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Not born to run

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By Laura Hagan

 I’m not a runner.

I never have been. Never in my history have I been that person who wakes up before the sun for a quick morning run. Honestly, I’d prefer to never be that person who wakes up before the sun’s out at all.

Seriously, it’s a life-long issue. When I was in elementary school I played recreation league softball. I learned to hit far into the outfield, so I’d have time to get on base. Case in point: once I hit the ball to the fence and got a triple. If I’d had some speed, any speed, it would’ve been a home run for sure.

I don’t know why I’m not a runner. I’m just not. So when I started seeing information about Oldham County’s Grand Slam of Running, I focused more on the walking aspects of the races and thought – hey, that might be fun. I go to the gym when I can, which can be one day some weeks and five days the next. Never have those gym visits included running, but I can kick butt on the elliptical.

I digress.

The day before the first race of the Grand Slam I mentioned I’d like to sign up. Jackie agreed to sign up with me and I thought, “How bad can it be?”

Did I mention I made this decision the night before the first race? As in, with no training and no preparation? I figured I’d walk the 3.1 miles as fast as I could with maybe a little running. Ha.

The next morning as we started the race, we weren’t five minutes in when Jackie said, “Hey, let’s run a little.” I figured, OK, I’ll be fine. So we started to run. About 15 seconds in, my calves were burning. Did I mention I wasn’t prepared?

Most of the race I spent walking. And complaining. And apologizing to Jackie for complaining. And asking her if she was punishing me because she kept telling me we should run. 

We set small goals. “Just to the stop sign... Just past five trees... Just to the policeman.”

We ran to the police roadblocks a few times and now realize it probably looked like we were just running whenever we passed people. Not true. It was just an easier stopping point than “That tree up there.”

After feeling like I couldn’t go any further and feeling bad about not doing anything to prepare, I finished the race. It was better than what I expected could happen – me lying on the side of the road in the fetal position while my legs throbbed and my calves felt like they’d explode.

Though I finished with a time I wasn’t personally proud of, it was hard not to smile and feel good about even finishing at all, as everyone who finished before me stood cheering all the runners and walkers to the end. There were lots of “good jobs” and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t feel my legs, I was happy.

I missed the second race because I was out of town for vacation. But soon after I got home – and realized how close the next race was – I vowed to spend as much time in the gym as I could and as much time as possible running. And I did. I’ve been trying to run at least a half-mile a day with walking breaks. I’m not going to try and overdo it, what with 25 years of not running.

So this past weekend, after a whole lot more preparation, I participated in the third race of the Grand Slam. I started the race running – can you believe it? – and unlike last time, made sure to run again every time my heart rate started slowing down. I shaved almost seven minutes off my time from the first race and had anyone been running/walking with me, I definitely wouldn’t have complained as much as in the past.

As I finished, people were clapping and cheering, telling me “Good job!” and “You did it!” For a moment, I couldn’t believe I’d just run across the finish line, and in less time than I’d done it before. From a life-long non-runner who accidentally holds her breath while she’s running, that’s pretty cool.

At the last race of the Grand Slam, hopefully I’ll continue improving my time, running farther and for longer amounts of time, and remembering to breathe. Running has become easier, but I’ve still got work to do.

And if you happen to pass a girl during the race curled up on the side of the road, keep going. It’ll be me, waiting for the exploding-calves feeling to go away and trying to remember how to breathe. Don’t worry though, I’ll catch up.

 

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer. E-mail us about this column at lhagan@oldhamera.com