The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Beyond 5K

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I laced up my running shoes 17 years ago after having been away from running for five years.  I needed to do it–I had put on considerable weight my first year teaching, and I needed some kind of physical activity that was inexpensive and that I enjoyed doing.  Why not run again?  I’d gotten a lot out of it in high school.  It builds mental and physical resilience, I can do it by myself, and it’s not expensive aside from the shoes.

What I’d lost in the down time, though, was stamina and strength.  My goal was to run for 20 minutes without stopping.  It took most of the summer of 1996 to get there.  The summer was little more than a running tour of the neighborhoods of Kenosha, WI with a stopwatch around my neck.  My calves ached so bad that more often than not they were the reason I stopped running.  But I made it.  By the middle of August, I could bust out a few miles.  Over the course of the next two years, I settled on 3 miles, which was equivalent to a 5K.  I had a routine:  run Wednesday night and Friday night, and once on the weekends.  It fit my teaching schedule well enough and kept me in shape.

I never strayed from the 5K form.  It was ideal to keep me in shape, it didn’t take too long, and I frequently busted one out in the morning before school, even in the dead of winter.  I’ve literally run a 5K almost 2000 times.  But I got to thinking last summer while in despair about running (a funk from which I eventually emerged) that maybe it was time for me to go further and do it slower, despite my physical limitations and how longer runs would impact my schedule.  Besides, I should probably get my mind off of trying to get faster–it wasn’t doing me much good, especially considering that I’ve never been fast.  Why not give longer distances a go and see where it goes?

So I did.  I kicked up to a 10K.  My first attempt was in late afternoon 10 days ago, and it lasted until I got to mile 5, by which time I was plain pooped.  Only slightly daunted at my first setback, I set out last Thursday in the cold and dim light of early morning well before school started and thought I’d see what would happen.  I merged two 5K courses I have around my neighborhood, thinking that it would be easy enough to drop off and return home quickly if I got tired.  I have of course been running much slower since attacking 6.2 miles at my 3.1 mile pace would probably kill me.  Nonetheless, when I finished the first half, a not unfamiliar feeling of dread coursed through my veins as I realized that I still had a long way to go.

I was heartened by recalling the words of friends who have told me they don’t run 5K anymore because it only feels like a warm-up; they don’t feel like they do their best running until the 4th or 5th or 6th mile (or the 10th mile if you’re Bo Ledman or Jason Rush).  What was less than heartening, though, was the rain that started to pelt me around mile four.  By mile five, my wristbands were wiping far more rain than sweat from my forehead, and my t-shirt was plastered to my chest.  There was cold wetness from my waist to my shoulders that was far from comfortable.  Puddles had formed along my route, and I was sloshing through them until I finally made it back home.

I felt okay, though.  Runner’s High hit me faster than the aforementioned dread, and as such I felt euphoric and my cognitive processes jumped into a zone that is more common to me after I’ve been writing intensely.  I got to thinking that if I were writing the story of what had just happened, I would have used the rainstorm as a symbolic baptism for my character to enter into a new life.  And then I smashed the wall between writer and runner in my mind and decided that I just experienced a baptism into a new life.

I cranked out another 10K yesterday morning and felt just as good as I had last week.  My best optimism is guarded optimism, though, so I know it’s early and I’m getting older.  My calves throb after three miles, there is a dull ache in my knees after four miles, and my back is stiff after five miles.   Part of what is keeping me going, though, is the grittiness of surviving this new distance.  It’s the same grittiness and drive I was experiencing back in 1996 when I was plodding out a mere twenty minutes.

But I know, too, that a lot of these aches and pains have  to do with re-seasoning myself to cover this new distance, so my body might soon adjust.  Or maybe not so soon–it’s been 23 years since I ran this far.  But I’m monitoring my recovery to see if this is viable for me.  I certainly feel like I’m almost 43 years old when I finish, and my legs are wet spaghetti, but otherwise I’m bouncing back as quickly as can be expected.

So maybe I’m a 10K-er and don’t know it.  I have a lot of time to find out this summer.

Written by seeker70

May 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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