I never thought I would create anything called An Ode to Running. Until this year, I never imagined that I would run anywhere, let alone that I would like it. The last time I ran was in high school, during my two-season stint as the tennis team’s second string exhibition singles player. (Which means I was a really bad tennis player. But I was in it for the social benefits and the letter, so it was all good.) Our daily practices included lots of drills and “scrimmage” matches…and running. I don’t know how far we ran, but as far as I was concerned it was a long way. I hated it.
Other than tennis practice, the only other time I ran was in gym class. I hated that, too. It just seemed so pointless to run in circles around the track just for the sake of running.
When I told my trainer last winter that one of my goals was to be ready for the Komen 5K Race for the Cure this fall, however, things changed. The seed was planted when I watched Blake and my friends run in the race last October and found myself wishing that I could do that. Once I set that goal, my trainer convinced me that I could run the 5K and that I would actually be able to run one sooner than that. And I did. In fact, I have four different 5Ks and a 10K under my belt so far.
There have been many times in the past few months when I have laughed at the idea that I have suddenly become a “runner.” Because even though I’m slow, I’m running. And I still feel that every single step I take on the road is another step farther away from cancer.
I was talking to a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago about the whole running gig. Like me, he has always been rather anti-running. He wanted to know exactly what I like about it and how I find the motivation to do something so mindless and pointless. As I began explaining to him what I get out of it, I realized how important it has become to me. I have gotten to the point where I can’t imagine not running, which is a far cry from dreading the running drills at tennis practice.
Part of the reason I like it so much is certainly the shot of endorphins it gives me. I don’t really experience what some people describe as the runner’s high, but I definitely feel a big shot of positive at the end of a run and for a long time afterward. I find that when I run on a regular basis, I sleep better at night and think more clearly during the day. It turns out that running is a time of solitude and meditation for me and sometimes it’s the only time in the day when I can be all alone. I can almost predict how far I have run by my mental state at any given moment during a run. I start out thinking about things and solving the problems of the world (or at least of my world) and I end up in a semi-meditative state. It probably goes without saying that the health benefits are one of the biggest motivators for me. Every single time I am out there running, I think about how far I have come from last year, from being bald and weak and sick and unable to walk from the couch to the kitchen on some days. I am thankful for the good health that allows me to take each step of the three or four miles of my chosen course. I run because I can, and because if I am running, I am not giving in to cancer and I might even be doing something that could prevent a recurrence.
When I first started running this year, I loaded up my iPod with driving rock and roll and rap music, but have discovered that my favorite running music is the PodRunner mixes by DJ Steve Boyett. You can find them on iTunes if you search under “podrunner” or on Boyett’s website. These are great hour-long mixes of all kinds of music at a consistent BPM. It’s much better for my pacing and endurance if I run to one BPM rather than a collection of different beats. I save the fun songs for races, and have both 5K and 10K mixes timed so that the really inspirational songs come on just before I cross the finish line.
Race season has wound down here in the Midwest for this year, but I have my sights set on another 10K next April. I have even been tossing around the idea of doing a mini-triathlon next summer. (I think bar studying might be triathlon-training prohibitive, so that might have to wait for awhile.)
Not long ago I saw a story on the Today Show about an incredible woman named Karen Newman. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, but continued training for and finished a triathlon while in treatment. She chronicled her experience in a video diary that you can see here. I am simply amazed and absolutely inspired by her strength and fortitude. I simply cannot imagine being able to do something like that in the midst of chemo.
Because these posts are always more fun with visual highlights, here are a couple of pictures from the Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure in Chicago. The first one is from last October, and the rest are from this past September. What a difference a year makes.
Komen Race for the Cure 2007
Komen Race for the Cure 2008
Endorphins at work
Finish line in sight...and I know! What's with all the smiling and running, right? I especially like the expression of the guy in green over my left shoulder. He's looking at me like, "What is up with that chick and the smiling?"