On Becoming Something

Today I went for a run on the beach.  In the rain. 

If you know me, then this should be about as stunning as if I’d hauled off and bought a lipstick. (I haven’t.) I am a creature about comfort.  I seek cozy wool and warm baths and crackling fireplaces.  I hate the rain. I hate being cold.  I hate sweating – and logically I therefore can barely express to you how much I hate sweating while I am in the cold rain.  On good days, I can motivate myself to ride my bike (which is really more about transportation) and go to yoga (which is really sort of cozy.) Most of my exercise and generally fit self has always come from that, and walking a lot, and  having a personality type that moves a lot – when it’s not knitting.

Unfortunately for me, something is happening to me that I am helpless to reverse despite my best efforts.  Something that is trying to slow me down. 
I am aging.   (I hear it happens to the best of us.)  I don’t mind aging, I’m not bothered by the numbers that tell how long I’ve been walking the earth… and I’m not opposed to it as a concept.  I don’t believe for a moment that I’m losing value as I age.  Quite the contrary – actually, I think I’m a better, wiser, smarter, more valuable woman as I age.  I don’t even mind how it looks.  (Mostly.  I deeply miss the previous location and nature of my bust some days, and I agree that I needed less self-esteem to wear a bathing suit ten years ago… but that’s superficial and I try not to think about it.)

The truth is though, that I’m a 41 years old.  I’m a woman.  I’m small framed.   I’m white, and I had a hysterectomy more than a decade ago.  That, my friends, is a short list of risk factors for osteoporosis, and I’ve decided not to go that way- or at least to do what I can to avoid it, and that means weight bearing – high impact exercise.  Despite my fondest wish that it were true, bike riding and yoga don’t do a lot for your bones.  Running does, so shortly after my 41st birthday last year, I bought a pair of running shoes and gave it a whirl. 

By December I had tons of pain, and by January I’d been diagnosed with an "osteochondral injury" which is a sort of fracture in my ankle. (Ironic because of course, I was running to avoid fractures.) That took forever to heal, and when it did, I did a lot of research to try and avoid it happening again, and I found out a lot of stuff about running that’s helped.  (Like, when you start running, even if you have a really enthusiastic personality, you shouldn’t try running a lot every day. It takes time to build strength to avoid hurting yourself.)   I started again in the spring, really slowly, and well.. my improvement has been slow. 

I’ve been slogging away running and running, trying and trying and frankly, it’s been months and I still suck.  I’m slow.  I still have to walk for 30 seconds sometimes to make it possible to go on.  I still think I’m going to die most of the time that I’m doing it. I’m still not sure I even like it, and a few weeks ago I had this terrible realization that what I’m waiting for might never happen.  I keep thinking that if I run enough it will get easy… and then I was out sweating my way down the street and one of those really buff runners passed me.  You know the kind, with all the gear and the shoes and the right sort of jacket and the little water bottles stuck to them… and he had 2% body fat and and you know what? He was sweating like a pig.  He really looked like he was working, and I had this horrible thought. 

I think maybe running is just really, really hard, and that’s why it sucks.

Even after realizing that though, I’ve kept running.  Mostly because I’m stubborn as a mule, I don’t like to get beat by things, because I want to be able to do lots of things when I’m old, because I still think that maybe if I stick with it I’ll get good at it, because I hope that at some point I’ll be a runner, rather than someone who’s running… and because I really, feel like there’s value in trying to do hard things.  I think that if I manage it I might really like it about myself.  (Should I survive.) Also… I did something that sort of locked me in.

Several months ago, when I was still trying to figure out if running sucked or I sucked at it or if I just wasn’t trying hard enough.. I went to dinner with Joe’s Aunt Julie.  Julie’s a breast cancer survivor (and a former Minister of Health for Newfoundland and Labrador) and she’s done the Run for the Cure every year since then, except for this year she can’t, and that night at dinner she said that she was looking for a family member who would be her stand in and do it for her.
I’d had a glass of wine and am the sort of person who rises to a challenge in general.. so… I.. um.  I told her I would do it – and I didn’t just sign up to be a walker…. I hit the run button, because I thought that having a goal would help me become a runner, and because I thought that really, sticking up for a family member who had breast cancer was probably good motivation.

So I’ve been running.. and as of today, I still suck.  I still have to walk about 10% of the time that I’m covering 4k (which actually means that I’m running 90% of 4k, and that’s a big change) and I’ve been living in fear of Sunday October 4th for months now.  I’m terrified of it, and frankly I can’t believe it’s this Sunday.  I’ve actually been scared enough that I haven’t really mentioned it a whole lot, because I was hoping it would go away if I didn’t talk about it, but it hasn’t, and whether I feel ready or not, whether I think I can do it or not, whether I can live up to Julie or not…
On Sunday I’m going to try and run 5k.  You can sponsor me by clicking here if you would like to,  and I’m putting here the little list of things I’m writing on paper and putting in my pocket and taking with me on the run.  

1.  When I started I couldn’t run half a kilometre, never mind 5k.
2.  If you can’t run the whole thing without walking a little, they actually don’t line you up in front of a firing squad.
3. Running 5k is a pretty ridiculously easy cakewalk compared to toughing out the treatment for breast cancer.
4. Eddie Izzard.   

Wish me luck.  I’ll catch you on the flip side, and with a little luck, maybe I’ll have become a runner by then.