As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I recently ran my third 10k here in Glasgow. While writing that post it got me thinking about my transition from non-runner to runner. I started out on the treadmill. I liked the treadmill once I got over the intimidation factor. The treadmill was always that big bad piece of machinery that ‘real’ athletes used. But once the treadmill and I came to an accord, I quite enjoyed using it. I liked that I could see exactly how far I went and how fast. When first starting out it was a big help to me to be able to see every little improvement from day to day. I knew on any particular day how far I went and how long it took me. (I was just about to say there ‘and how fast’ but let’s be honest. There was nothing ‘fast’ about my running endeavors.) Even if I’d only run an additional ¼ of a kilometer or ran a set distance 30 seconds faster than last time, it was still an improvement. And also? I LOVED running on a machine set to kilometers. They are so much faster to go through than miles.
Still, MAN did that time go slow. I did everything I could to make those minutes go by faster. I tried reading magazines, listening to books on tape, stand up comedy and all different kinds of music. None of them really kept me going, plus I looked like a total freak when I laughed out loud to Bill Bailey in the middle of the gym. I started covering the time with a towel and making deals with myself. I couldn’t look at the time again until I’d listened to four entire songs. I couldn’t look at the time again until I had run another kilometer. I can put the incline down if I run a little bit faster. OH MY GOD THIS IS SO BORING.
There really wasn’t much to do about it, the treadmill is just an incredibly boring thing to do. The only thing that consistently seemed to keep me going was staring at my ponytail in the mirror swinging from side to side for so long that I went into a trance. But let’s face it, that only works if you’re not trying to go faster than a mild jog or do anything even remotely difficult. When I started running for 30-45 minutes, I knew the time had come to get off the treadmill and out into the real world. If not to better my running, at least for my own sanity.
I started out running in the park near my house. This sounds kind of stupid, but trust me when I say that that first time running on actual ground was really weird. I’d been so used to staying in one spot while this cushiony belt whirred along under me that I’d never actually gotten used to moving my body through space. Plus, the ground? It’s kind of hard! My legs and knees weren’t used to this! My first time running in the park I must have looked like complete and total freak. My arms and legs were flailing all over the place as I attempted to get into a rhythm and then when I reached a hill my face turned so red I must have looked like I had some strange disease. But the important thing? Having stuff to look at actually DID made the time go by faster! I started running in the park on a regular basis and eventually I even allowed some friends to go with me. And hey! Look at that! Talking to someone else while running? That helps make it less boring too!
Last night I embarked onto a whole new territory: running in the rain. I’m not talking about your normal, everyday sprinkle. I mean torrential, showering, just-like-back-in-Oregon rain. There’s something interesting that happens when you step out of your front door to go exercise when everyone else is dashing inside. It made me feel like I was moving into a whole different community of runners. These were the hard-core runners, the REAL THING. My running partner and I did our normal route and inevitably passed by a few other runners doing their rounds too. Normally we’d just sort of nod to each other as we passed, sort of recognizing a mutual shared activity (‘Ah, you are running. See, so am I.’). This time was different. Every person I passed, there was the nod and then each time, there was a small, noticeable smirk. It was like a shared understanding of just how ridiculous we all were, doing this sort of activity in the pissing rain, but not caring at all. I’m under no illusions that I’m a ‘good’ runner but I’ve found a completely unexpected joy in it that surprised me. Finding this odd crazy community with total strangers, even if it’s just for a split second while running by each other, is just an extra bonus.