What started as a somewhat half-hearted New Year’s resolution – start running again – has morphed into quite the hobby. I started the first week of January with a friend and we, along with my nieces, ran a 5k in March. When I went to the shoe store sponsoring the race to pick up my packet, an employee mentioned that they had a training program starting up the following week if I wanted to get some extra coaching and encouragement. Also: there would be a t-shirt.
So against my better judgement I enrolled and then almost immediately freaked out. An email from one of my new coaches read, “While this is an individual sport, you are now part of a team, so take the time to get to know the other great people in the group.” Um, what was that now? I like running because it is a mostly individual endeavor; I like having some quiet and being able to concentrate on my pace or just zone out for once. And now you’re telling me I should try to talk to people? Like a functional adult with basic social skills? Sure. Just what I want to do at the end of a long day of being “on” at work and talking to strangers: talk to more people while I’m sweaty and out of breath. Bonus!
At the first meeting I did see someone I know and chatted her up; she’s in the more advanced group so we were split up quickly. I glommed on to a former co-worker, too, but scheduling conflicts made it hard for her to come each time. As we were doing a walking warm-up to get moving I found myself side-by-side with a woman who appeared to be near my mom’s age. We made polite chit-chat about the weather and joked about the not-terribly-scenic meeting place out by the airport.
“I guess it’s a good place to have a group. Lots of wide open spaces and room to park,” she observed.
“Yeah, it’s definitely empty. I wouldn’t be surprised if we found a dead body out here,” I answered.
“Wait, what? Oh my God.”
“Oh, no, wait, like on Law & Order – it’s always people out for a run who find the dead body in the park or whatever… I love Stabler,” I blurted.
Despite my commitment and genuine enjoyment of running I still hesitate and demur when asked, “Are you a runner?” Self-deprecation and jokes and qualifying follow in my answer. “Oh, yeah, I belong to a training group, but it’s for fun. No big deal. Just a couple miles at a time. I’m slower than a herd of turtles.” Hahaha. Silly Christen!
You get it.
One of the coaches and I ran together early on and he said, “You’re a runner. An athlete. Take yourself and what you’re doing seriously.” He meant it in a kind, encouraging way, not a sanctimonious one that shamed me for my love of pizza and beer. And yet: I have a hard time doing exactly that. We had dinner with my parents a few weeks ago and I had an extra helping. My mom commented on my unusually robust appetite – not in a harsh way, but simply observing that I was eating more than she had seen in some time. “I’m an athlete in training,” I shrugged.
“Oh, yeah, RIGHT,” she laughed.
Running? That’s the easy part. Changing my mindset and expecting the people around me to see me differently? Well, there’s no 10-week training program for that.