I am not an athlete. In my early adolescent years I did play softball and basketball and I wasn’t awful at basketball. In high school I was the fine arts kid. I sang in choir and performed in a couple plays.
But for my freshman and sophomore years I participated in track. Even saying I “participated” is a little generous. I am not fast, I have no upper body strength, and I have short legs. My high school biology teacher tried to convince me to try distance running, but I refused. After all, who would want to run several miles a day. It sounded awful. But I wanted to be on the team so I decided to sign up for long jump. Remember, I was slow and I have short legs. I was the LAST person who should have been doing long jump. Yet for two years I went to daily practices and ran and jumped with teammates who were significantly faster and stronger than me. I ran ladders, sprints, a couple two mile runs, and learned just how hard a high school athlete has to work. I placed last in every practice and every meet. I even remember missing my event in one meet because I didn’t hear the long jump announcement.
I also spent the better part of my sophomore season suffering from painful shin splints. I iced my legs every night and suffered through the remainder of the season. I’m sure it was a combination of things: improper technique, poor running shoes, a body not designed for sprinting. When my family moved to Michigan and I moved to a new high school I swore off of running forever. In my experience it was painful and I was slow. If I was going to exercise I would find other methods to stay in shape.
For the last 20 years my exercise habits have been sporadic but they have usually centered on my access to workout equipment. In college I lost the Freshman 15 on a stair master. After marriage I would use the local YMCA whenever we had an active membership. And then we moved to Texas and to an area where we didn’t have easy access to a YMCA. The pre-move stress, the time spent living in a camper, and the time spent adjusting to a new city added on pounds I had proudly lost a couple years ago and I needed to make a change and it needed to be both affordable and accessible. That is when my husband suggested I try using Couch to 5K, or C25K for short.
He had suggested it before and I fought it. After all, I learned to hate running 20 years ago and I am no longer a teenager. If running had been hard on my body when I was 15 what would it do to my 30-something body? But I had to do something and running meant all I had to do was put on my New Balance shoes and walk out of our front door.
It worked. The program works over an eight week period and gradually increases running time mixed with walking breaks. In the beginning it wasn’t so terrible. When I only had to run nine out of 30 minutes my body wasn’t screaming at me to stop. But the runs got longer and the walks shorter. It took me about 12 weeks instead of the prescribed eight weeks but two days ago I finally finished the program and today I ran three miles without the prompted assistance of my C25K app. Shin splints? Not at all. In fact, while my legs are tired, I feel good.
I guess I should have listened to my biology teacher all those years ago. I’m waiting for the day when I feel good while running, but I look forward to my running days way more than I thought I would. Right now the worst part about running is my legs are usually begging me to stop but I’m hoping that will get better sooner.
I’m not ready to run an actual race, but it’s a new goal. As is the goal that one day I will be able to run with my daughter, encouraging her to do what I was afraid to do as a high school student so that she doesn’t have to wait until she is in her mid-30s to figure out that her body is capable of way more than she thinks it is. In my book, that is a win.