then you realize you’ll be carrying your sweaty self around with you all day, but only if you don’t choke on second-hand Axe body spray from everyone else in the change room, first.
2005 was a stupid time for body spray.
Anyway, the 12-minute run was a component in the curriculum. You do it at the beginning of the semester, and then again at the end.
At some point during “fitness week” I re-aggravated a pulled muscle in the back of my leg, which I first injured that summer playing softball.
So we get to the 12-minute run around the huge gym, and I’m hobbling. Add that to my lack of stamina, and I did 12 laps in 12 minutes, which wasn’t good.
At the end of the year, fully healed, I did 15 laps. Still not good.
If you looked at me in Grade 9, you would’ve thought I was in shape. Looks are deceiving, though. I found that out every morning when we had to run two laps around the track outside to “warm up”. I wouldn’t run more than 200 metres before needing to walk.
Where did all these people learn how to run long distances? Why is this such a struggle for me? I play sports in the summer. I can beat out ground balls. I can steal bases. I can run home from third on wild pitches.
Why can’t I run 800 metres at 8am in the morning like everyone else?
Skip ahead to third-year university and my roommate is someone who does lifeguard competitions and goes running. We were so opposite, yet exactly the same. I tend to mesh with people like that.
At some point, I decided to join him on one of his runs on the 200m indoor track above the school gymnasium.
I didn’t know what “shin splints” were until we both complained about them. He was the better runner, even though I was faster when we raced.
He would pump out lap after lap, whereas I was just happy to get to five before walking for a bit, and then starting up again. I’d accompany him for runs for two years and I think the most I ever ran, before walking, was nine laps – 1.8km.
I had no sense of running goals back then. I didn’t have anything to officially calculate my distance, or steps, or calories. I had a chunky BlackBerry in my pocket, feeding music to earbuds that were slowly falling apart.
Looking back, I really don’t know what my motive was for being on that track. I didn’t like running, but I enjoyed being there. Does that make sense?
Over a month ago, I decided I wanted to get into running…again. It’s been six years since the shin splint days on the indoor track. So, why now?
Becky & Cass, injury attorneys, call 1-888-88..oh wait, that’s Cellino & Barnes. NEVER MIND. Back to the blog post.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve read their blog posts chronicling their respective running journeys (Is that a phrase? “Running journeys”?) and have been forced to ask myself why I’m not doing that, too.
So I reached out to them, blamed them for inspiring me – HOW DARE YOU? – and asked for advice and tips only a beginner could ask.
What do you bring with you? How do you carry it? How far do I run? How long do you run? Where do you run? What if I see a fox? What about deer?
They were very helpful, encouraging, and supportive. From their answers, I determined that I needed to instantly buy a fanny pack, as well as befriend Bambi.
I bought a fanny pack (running belt) on Amazon the next day, or as I like to call it – a running pouch. In my head, it makes me sound like a kangaroo. Have you seen how fast they are?
The pouch fits my phone, keys, and cards. I wear it under my shirt and rotate it around so it sits on my lower back. You can’t even tell it’s there. It’s not bulky and doesn’t shake when I’m running.
My intention was to run the path in the ravine near my house because it’s out of the way and no one would stare at me and watch. As a kid, I’d see runners on the sidewalk and always think they looked funny.
Like, why are you jogging on the spot as you wait to cross the street? Shouldn’t you be glad you could finally stop and take a breath? The whole concept seemed foreign to me. I didn’t get it.
It’s only fitting that I was made aware that ticks could be roaming around in the ravine and I should run on sidewalks around the neighbourhood, instead.
I was nervous about running so publicly around the neighbourhood. In my head, I envisioned everyone and their parakeet watching me from their upstairs window, as if I was being chased by an imaginary monster.
How will they know that I’m just out there running like a runner, rather than running like an idiot? Maybe if I look down at my watch a few times, they’ll know I’m a runner and that I just didn’t randomly start running in front of their house for no reason?
But it was either running around the neighbourhood, or not running at all. And dang it, I was inspired to run! (HOW DARE YOU?)
So, I quickly got over it. Now, running around the neighbourhood doesn’t bother me at all.
A few weeks ago I went out for my first run and immediately did everything wrong, except put on microfibre boxer briefs beforehand. Too personal? Sorry. I’m just trying to find a positive.
It was too hot outside. It was too soon after a big meal. I didn’t really stretch. My pace was way too fast out of the gate. I couldn’t find a way to breathe that didn’t make me sound like a whale. It was a disaster.
After four minutes, I needed a forklift to come pick me up.
My feet hurt. My calves hurt. My nose was plugged. My throat was sore. My ears hurt for some reason. My teeth were screaming at me. The watch on my wrist felt too tight. I always thought I liked the smell of freshly cut grass, but now it was trying to suffocate me.
I think I ran 700 metres – 300m short of 1km – before needing to walk
and reassess my choice in blog friends.
I did a loop around the block and walked the rest of the way home, trying not to throw up on someone’s lawn. I was close.
For my second run, I was smarter. I went in the morning, ate only a nectarine beforehand, and capitalized on the cooler conditions outside.
I knew exactly where I stopped running the first time and it was my goal to run further the second time. And I did! Only a few hundred metres more, but to me, that was progress.
My third run was last week and I went 1.45km in just over six minutes, before needing to walk for a bit. That’s more than double the distance of my first run, so I think I’m making progress.
Do these numbers sound pathetic? Probably. I love stats, but I’m trying not to get caught up in them. I’m just trying to go further than last time. Run #4 will be all about me trying to run beyond the fire hydrant I stopped at on Run #3.
Setting a specific “running schedule” is not in my DNA. I’m more of a, “Look at the weather app on my phone and see when it’s not raining, or isn’t too hot, and then ask myself if I’m up for it” kinda guy.
Don’t try this at home.
Also, I’ve been dealing with a stiff back lately which will be explained in another post.
But, I’m trying to run more often. It’s not trying to avoid it by any means.
I’m not really sure what my ultimate motivation for running is, other than it’s something I want to do. Also, I’d really like to prove to myself that I can do it. That 12-minute run still bothers me.
I guess “health benefits” can be a motivation. I’ve always said I hope to live until I’m 100, but I’ve never actually done anything to ensure that happens, other than the fact I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or anything of that nature. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to hit triple digits.
Hope is not a strategy. Running is. I think.
Since I got into this running mindset, I’ve told myself I should try and eat healthier too. I’ve been about the same weight for five years, and it’s exactly what I should weigh, but that doesn’t mean I’m “in shape”.
I’ve decided to cut out pop as much as I possibly can. It’s not like I drank it a lot to begin with, but now I’m seeing there’s no point to it. I drank pop twice in May and one time was because the fast-food restaurant I was at only offered pop or chocolate milk.
Full disclosure: I asked for white milk, which I’ll drink with most meals, if not water. I’ve never had chocolate milk before. Don’t see the purpose of it. You can yell at me in the comments.
Oh, and we don’t have to talk about how I mentioned “fast-food restaurant” right after saying I was trying to eat healthier.
I don’t want to fast-forward to 25 years from now and wonder why I didn’t just run around the block. Life is a pyramid – if the base isn’t good, the top has no chance.
People have told me that running eventually becomes fun. I’m not at that stage yet. I’m still at the stage where it feels like there’s a rain cloud above my head.
Sweat. I’m talking about sweat. Lots of it. Too personal again? Hey, I can go back to taking about…never mind.
I’ve gained so much more respect for runners since starting this – whatever this is. You all make it look so easy. I was planning out 5km runs with Google Maps and thinking they would be so easy, I might have to do them twice.
Then I got out there and realized I was a fool.
I never realized just how long the streets around me are. I also didn’t realize how hard sidewalks are. Why can’t they be softer? Who can I send an email to about this?
Anyway, I’m proud of myself even if you think this is hokey. And I’m thankful to Becky and Cass for inspiring me – but really, HOW DARE YOU?
But really really – thanks.
A post this long begs for me to share a lesson at the end of it, so here it is.
You may close your mind off to many things, but don’t lock any of the doors because you never know when you’ll want to open one to see what’s inside. The best things are normally behind those doors.
And if you don’t like what you find, well, you can always run.
Are you a runner?