from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

running where I ran before

Last week-end I ran on my tried track around Albuquerque Academy. Only two times around it, 6.4 miles, what I intended at the minimal, not knowing how I would deal with uphill-downhill. I could have run more, but I was satisfied that I got away without pain in the spot of injury. I guess I am in business again. Besides, it felt good to leave the track feeling like a human being, with energy to spare.

I missed traveler 022 again. None of us seems to be good at giving or receiving directions. I was disppointed, since I had been looking forward to our running together. I never ran with someone, and I was curious about the experience.

We managed to connect next day for a 30 minute chat. It felt funny, facing each other, after we've been screen names on the internet.

I am running where I ran before. I mind the exertion, but it feels so good to know - I am running again.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

giving thanks

I did not mean to enter a race anytime soon, not while feeling every day when I run that I can barely run whatever I run. But I knew from her blog that traveler 022 was coming to New Mexico for the holiday, and had signed up for a Thanksgiving 5K. I thought it cool she combined the feast with a race. Giving thanks is fueled by emotion, emotion is energy, and energy is a good place to run. I knew this when I entered the 4th of July 5K, my first race ever – I ran on gratitude, gratitude that I was living here, that I was American. And I placed in my age group – so amazing.

It occurred to me, due to traveler 022 (thank you), that I could run the Turkey Trek 5K as well, nothing was stopping me, except inertia and the issue of cooking, but I could start cooking the night before, couldn’t I? Well, there was more.

I dread races.

I only run two so far, the 5K in July and the half-marathon in September, and each time I pushed myself so hard that running became a nightmare. Not that I planned to. It was as if someone took over, someone who wanted to get there fast, and did not care my body could not keep up. I am scared of that, scared of the violence done to my body. Call me a whimp... whatever.

But I went to Fleet Feet anyhow, and signed up the evening before the race, feeling like an outsider among all those people who liked running and knew what they liked. Or was it among people who knew running, and liked what they knew?

The sun shone bright over the mountain range in a cool and glorious morning. A balloon took off with the American flag waving over us while the anthem played, and it was a moment of incredible beauty. I cried. Okay, so I am a silly goose.

The starting line was 50 yards long – people of all ages and colors, people with babies, people with dogs, walkers with strollers, runners with strollers, runners with double strollers, people in wheelchairs. 1,500 people. It became clear soon enough this was as much a fun race as it was a competition, and that relaxed me somewhat. I did not need to push myself.

It took 5-10 seconds after the GO before I could even take the first step, and that first step and many afterwards were not running. Then the crowd loosened up and I ran. I knew all the time I was running for sheer running. It was only yards before the finish line when I tried to push myself, and I realized I could not because all the way through I had run at my utmost capability. 29:52. If it were not for the slacking start, I could have almost PR-ed. That is incredible.

Someone took over again. Someone steering blindly ahead in my body, shut off from thought, oblivious to pain and intent. Someone running. I do not know if there is a runner in me after all. Or if that is the animal in me.

Too many people sprinkled the field to allow for finding traveler 022. I asked the coordinator more than once to page her through the loudspeaker, but the timing must have been wrong, because we did not find each other. About the only other way she could have recognized me in the exuberant crowd was that I seemed to be the only one alone there. Pathetic, I know.

But walking aimlessly through the grass, taking off damp layers of clothing, dizzy with exertion, happy it was over, still unable to think straight, I felt, in spite of loneliness, utterly alive.

I am grateful today, again. I am confused as to who I am, but I am grateful for what I have.

Monday, November 20, 2006

too much too soon?

I took my "big run" again to the La Cueva high-school track. Ten miles this time. I expected it to be easier than last week, but it wasn't. It was harder. And it took me 2 hours and 7 minutes, the precise time span in which I ran the half-marathon in September. I have no idea how I managed once to squeeze in three extra miles in the same amount of time.

Perhaps I am doing too much too soon. I only say this because my legs felt alien after the run, as if they belonged to someone else. And today I was hobbling around as if I were 80.

Otherwise it seems I am barely making progress. My weekly mileage was only 24. I ran ten miles for the first time in May. Now, six months later, I am back to mile ten, and I only dared to run on flat terrain.

The good news: if I didn't know I had an injury, I could never surmise I did. The ten miles were excruciating, but my hip/groin did not make itself felt in any special way. Everything hurt just the same, he, he.

Friday, November 17, 2006

pushing again

I am still cautious, but I don't take it easy anymore. During the week I run now as much and almost as hard as before the injury. It's not... effortless anymore. I worked with incline on the treadmill, but I don't feel yet I am able to tackle my usual course around Academy, with one mile out of three uphill.

So last Saturday I went to the athletic track of La Cueva high school. I ran 9 miles, as much as I intended, the most I ran since the injury. It was perhaps a bit too much; perhaps I don't have enough basis for that yet. The last mile or so was an eloquent instance of running on empty. 9 miles means 36 rounds around the field, and it got to be repetitive, but it was better than being stuck on the treadmill.

I never ran outside in November before, and did not estimate the interplay of temperature and effort correctly. Clouds covered the sun, the wind picked up, and in a short while I was miserable. My legs were burning, my arms were freezing, and the rest of me was numb.

I filled the bathtub with cold water when I got home, just because my muscles were like glowing embers. It seemed a good idea at the time, he, he. Okay, so after a few minutes I switched over to a hot bubble bath, and the rest of the day I had a guiltless existence.

A part of me wishes I could feel justified in living without spending hours running nowhere, like a zombie. Some other part is happy and grateful that I have running at my disposal, so that, even when things go wrong, I run and they all fall into place.

Friday, November 10, 2006

breakfast at Tiffany's

When I went back to Eastern Europe in summer, the most peculiar thing about running on streets was the reaction of people. Staring, sarcasm, spite.

We are not talking narrow, crowded city streets where my running would have interfered with pedestrian traffic. We are not talking slums. I mean quiet residential roads in a better part of town, large tree-lined sidewalks along boulevards, even park alleys. I got hateful looks, snide remarks, foul jokes, poisoned jabs. Mostly from groups and men, but also from single women. Often from children (ten-year-olds with colorful backpacks, and ribbons in their hair). Once even from a couple, in a park, as if the romantic feel of their togetherness was not enough for them to ignore a lonely runner. They all felt obliged to let me know, in as vulgar a language as they could manage, they took no pleasure in my passing.

We used to be proud of our athletes. I could not understand how we had become a nation so rude.

Until one day it occurred to me they envied me. Well, maybe not for the running per se. But because I could invest time, energy, and resources in running, an activity that doesn't make money.

Do not judge them. In a country frustrated for decades, materially and spiritually, within a society fixated on catching up with the West, to a population obsessed with profit, my running signified an unaffordable freedom. They envied me the leisure to run, the Nike gear evidently designed for running, the mindset able to focus on something other than material worries.

To them, my running meant luxury, like diamonds and pearls.

I am so lucky, I am so fortunate, I am so humbled, I am so grateful.

Monday, November 06, 2006

too much time on the treadmill

Sometimes I still have this funny feeling, as if a vise has clamped down on my hip, then let go, and now I am dealing with the phantom of the pain. So I have been running only every other day. My mileage this last week was 16. Pathetic, I know. Still, the week before it was 7, and the week before that it was 1, one mile. I am not sure whether I am advancing too slow or too fast.

I ran a 10K yesterday, on the threadmill, because Kurt in Boston
(thank you) said with a groin pull I should avoid hills for a while, and I know of no place around that is flat. Six miles on the treadmill means quintessential boredom, but I was thrilled enough I could do it. I spent most of the time repeating to myself the things I want to believe, but don't quite, that I am strong, that I am spirit, that I am beautiful, that I am worthy, that I will be published some day, that I will make more friends before I die, that ten years from now I will still surprise myself.

Okay, and this week I have to start working on incline, otherwise I will never get outside.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

don't let them

In June I visited my homeland in Europe for a week. I ran five days out of the seven I spent there. The other two days I skipped running because I slept over at my sister's place, and logistics were hard to manage. I took my first run three hours after the plane landed, not having slept for 24 hours. I ran on streets, although uneven pavement and potholes could qualify my run as rough terrain work. I had only an approximate idea about mileage, so I kept track of time – at least 45 minutes each time. I caught a cold, and still I ran. I ran for my life.

My parents took the news about my running without much fuss. They had not seen me in years and consequently indulged me. But my father told me, after a few days, that one runs a marathon when one is 21 or 24, not when one is… 41 or 42.

That kind of statement must have shattered my self-confidence when I was a child. It must have devastated me, that this was all the belief in me he had to offer.

I did not reply. I am an adult now. There’s no need to get devastated. My father doesn’t influence my determination to wake up in the morning and run. He doesn’t have a say in the output of my muscles. He doesn’t control the power of my will. I can run the marathon, no matter what my father thinks. I can run the marathon, no matter what anyone thinks. I can run a marathon.

Don’t let them – anyone – separate you from your dream.