Monday, March 10, 2008

When I'm not jogging up a mountain, I'm actually pretty good at this

I'm coming off an illness, which is why I haven't posted in a while. I tried to run on the treadmill this weekend, but I was stymied by weak and tired (sick, really) leg muscles that couldn't carry me more than half a mile.

Today, after not running outside for 9 days (!!!), I felt mostly back to normal, and this evening I set out for a 3 mile jaunt. Out of shape as I am, I find it interesting that "going out for a quick 3 mile jog" doesn't phase me anymore! It seems like for years, 2 miles was this arbitrary limit, above which was the domain of Athletes and Runners, and as I was neither, I wouldn't even attempt it. But tonight was the third time I've attempted 3 miles, and it's kind of become the New Normal.

Not that a "quick 3 mile jog" is either quick or a jog. It's more like a "a 45-minute 3-mile jog:walk." But that doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Fearing tight muscles, I brought The Stick with me, but I found that I didn't really need to use it. (NB: It feels neat to run with a 20" stick in my hand -- it's like I'm carrying a baton in some sort of relay race!) Jeff Galloway's tables say that at my pathetically slow pace, I should actually be running 30 seconds, walking 30 seconds, and repeating. But I can't bring myself to walk that much! So I ran 2, walked 1.

It was slow going. I had gotten about 1.5 miles into it, and I was exhausted. This was hard. I started shortening the running segments, and then lengthening the walking segments. I was really exerting myself, even at my slow pace, and I felt as though I was carrying a massive invisible weight... why was this so hard?

Then I turned the corner onto Wisconsin Avenue. And suddenly it was easy.

I had been running uphill for a mile and a half. THAT'S why it was so hard.

As soon as I got to level ground -- not a decline, just level -- it was as though that invisible weight was lifted. After 2 minutes of jogging, my watch beeped to signify that it was time to walk for a minute -- but I ignored it. I'm going to keep running! After a minute, the watch beeped again to tell me to start running, and I kept at it! Here I was, halfway through my run, and I had the energy to jog for 5 minutes straight. A few cycles later, I did it again. I was 2.5 miles into my 3 mile run, and all I could think was, To Hell with the walk breaks!

I felt good. I was heading into a downhill. I was flying. My right foot started to go numb, but I didn't care. I had just finished reading Dean Karnazes' Ultramarathon Man, about a man who ran hundreds of miles at a time. He routinely lost feeling in his feet! Granted, this was after dozens of miles in brutal conditions; mine was after 2 miles at about 4 mph. Still, I felt kind of like Dean. I knew I'd get the feeling back. So I kept flying.

Near home, I finally listened to my watch and walked the last block, with the biggest smile on my face. It had taken a long time, but I had made it 3 miles, and I felt great. And ya know what?

I could easily see myself going 4. :-)

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