Runner’s Low

Let me begin this post by saying that I was listening to NPR the other day when a story came on about this chick, who illustrates all her blog posts. So I thought to myself, why have I never done this??? As a mediocre artist who enjoys drawing unflattering, cartoonish portraits, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. So here is my first blog art masterpiece: Me “running” on the sidewalk wearing too-tight pants, a pretty common occurrence when one’s bottom half is perpetually expanding and one’s pants refuse to follow suit. Also, as you can see, I have no idea how to draw hands.

Me, experiencing a runner's low.

Me, experiencing a runner’s low.

Now I would like to discuss a topic I have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with: running. Whenever I see people running in tiny neon shorts, long, flowing pony-tales and fancy-looking sports tops, I can’t feel but feel extreme respect and admiration for the runner. I run vicariously through other people, thinking they must be amazing, superior beings because running just seems like something that requires discipline, dedication and follow-through, qualities that don’t exactly come naturally to me. So that’s the love part. I’ve tried countless running programs in the past, usually for exactly three days, and made numerous “commitments” to run a 5K, 10K or even a marathon (ha!); not surprisingly, I rarely ran more than 90 seconds in a row without feeling like I was dying. This is the hate part.

I didn’t want to say anything earlier because I figured this latest attempt at running would end in shameful, predictable failure, but I’m ready to announce the fact that I can now run 45 minutes in a row without stopping. I would also like to take a moment to say that the term “running” might be a bit generous. What I do is more along the lines of bouncy brisk walking — we’re talking a 14 or 15 minute mile on a good day. It’s not at all uncommon for old people to pass me, smiling and waving sympathetically as they look back at me slowly bouncing along. And let me tell you, there’s a lot of bouncing going on. This new running kick started about a month ago. The first day I ran a grand total of 1/8 of a mile without stopping. But I kept at it and within a week I was able to run one mile, then two miles and now, almost three.

As you can imagine, I’ve been feeling pretty arrogant about my new ability despite my glacial, embarrassingly slow pace. I believe in dreaming big, so I started having all these fantasies about how great it would be to run fast. Like really, really fast. Kind of like a Kenyan, as they are currently the best runners in the world. How great are they? Seventeen American men in history have run the marathon in less than two hours and ten minutes; in October of 2011, 32 Kenyans from ONE tribe (the Kalenjin) ran the marathon in less than two hours and ten minutes. I was thinking about how great it would be to be a super-fast runner one day when this broadcast about Kenyan runners came on the radio. Initially I was feeling pretty positive. The story talked about Kenyans’ discipline, their commitment to training and their single-minded focus, and I thought to myself, “I can be disciplined, committed and single-minded!” I mean, probably not in real life, but in theory, it’s definitely possible.

But then, all hopes were dashed. The story went on to talk about how body type (at least in part) determines how successful you’ll be as a runner.  Talk turned to “birdlike” legs, tiny calves and tiny ankles as indicators of running potential. And if you’ve seen me in real life, no one would really use the word “birdlike” to describe my legs. So just imagine it: There I was, driving along, happily listening to NPR, smiling away to visions of myself running like the wind when reality struck. Smile turned quickly to frown and I went from enthusiastic big-time dreaming to realistic resignation. But back to the Kalenjin. The other thing about the Kalenjin is that they live at high altitudes — around 7,000 feet — so they have better developed lungs. And then things got deep. According to the broadcast, one thing that makes the Kalenjin such great runners is that they go through these intense, gory, life-changing rites of passage when they hit puberty (circumcision with a sharp stick, according to RadioLab) which allows them to develop their intense focus and ability to tolerate pain and discomfort. So I’d say I’ve had it pretty easy compared to a Kalenjin.

So even though I’ve accepted I will never be fast because 1.) I don’t have long, slender, birdlike limbs, 2.) I live at low elevation and my lungs seem to be pretty puny and 3.) My rite of passage consisted of my mom buying me a training bra, I did feel it was important to purchase myself some wonderfully ridiculous and over-the-top running shoes:

My new shoes.

My new shoes.

I’ve been running in hiking shoes so I’m feeling very hopeful that actual running shoes will get me just a little closer to running like the wind. Not high-speed hardcore wind…more along the lines of pleasant, steady wind. Or maybe a slow, gentle breeze. Either way, actual running shoes should at least be more comfortable. I still have no idea what this whole runner’s high feels like, but at least I don’t feel like I’m dying anymore. If anyone is looking for a (slow) running buddy, let me know!

Categories: Body Image, Me, Me, Me, Self-improvement

Tags: , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Too funny. I think about running the same way you do, however. I have a friend who has done the Western States 100… imagine running 100 miles in one day over mountains. I have to admire him but I also have to ask why? 🙂 I’ve walked the same rout– in a week. That’s enough. Good for you in your new running/walking routine. –Curt


  1. I Ran a Marathon…. | My (Former) Nomad Life

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