I'm training for an 8K, which is an almost five mile race---the St. Patrick's race in DC. Since I'm not the marathoner of the family, my races are usually low key events in the surrounding area. Instead of a gun or buzzer, these races simply start when the director says, "Go!" The water stations are equally low key---a couple of kids holding out cups, or a guy with a cooler of water.
Usually, this works just fine for me, because I run not so much for the race itself, but to have a goal, a specific reason to run when I wouldn't otherwise. However, I decided, since this was the year that Paul was running Boston, that I wanted to do a "big" race, too. Hence, the 8K.
The reality of training hit me this morning, when I looked at my training schedule and realized that I was supposed to run 6 miles. I knew this, but elected to block the idea out of my mind. I was left with two choices: to suck it up and do it, or weasel my way out. I, of course, chose the latter. Kinda.
I went into the room and put my running clothes on, because people look really foolish in running clothes, and they look even more foolish wearing them for no good reason. Sometimes this is enough to get me out the door. Today, though, I had to be terribly annoying a little bit longer.
"Paullll," I whined, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, "It's really cold outside."
"Put some more clothes on," he replied.
I looked down at my long-sleeved UnderArmour and running shorts. "Like whaaaaaat?"
Paul took a deep breath. "A hat. Gloves. Pants. Maybe another shirt. You really need me to tell you this?"
I went back into the room and put more clothes on. "Pauulllll."
"Nancy, just go on your run already."
Silence. Finally, "Yes?"
"Will I get too hot?'
"Take some clothes off, then."
"Oh. Paul? This is going to be really hard. Six miles. Up hills. "
At this point, Paul guided me to the front door, pushed me out, and locked the door. I heard him say, "You'll feel a lot better once you're done. Now go, already."
So much for weaseling. There is a danger in somebody knowing you so well. I do this before most long runs. Without fail. The fact that Paul hasn't killed me yet means that he loves me.
Because I didn't feel confident, I decided to do the ol' Jeff-Galloway method of running: run ten minutes, walk for one. Wash, rinse, repeat. I found this method was my salvation when I first started running, because the psychology is so ingenious: anybody can run for ten minutes. That's all you need to worry about. The next ten minutes. It's the AA version of running: One step at a time. Easy does it.
Here are highlights from my ten minute intervals:
1-10: I'm reminded that everything is harder when you worry about it than when you actually do it. As soon as I step out my door, I realize that the sun is shining and the air is crisp, not cold. I feel strong as I go up the first gradual hill of my run. All that drama was for nothing. Again. I remember the wisdom of my friend Michelle, who always tells me "Worry is the thief of joy." It's the truth. Every challenge I've ever faced has been less difficult than the challenges I've invented in my mind.
11-22: As I approach the first beach, I remind myself, "I live next to two beaches." It still suprises me sometimes. Can you believe it? Anytime I choose, I can walk or run to the Chesapeake Bay. On today's run, I saw a Great Blue Heron, a Bald Eagle, lots of ducks, and a solitary sailboat, its red sail brilliant against the glassy blue water.
23-33: This is the next big hill. This is the Heartbreak Hill of my run. I have to run in short steps just to keep myself going, but it is the finishing that counts. I'm reminded of Team Hoyt, an inspirational father-son team. The son has cerebral palsy. The father pushes him in a wheelchair as he competes in marathons. They've done races all over the country, including, incredibly, an Ironman Triathon. Runners are so inspiring. I can't say it enough.
34-44: I run past my house to begin the loop again. This time, I notice a growth of bamboo in front of a neighbor's house. It's a plant that you never, ever want to have in your yard because it will not die, and it will grow, virulently. It will consume your entire yard over time. I think, as I pass the yard, that my love for Owen is like bamboo. Nothing will break it. It will continue to grow. Owen's life consumes mine, in a good way, and it has transformed the landscape of my life. Happy Birthday, Buddy. My three-year-old-little-guy. I love you.
45-55: As I begin this interval, I realize that this is the longest I have run since before I was pregnant with Joel. The last time I ran anything close was at a Turkey Trot Thanksgiving 07. The pregnancy test came back positive two weeks later. I must have been already pregnant, and I just didn't know it. The symmetry of this makes me smile, because I ran a 10K on Memorial Day 05, then found out I was pregnant with Owen...two weeks later. Both kids have competed in races, via Mommy.
55-65: I'm at Heartbreak Hill again. I'm at the point where I'm allowed my one minute of walking, but instead I charge up the hill. I think of those that run for others...my friend Brian is a coach for Team in Training, and he and his wife have helped raise thousands of dollars to fight cancer by running marathons and helping others do the same. I think of Fiona, who is running her own marathon right now as she inches towards recovery and health. These stories humble me, and keep one foot in front of the other.
66-76: I'm working my way home. My heart is pumping, I feel strong and healthy and ready to do anything. Cheesy songs run through my head---silly songs that nevertheless make me feel good: Brittney Spears ("I'm stronger than yesterday."), Melissa Ethridge, ("I run for you..."), and the Black-Eyed Peas, ("Keep running, running, keep running running."). I feel like Superwoman.
The run is done....and I return home. Amazingly, Paul let me back in.