As a child, I had no shortage of energy for participating in all things active. I took gymnastics, karate, ran laps around the playground while singing the Animaniacs theme song at the top of my lungs during lunch (no, I did not have many friends but thanks for asking you jerk), and begged my mother to plant a weeping willow in our front yard since they were the easiest type of tree to climb.
The argument went something like this:
“Tiffany, trees take a really long time to grow and you’re not going to care about having a weeping willow when you’re 20.”
“Please mommmyyy, can’t we get one of those half grown trees from Home Depot? I will TOTALLY still want a weeping willow when I’m 20. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE TREES.”
We had a very similar argument about my love of the 1998 Ford Taurus when I was in middle school. Oh youth.
As a child, my body was a happy place to live. I was tiny, energetic and hand-eye coordination didn’t seem like a concept invented by The Man just to keep me down. Somewhere in between the 4th grade and being handed a pamphlet about the Magic Transformation into Womanhood I was about to experience, my body teen-werewolfed itself into the top-heavy, accident-prone vessel that has me identifying all too closely with Arcade Fire’s “My Body is A Cage”.
I don’t remember exactly when the transformation occurred, but I know it was very close to when health class starts making you run the mile as a basic fitness test. I’m pretty certain this test was created to establish teenage popularity hierarchy, because when I think about huffing and puffing(caused not by running but speedwalking, of course) my way around that track which, mind you, was the ONLY elementary school activity that required a trip to the high school stadium, I re-live every awkward, terrible, teenage trauma I ever experienced in a few brief seconds.
SO! Running and I have a complicated relationship.
When I graduated college, I decided that one of my goals for my 20s was to become “athletic”. Throughout the years I’d dabbled in various types of workouts — everything from kickboxing bootcamps that required I get up at 5 AM and circuit train in a terrifying Atlanta park with a bunch of 30-yr-olds who were probably having some sort of quarter life crisis I was unaware of at the time to swing dancing classes I hoped would be fun but ended up reminding me of my complete lack of coordination all to the soundtrack of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Zoot Suit Riot was more like Zoot Suit Fall on the Floor and then hop up and hope no one saw you but they all totally saw you, you should just leave now). The one takeaway I had from trying it all was that I found no joy in any of these activities. Even the most benign of fitness activities (think Zumba or that one where you are supposed to get your arms toned by clacking two sticks together) was a chore for me. It all came down to the fact that I am not athletic.
Athletic people seemed to revel in the idea of spending a weekend hiking, or sunset yoga when they could be happy-houring it up. I hated them and their stupid fast metabolisms and their endorphin highs and I had no idea how I was going to get myself to become one of them, so I figured I’d start at the root of where athleticism all went wrong for me – running.
If you are not an athletic person, you know all about the hells of running: the blood/copper taste in your mouth, the coughing that leads to gasping for air in between coughs that then leads to dry heaving. Trying to block the timer on the treadmill with your towel, but then getting impatient and moving the towel, figuring you’ve run at least 10 miles if you feel this bad, only to realize that you’re two minutes in and not even a quarter of a mile into the process. Running is masochism at its purest. The term “runner’s high” is a fancy synonym for Stockholm Syndrome.
At least that’s how it feels at first. But slowly, not-so-surely because of all of the dry-heaving, I found myself starting to tolerate running. And the reason I began to tolerate it had little to do with how good my body felt afterwards (because well, it still really didn’t) but because of what was happening to me mentally. I found that through running, an activity that I could continue simply by placing assuring that my legs were moving required my mind’s commitment to continue that action. And my own ability to endure discomfort grew and eventually became an outlet I found pretty inspiring.
But after the initial exposure, I hit some sort of wall. I could run 3-ish miles without feeling as though I was being punished for every mistake I’ve ever made in the history of my whole life, but I couldn’t do much more. On days where my lungs felt strong, my ankles, knees or even the arches of my feet (et tu, arches?) would feel ready to snap in half. As I ran toward those hopes of laughing and climbing rocks with all of the Athletic Ones (or more often than not, the image of Paula Dean garnishing a fried oreo chocolate cookie tower with an entire pint of Ben&Jerry’s Chunky Monkey because I love watching the Food Network at the gym), my body gave out and once again I felt doomed to never understand the joys of making one’s body do things.
After several years of failed running attempts, I decided to force myself to progress by the only way I know how to force myself to do anything – fear of public embarrassment. So in January I signed up for a half marathon that seemed far enough away to not terrify me, but close enough that I would immediately feel forced to prepare. And prepare I did, through runners toes (gross), angry ankles (limping!), and all sorts of discomfort, I found myself last Saturday running mother. fucking. half. marathon.
It’s universally known that the best part of doing something like running a half marathon is telling people that you are going to or have already run a half marathon, but I don’t want to spend this blog post doing that, because that’s what Facebook is for. What I want to tell you about is all of the random shit going through my head while running a half marathon. Because 2 hours and 20-some minutes is a LONG time to run and there has to be something going on in there other than “ow my feet hurt, my feet hurt, when will my feet not hurt?” for at least some of the time.
S0 here’s a brief outline of the things I was thinking during the half marathon –
Mile 0 –
- OK, here we go. You can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS. Ow, my ankle already hurts.
- I’m passing people! Some people are already walking! Maybe we’ll win!
- Shit. How far have we gone? I wonder if they let you know at every mile. That can’t be. We definitely already gone a mile.
Mile 1 –
- Fuck. I can’t believe we’ve only gone a mile.
Mile 2 –
- Ok, this is fine. You’re gonna feel great once you know you have less than 10 miles to go.
- WAIT WHAT IS THIS A HILL OF SOME SORT?! THE SIGN UP PAGE DID NOT INDICATE THAT THERE WOULD BE HILLS.
Mile 3 –
- Minor freak out, I guess that wasn’t really a hill as much as a slight incline, but you’re doing it!
Mile 4 –
- I really identify with the lyrics of this Drake song.
Mile 5 –
- Mile 5! This is almost over. Right? That’s a thing, probably? Like, “oh you know how half marathons go. Once you get past the first five miles it’s just cruise control from there.”
- It sort of smells like Iowa out here. What is that, cow manure?
Mile 6 –
- I’m pretty hungry.
Mile 7 –
- Past the halfway point! And I feel sort of OK. I’m basically to the finish line. God, I can’t believe I’ve accomplished this. This is amazing. I’m so proud of mysel-
- Quit crying. Why are you even crying? WTF there’s another hill and you are hyperventilating because you are crying.
Mile 8 –
- Ok, so your left foot is completely numb but at least you quit crying. Why were you crying anyway?
- Maybe you’re just really excited about finishing this thing and when you think about it you start crying.
- OH MY GOD QUIT CRYING.
Mile 9 –
- I’m running slower than the old man walking in front of me.
Mile 10 –
- Think about all of the cheese you’ll be able to eat when this is over.
Mile 11 –
Mile 12 –
- Cheese and bread. Cheese and bread. Cheese and bread.
Mile 13 –
- I CAN SEE THE FINISH LINE I CAN’T BELIEVE I DIDN’T DIE OMFG WHY ARE YOU CRYING AGAIN???
And when I crossed the finish line, the chick who handed me a metal was like “ARE YOU OK?” because I was making a weird moany hyperventilatey sound from crying like a moron.
Peace, love and here are some pictures of me being “athletic”,