I am slowly but successfully working my way through a nice gentle training program (courtesy of Jeff Galloway) to complete my first 10K race, which is happening on Saturday, May 29.
Overall, I am actually enjoying the act of running (or run-walk-running, in my case). This enjoyment is a true surprise to me. In an earlier blog post I wrote about how running beyond a moderate exertion threshold actually used to cause me to break out in freakish red welts - exercise-induced urticaria, according to my doctor. This was very convenient for me as it got me a bona fide excuse from running in high school PE class. There was only happiness, no sadness, in this for me. Running in general did not make me feel good - quite the opposite. In retrospect, I think I was just trying to go too far or too fast.
In college, I picked up jogging again after reading my dad's book about aerobic exercise by Kenneth Cooper. (Dad ran a few marathons, but he was also crazy in other ways and I didn't really feel inspired to imitate him at that point. He did advise me to take walk breaks, but like a true know-it-all teenager, I blew him off. Now of course I realize he was right!) Although I jogged on and off for several years in my 20s, my main motivation was to be reasonably healthy and burn off calories so I could eat desserts. Running was just a convenient and cheap means to that end. I didn't ever think much about the actual physical experience, except when it became painful. Which didn't take long, because I had no idea what I was doing. I knew zero about training or form. I just thought some people were made to run, and some weren't, and I was not. It was OK with me. As long as I put in the then-recommended 30 minutes three times a week, I was fulfilling my duty to my puny body with its puny little cardiovascular system, and that was good enough. It was like brushing my teeth to prevent cavities - necessary, but not particularly enjoyable or fulfilling. Just a chore.
Somewhere in my mid-30s my knee starting hurting slightly when I ran. Around that same time, I got the impression (in med school/residency) that runners wear down their cartilage and hasten the onset of osteoarthritis, requiring joint replacements as they got older. I decided running was best left to those under 35 and quit. (I have recently seen research that suggests the above is false - that is, runners are no more likely than non-runners to develop osteoarthritis.) I found other ways to stay fit. Then, this year around my birthday, some weird inexplicable urge to run seized hold of me and I have been in its grip ever since. For some reason I wondered how far I could run and how fast, and now I have to find out.
So I gradually eased into it, and a couple weeks ago I ran my farthest distance ever - 7 miles - without pain and actually felt good at the end. Good enough to eat a whole berry sundae from Costco, in fact. But even without the sundae, it would have been worth it. Last weekend, I left my GPS and heart monitor at home and just ran for 50 minutes (still pausing for walk breaks every 4-5 min) and it was one of the most joyful runs I have ever had. I felt awesome. I didn't need to know how far or how fast I was going. I was just loving it.
Then I changed my routine from afternoon to morning. I went running this morning - at 6 a.m. - and oof! my body did not run the same at 6 am as it does at 4 pm. I felt sluggish the whole time, and hungry, and kept wondering when I could stop and go eat breakfast. I am wondering if I will get used to early morning running. Hope I won't feel like I did today on the morning of the race, because I was struggling to do 3 miles, let alone 6.
Oh well. The nice thing about running your first race of any new distance is that, whatever your time, you get an automatic PR (personal record). I am actually not too concerned about time - I like what a friend told me about meditation. She said, "If you feel good while you're doing it, you're doing it right." My goal for this race is to feel good and - as Galloway says - to finish 1) in the upright position, 2) with a smile on my face, 3) wanting to do it again.