Missed the first part of Elise’s jogging journey? Catch up here.
Whenever I begin a new endeavor, I always start with the gear.
Planning to get serious about writing my novel? That calls for new notebooks and pens, whatever writing software or app I’ve decided I need (Scrivener, Write or Die, Write or Die 2…), and probably a new tea mug.
Trying out 21 Day Fix? It’s all about the plastics—those colorful little portion control containers, dedicated tupperware for salads, multiple shake cups, and a bento box or two.
Deciding to become a runner in the middle of winter? Off to Academy I go in search of new shoes, workout tights, long-sleeved tops, and a headband to protect my tender ears from the wicked winter winds.
Sidebar: You laugh, but Houston actually got pretty dang chilly this year…it snowed. TWICE.
Of course, shopping is the easy part. Once you have all the supplies, then you actually have to start doing the thing, which, shockingly enough, is often easier said than done.
My one real New Year’s resolution for 2018 was not to go a week without running. Dear reader, I confess I barely kept myself accountable to that standard in January. A gnarly cold meant my first run of the year didn’t happen until the 7th, and I had one jogless eight day stretch in the middle of the month. Cue Septa Unella.
Sidebar: I think my body might be naturally hardwired to reject exercise. As soon as I make a plan to get in shape, pay for a month-long membership at Define or Koko Fit Club or wherever, I get through the first week like a champ and then either get sick or throw my back out—sometimes both. My bank account LOVES this about me.
Resolving to make running a regular part of my routine was a good start, but several friends encouraged me to sign up for a race to give myself something to work towards. One friend in particular encouraged me to set my sights higher than a 5K.
“I mean, you’re basically doing a 5K every time you run the Memorial loop. Where would the fun in that be? You should totally do a 10K—or, even better, do a half!”
I laughed at that uproariously. Like I was ever going to willingly sign up to run over thirteen miles in one go…
Sidebar: Remember that sentence.
A 10K, however, seemed doable. I signed up for the Rodeo Run just before Christmas, which gave me two full months to train.
Before we get any further, I want to ensure you have no illusions about my athletic prowess—I’ve been saying “runs,” but really these outings are more like “walks with intermittent jogging breaks.” One might categorize them as interval training if one were feeling generous (and if one had been watching too many episodes of The Crown when one should have been working out).
When I started training for this 10K (again, I use the word training very, very loosely), my basic plan was this: run for at least part of every song I listened to.
My first time out, it was once a song for maybe 30-45 seconds. I would jog until I felt like I needed a break and then walk until I caught my breath. Simple enough, although, I imagine, very annoying to run behind.
This has actually been a really good method for me as I was (…am), I will admit, in pretty poor cardiovascular shape—I’m not kidding when I said my heart rate tripled that first time I attempted to run the loop with my ex and his friends. Many of the proper Couch to 5K programs I’d tried in the past expected too much, too quickly, and inevitably, I’d get discouraged after a few tries and quit. Besides, I don’t really enjoy being told what to do, especially by perky trainers who think they know my life. You don’t know me, Rochelle from Aaptiv!
I decided it was time to step my game up and do a 6-mile run when I realized it was the last weekend of January and I had only logged 11 miles (in mostly 3 mile increments). If nothing else, I would prove to myself that I could at least finish the race when the time came, hopefully without needing to pause at any point to vomit.
Looking back, the smarter thing would have been to incrementally increase my mileage over several runs instead of immediately doubling my distance. But six miles just didn’t seem like that much when I knew I could easily log ten or twelve miles walking around Disney World in between rides. Plus, I’m selectively competitive, and I knew a few people who were doing long training runs that day, and dammit if I didn’t want to jubilantly post my progress on Strava like the rest of them.
My right hip did not appreciate this choice.
I limped over the proverbial finish line and spent the evening after trying to summit Mount Almost-a-10K unable to lift my leg without pain, convinced I would never walk properly, let alone run again. I bemoaned to family and friends that my nascent running career was over and consigned myself to a lifetime of sedentary pursuits.
Yes, Netflix, I am still watching The Good Place, and I really don’t appreciate the judgemental tone.
Sidebar: I’m not overly dramatic at all.
I was back at the loop two days later, still a bit twingy but mostly healed, and something remarkable happened: I ran the first half mile without feeling the need to stop—a milestone.
Two days after that, I ran the first and last mile without stopping. Another milestone. It was slow and the last one certainly wasn’t pretty—I caught some of my fellow loopers eying me with concern—but I had accomplished something I don’t think I’d ever done before in my life. At this point, I can go for two miles at a steady jog, something I would have told you two months ago was impossible. And sometimes, when the right song comes on (to date, Beyonce’s “Countdown” and “Diane Young” by Vampire Weekend), with the wind tugging at my hair (which, unlike Blake Lively, I contain with a hair tie AND a ball cap), I find myself sprinting down the path with a smile on my face and a feeling in my heart that might be described as elation, and I think to myself, “Oh—so this is what it’s all about.”
I’m not flying yet, but I’m on my way.
Elise will (hopefully) be crossing the finish line of the Rodeo Run to benefit the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Education Fund this Saturday, Feb. 24. Stay tuned for Part III to find out how she fared!
When she was five, she wanted to be a “flower arranger.” When she was eleven, she decided to be a neonatal nurse. At eighteen, she was going to go into publishing to both write and discover the next great American YA novels. Her senior year of college found her falling into a teaching career, and after spending five years in the classroom, she’s stumbling her way up the corporate ladder. Still waiting on her Hogwarts acceptance letter (nineteen years isn’t THAT late, right?). Em-dashes and oxford commas for life.