Running on empty

26 08 2008

I went running yesterday, and, somehow, managed to go running today. Two days in a row after months of non-running—whoo-hooo!

I’m old and slow, and because I haven’t gotten off my fat ass for months, I can’t go very far. The only way I’m able to go running at all is to ignore myself, put on my shoes, and go. And then do it the next day, and the next day, and days and days after that.

Running isn’t hard, of course: there’s nothing technical about it, no particular skill to master. Sure, there are tactics and strategies and blah blah, but, really, for the amateur in reasonable shape, it’s a matter of putting on the shoes (and the sports bra! Don’t forget the sports bra!) and heading out the door. It’s not that expensive—a decent pair of shoes, a pair of running shorts with that nifty little key pocket (which reminds me: why don’t running TIGHTS have that nifty little key pocket? Do we somehow not need to lock our doors when the weather cools?), and, of course, the sports bra—and one doesn’t need a park or special track on which to run. I walk to corner, stretching my legs and warming up my ankles, then take off. A pitiably short time later, I’m home.

But, as with so many things, I find it so easy to get in my way. I ran cross-country in high school, and although its been over twenty years since I’ve run even semi-competitively, I still think that I’m doggin’ it. I was never fast or particularly talented, but I was never last, either. And even in the years when I didn’t run, I still thought of myself as a runner, if in abeyance. So I have this sense that I should run, and when I don’t, I think, christ, what a candy ass. And then when I do, and I can only manage a pitiably short distance, I think, christ, what a candy ass. Hence the need to ignore myself. . . .

My friend L.S has it harder. She was a championship biker, and raced competitively until recently. Then she had some injuries which kept her off her bike and, more seriously, surgery this past summer to repair vascular damage. She’s back on her bike already—she and her girlfriend just got back from a bike tour—which, given how much slicing and dicing was done to her body, astonishes me. And she knows that she should be pleased with her progress. But she’s not, not quite.

L.S was—is—physically talented. She competed in her first biathlon in college as a what-the-hell kind of gesture, and came in second in her age group. On hikes she was always in the lead. When four of us when hiking in the Tetons, L.S was up ahead, traversing the mountains like she was walking down the aisle at 7-Eleven, while the rest of us were HIKING, i.e., working. When it was just the two of us hiking, I always felt like I needed to keep my mouth shut about how hard I was working or proposing yet another break. And while sometimes she was impatient, she was usually pretty cool about having to wait.

But now, for the first time, someone had to wait for her. It threw her off. She has this sense of herself as the one-in-front, and to not be in front, well, what does that mean? There’s also the pleasure in speed. ‘I like to go fast’, she said, and she misses howling down the highway.

So, adjustments. We’re at the fulcrum of our lives, when the teeter begins to totter, and neither of us is very happy about it. But we also decided that this is not a tragedy. We can still find pleasure in our bodies, and, perhaps, in a few other things as well. As L.S put it (more or less), I’d like to find out what else I’ve got going on.