Honesty and Footwork.

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.

The Allegheny Mountains.

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 facing benches and light-filled gallery in the meeting room at 15th Street Friends Meeting House.

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.


  1. Therese Libert March 1, 2012

    Pay no attention to those voices in your head…they lie. Its good to have you back. I have missed you honesty….

  2. Lv4gves March 2, 2012

    Isn’t it amazing how loud those childhood voices can STILL be? When I read about not running very far your first few times out I was thinking about how my daughter a runner, told me to just run the curves and the walk the straightaways to begin with. And then you said you ran 2 miles your first time out! WOW! You are a runner! That proves it. I couldn’t do that without a lot of work and effort and preperation ….even if my life depended on it. Good job!

  3. Cathy | Treatment Talk March 2, 2012

    Hi Guinevere,

    Love your blog! That is great that you are running. I’ve run off and on during my life since my 20’s and have started again to do a 10K in May. I seem to need a race as a goal these days to really run regularly. But I do love it, and you will slowly just add 1/2 mile here and there and keep going. Sometimes it’s nice to do two shorter runs and then a longer one during the week if you want to add mileage. Your shoes look great, so enjoy. Take care.

  4. Djrruns March 2, 2012

    If the goal is 13.1 miles in the beginning of May try:
    T W T F
    3 miles easy 1/2 mile repeats at track rest or X-train 3 miles but
    pretty hard (10k race pace) increase
    5 minutes per week
    at race pace

    Saturday Sunday
    Long run easy

    3 miles easy or X-train

  5. Anonymous March 2, 2012

    Good to see you back Guinivere. I like Rabbi Taub alot. I like dogs and I like quakerism. Not so much the running thing though. Hope you are refreshed and there will be more pearls from you this spring. It’s been a long winter.

  6. Syd March 2, 2012

    Awesome, G. Glad that you are running. I was pretty bored with Tony H. right from the start. The workout is great but could do without him quipping away. Maybe closed caption would be better! Anyway, I’m interested in the shoes and gait analysis. What kind and what type of gait do you have?

    Those old voices in the head get tiresome. I don’t listen much anymore. I do listen to pain in my body though. I do my best to push through, but when the arms and legs start shaking, I slow it down.

  7. Healing Imperfectly March 3, 2012

    I am right there with you on the running thing! I played basketball in high school and my coach used to tell me “my grandma was slow, but she was old, what’s your excuse?” I was never able to get to the point where every stride was a pain inducing event until I got to Afghanistan. I finally got over the hump where everything breath was a struggle to the point where I can keep my pace and just keep moving. Thinking about training for a half marathon if I can manage my schedule. It is definintely something I hope to accomplish before I see the end of 2012!!

  8. Marjie March 4, 2012

    Footwork is it. I’m in a place where I am patting myself on the back for walking a few blocks at the moment. Can’t wait to get this R.A. under control (or something). I used to walk 2-3 miles a day and think nothing of it. Beat myslef up for not going another mile. Now, I’d have to call an ambulance. But I keep moving.

    Fancy Soccer Shop? Share with me! I go to Pittsburgh Runners and Walkers in Robinson. they fit too. Ended my buying too many pairs of shoes that fit okay in the store but then didn’t REALLY fit. Pricy, but worth it.

  9. Tara March 5, 2012

    Yay! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the running.

    I also really appreciated the notion that we all have expectations and that realizing they won’t all be met is healthy. It made me realize I’ve been consciously trying to squash any and all expectations that come to mind. It really helped in the beginning of my recovery, but now I think I have enough clarity to be balanced.

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