Spooky Sprint

This was a delightfully busy weekend. I’m sure you’re all expecting the “The kids were so cute and we went trick-or-treating” post, which may yet come if I get time to write it up. (Note: I just doomed any hope that such post will ever be written.) Instead, I’d like to tell you about what I did Saturday morning.

I ran my first 5k race ever.

Yup. I did. I know. Pretty amazing. And yes, by “ran” I mean “ran the whole way” and by “5k” I mean “5 kilometers which is like well over two miles”.

This story starts with my new job in February. It turns out that there’s a gym in our building, which is something new for me. And the gym is cheap — like $25 a month, $150 of which are reimbursable annually. So I got a membership, figuring it probably wouldn’t work but I’d try it out. For several months I made it maybe once a week, often at about 2:30 pm when I’m completely brain-dead anyway. In spring, as the weather turned nicer, I decided to go run instead of doing the elliptical. About a third of the way through my planned course, I was too tired to continue and had to walk. I intermittently walked and ran the course. I felt completely wretched afterwards. A month or more elapsed before I tried it again. I think I made it half way through the 1.5 miles or so before I had to walk again. Maybe a month and a half ago, I managed to run the whole course without stopping. I still felt like dying afterwards. But then I started working out TWICE a week instead of once. Apparently this makes a huge difference.

Now, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve run. I did track in high school. I don’t remember running ever getting easy, or less painful. I ran the mile, but I was terrible at it. I only ran the mile because no one else wanted to. I hated the training. I dislike the races. I mostly remember hurting. I also ran while we lived in Malden, with my husband. Again, I don’t ever remember having it get much easier, or make much progress. I’ve never been much of a runner. It hurts all over when I’m done. But I think the real problem was frequency. In high school I don’t know what was up, but as an adult I just never worked out often enough to build on itself.

As the days cooled down, I ran the whole course again. I added another half mile to the run. Then I started running it faster. Tuesday, a very very frustrating day, I pushed it and ran it with adrenaline and frustration powering it. I’m not sure what my time was, but I certainly went faster than I had before. I’d been toying with this whole “5k” thing for a few weeks, and I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could run the whole race.

There’s deciding you’re going to do a run, and then there’s getting up at 6:30 on a cold October morning to get ready to go run. I did it anyway. I stood in the lobby of the YMCA building, surrounded by people dressed as cupcakes and fairies and the Cat in the Hat (I was dressed as a person pretending to be a runner), wondering what I was doing there and feeling profoundly out of place. I had confessed my ambitions to few people, but I’d passed one of my coworkers in the gym as I got my shoes on Friday and he’d given me some good advice. “Don’t start strong”, he said, “I tried to keep up the first time I ran a 5k and I nearly passed out at mile 2. Just start slow and speed up as you go through.” I considered this sound advice. I firmly set my goal to be running the entire distance.

As the air horn went off, i was passed at on all sides, and had to restrain myself from attempting to keep up. I ran through the brisk morning air, leaves crunching under my feet, blue October skies peeking over autumnal lawns and gardens. I ran. I ran on Lebanon street — the route I’d traveled the night I gave birth to my eldest son (yelling backseat driving directions to my husband through contractions). I turned on Sylvan Street, and ran past the graveyard I’d wandered many a time. The people around me laughed and talked and caught up on the latest shared gossip. I waved at one of my son’s teachers at Mile 2 as I turned up the gravel road through the park to the top of the hill. I pondered race etiquette at the water stop, cups flung lewdly on the ground. On Main Street a convict and a cat, pushing a stroller, passed me. I called out to them — my neighbors — and we ran together for a while, before they (showoffs!) put on their final burst of speed to finish the race. Feeling pretty awesome myself, and knowing there wasn’t much further to go, I also put on speed and started passing people. At the last turn, my family was waiting. I called to Grey to join me, and he took off down the blocked street in front of me.

I crossed the finish line 32 minutes and change after I’d departed it.

Now, that won’t win me any plaudits. That’s over ten minutes a mile. I don’t know the winning time, but I bet it was half the time it took me. But you know what? It’s really cool when you remember and realize that the world is full of things you haven’t done yet, but you can do. I’m no gym rat. I’m just as awkward at this as you are. I didn’t have great shoes, or special clothes, or time, or a trainer. But I did it. And I felt really, really good afterwards (if a tiny bit sore today). And now I can think about what else I might want to do. Another 5k? Beat the 30 minute mark? Is a 10k within reach? (Would I want to do one?) Would Grey ever want to run a 5k with me?

I am, for sure, a novelty seeker. I love doing new things. But I rarely do them. I’m not sure why… lack of courage? Lack of energy? But doing new things feeds my spirit. It allows me to create these entirely new memories. My previous recollections of running were almost entirely of pain. These memories include exhilaration, strength and the surprise of those first two!

Plus, now I feel totally justified in eating more Halloween candy. I mean, hey. I just ran a 5k. Right?

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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