Good morning, everyone. Glad to be back on the blog. Thanks for hanging with me during my break.
February was a busy month. Early in the month I went walking in the mountains near my home, where my 72-year-old “surrogate mother,” a longtime Quaker friend, has a house. We stayed overnight, made a fire, read together for hours, walked in the mountains. She keeps up a great pace.
Woodsmoke, silence, deer tracks.
Then I went to New York to begin a new art job. Took a walk down to the Battery to see the water at night. Went to Quaker meeting at 15th Street Friends Meeting House, where my surrogate mom goes to meeting while she’s in New York.
The crocuses are up here. They’ve been up for the past week. Came home from my run the other evening and noticed the snowdrops were almost done, and the crocuses were scattered across the grass. I thought to myself, Well, the flowers are fooled, but the birds know better. I hadn’t heard any robins, the signal of spring. Robins don’t nest until it’s really springtime. I went around back of the house and lit the grill, and just as I was climbing the porch steps, I heard a robin sing from the top of a tree next door. February 28, and robins: very strange stuff.
They’re singing now, as I write this, at 6:34 a.m., March 1. It’s not supposed to be spring for another 2 weeks.
More about running. I’ve been doing P90X for the past year, two serious 90-day rounds and mixing up the routines between times. And P90X now bores me. I know everything Tony Horton says on the DVDs by heart (“Cheeseburger bad! Fries bad!”). I needed to change things up a bit but I don’t know whether I’m ready to do push-ups with my hands and feet on medicine balls, the way he does in P90X2.
My friend P is trying it, he’s more of a man than I am, I told him I was in but so far I haven’t placed the order. I will, when I get back from England.
Instead I went to the running shop. I had this crazy-ass idea that I’d run. A few of my friends from the rooms are training for a spring race, and as I looked at my friend M’s training schedule, I felt something pull inside my chest. This is one way spirit speaks to me—that little pull inside my chest.
At the running shop they made me take my socks off, roll my jeans up, and walk around while they looked at my feet. The woman (a 20-something kid who looked like a runner—you can always tell runners, can’t you?) prescribed some fancy gel shoes that I’d never have found at the places I usually buy athletic shoes for myself. For my son?—yeah, I go to the specialty soccer shop, I shell out, but for myself, I get last-season leftovers on sale and I’ve certainly never had anyone analyze my gait.
“They should feel like you’re wearing a glove on your feet,” the woman said. That’s what these feel like. They don’t even feel like I’m wearing shoes.
I’ve never been a runner. I’ve never had any endurance and
(wait, is this true? is this TRUE? you’ve done P90X for a year, that’s endurance, that shows persistence and determination and FOOTWORK and)
(it’s not endurance the way runners are able to run for miles and miles and miles and)
I had to quit the sixth-grade 10-mile bike ride because, at 11, I couldn’t pedal that far. Can you imagine?—all the other kids finishing and one kid dropping out. Of course I felt like shit about myself, and because I am my mother’s daughter and remember all criticism verbatim, the shit has stuck.
Then, first semester in high school, I was my son’s age, 14-and-a-half, and the gym teacher, god-awful Miss Knighton, a former cheerleader at our high school, made us first thing run a timed mile. It was an early September afternoon, about 9,000 degrees, the sun was high, the bees and flies were buzzing in the clover on the field (back when football fields were really grass), the gnats gathered in clouds in the air, we had all changed in the locker room into our 100 percent pure polyester one-piece zip-up gym suits. Just stepping onto the track and looking at the silver stopwatch hanging around her neck made me sweat gallons. She blew the whistle and we ran. I slowed to a breathless walk about three-quarters of the way around my first lap. My friend S (also a book-loving nerd) and I kept each other company in the extra-slow lane as the (blonde) track stars and basketball stars and cheerleaders passed us, then passed us again, and again, and finished the run apparently without a bead of sweat on their foreheads.
The next cycle of phys ed, I got myself into swimming. I was much better off in the pool.
If I get honest with myself, here’s what I’ve been saying to myself ever since I was 14: “You’ll never be able to run. There’s something wrong with you that makes it impossible for you to run. Besides, you look like a total jerk when you run.” I’ve tried to run. Just the feeling of sweating, the fear of side-stitches, of running out of breath, the memory of that track, has made me give up.
I’ve told myself I’ll never be able to run, this just “feeeels” true, but it’s a distortion.
I mean, never be able to run? Never?
I’m tired of living with these endless deathloops in my head. Someone has to stop them, and guess who it has to be. God ain’t gonna do for me what I can do for myself. I have to take contrary action. And exercise, it seems, is good exercise.
I was advised by Dan Cronin, an Ironman triathlete and recovering addict, not to run too far on my first run. He coaches newbs to run two or three or four minutes, as far as they can run comfortably, and then walk a minute. Then repeat—10 times. So I went out the first day with that attitude—I can do anything for a minute or two, right?
I also had Tony Horton’s coaching on replay in my head: Push yourself. Do a few extra reps, go a little further. Most people quit way too early. The benefits of doing P90X for A YEAR: I now have a strongman’s voice in my head! And by the way, he also got pushed around and called names in the playground.
The first day, I ran two miles.
The next time I ran, I ran two-and-a-half miles.
Before this, the longest I’d ever run in my entire life was a mile. Four laps around a track, just to prove I could.
Running a mile doesn’t make me “a runner.” But running more than a mile puts me on that road.
Now I’m running three miles. 5K! “Real” runners run 5K all the time, just for practice.
So I’m running 5K three times per week.
And here’s how my brain works:
(friggin-A, that’s not much for a runner, you’re not even running 10 miles a week)
But that’s not honest. What’s honest is: for me, 15K per week is a big step in the right direction.
Just imagine how much fun it’ll be once I get a dog.