I was never a runner. I never liked running. I remember Phys-Ed classes when we had to run laps around the school and I couldn’t do it because my throat, my stomach and my sides ached. I remember the much-hated warm up for the rowing class when we had to run 3 kilometers, and I wish I could exchange it for a hundred sit-ups and a hundred push-ups. I was an active child who became a relatively active adult. Although I am of good health, I am not the one who goes to the gym. There are many things I hate about gyms, like the proximity to strangers’ warm and sweaty bodies, the stale air. I do realize the significance of staying active, and in the past five years I have taken modern dance and yoga classes, I bicycle and walk a lot. I do it because it makes me feel better, walk better, breathe better.
I live on a bike path, and I always admired the runners and joggers going by. They do it when it is cold, they come out like snails after a rain, sometimes even during a rainstorm. A month ago I looked up an 8-week training program to run a 5k. The idea is that working on your running stamina by the end of the 8th week you’ll be able to run 5 kilometers (or 3.11 miles). It was called ‘couch to 5k’ which I think is a dumb name. I don’t necessarily consider myself a couch potato. But being one who never ran, I thought it was a good program to gradually introduce my body to running. The training program includes different routines 3 times a week for 8 weeks. I was skeptical, as after running even the shortest distance I would feel like puking and like I was going to die. But what the heck, I thought, out of shape people can do this why not me? I can bicycle everyday 20 miles, why can I not run 3 miles?
I downloaded a couple of apps on my iPhone to help me keep track of my progress, or lack thereof. The app keeps track of the time, which is important in the beginning when you have to alternate between running and walking. I started the training in mid April. I stretched beforehand. Week 1 Day 1 of the training program called for a 5-minute brisk walk for warm up (that was easy), and then 1 minute running and 1.5 minute walking (repeat 6 times). By the end of every 1-minute run I could hardly breathe. But I didn’t give up and I managed to complete the routine. By the end of the first week I was feeling stronger. Every training session is around 30 minutes long, including a 5-minute warm up and a 5-minute cool down. Sometimes I had to deal with side stitches. I tried to figure out ways to phase those out. I realized that I shouldn’t eat anything for at least 4 hours before I went for a run, and I had to properly stretch my sides and torso. I also learned to avoid shallow breathing and tried for deeper breathing. Still, there were days when I would come home feeling like puking, and not be able to eat anything for hours afterwards. I generally trained on the bikepath. In the beginning my knees would hurt every time my feet would hit the pavement, but those aches wore off. I experimented with different angles of striking the ground, different angles of knee bends, different upper body posture. I tried a couple of different routes. The worst surface to run on is brick, the best dirt.
I found that overall I was doing well. Sometimes when the trainer’s voice in the app would say “start your cool down now” I would think “that was it?!”. The simple fact that some running training was easy for me and I could do more than what was required was both surprising and satisfying. It would put a smile on my face. Not every day went well. There was one day that I didn’t do well, I paused my running to walk when I shouldn’t have, I was feeling heavy and everything was difficult. The fact that it was pouring and I was dragging my rain-soaked cotton clothes was not of much help either. So I repeated that training routine the next day. The next day was dry and I managed to do it better and easier. Now I am in the 7th week, that is the penultimate week of the training. On Monday which was Day 1 of Week 7 I was supposed to jog for 25 minutes (or 2.5 miles) with no walking or stopping. I managed to do the 2.5 miles but my time was 30 minutes, so I need to improve my pace. But the fact that I jogged for 30 minutes with no walking or stopping feels awesome to me. Seven weeks ago I could hardly run for one minute straight.
That night my dreams were filled with scenes of me running. I was light on my feet, the terrain felt soft under my feet. I felt strong and happy. I could visualize new routes, turns, uphill, downhill stretches and everything was easy and possible. Back to reality, according to the training plan by the end of next week (week 8) I will be able to run 3.11 miles in 30 minutes. We shall see. But the truth is there is no possibility of failure. I will keep doing it until I get it right. I will keep doing it until I get a better time, until I do it smooth and graceful. I think I might be hooked on running.