Seriously, though, how do you people do it? Other than a few spurts of thinking, Today is the day I enjoy running and become a runner!, my relationship to running has largely been a hate-love-hate … -still-hate relationship. In those bouts of wanting to enjoy running, and do it more regularly, I’ve gotten myself better fitting shoes (although admittedly, I’ve still never had my feet truly outfitted correctly), that strap thingy where my phone can be attached to my arm while I run, apps like MyFitnessPal and Couch to 5K, and so on, to encourage my “love” for the idea of running.
Because you see, I’ve always found the idea of running romantic, about being able to mold your body to the grind of it, and powering your body through itself. And about showing yourself, and others, how far the human body can push itself. Other motivations have included wanting to be someone who does marathons, buoyed by that romantic notion, or the flipside, being someone who can do a fast mile. I remember I used to know exactly how far a mile was in my old neighborhood, and I would time myself to see how fast I could run it.
In 2014, for example, one of those romantic notions came over me. I detailed the epiphany-like moment I had in one of my college newspaper columns.
One day a few weeks ago, however, after an early morning Saturday work shift, a whimsical notion planted itself in my mind: I was going to run the mile. It was an absurd notion since I’m not a runner and I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in over a year.
I was operating on two hours of sleep and no breakfast, but I was going to run the mile.
From there, I detailed how when I got home from work that Saturday morning, instead of sitting down and losing my motivation, I turned on Eminem’s, “‘Till I Collapse,” one of the greatest pump-up songs ever, set MapMyRun to record my mile, and slapped myself a few times.
Yes. I still do the slapping myself technique to get me going, but that’s usually to keep me awake now when I’m doing long drives, not trying to amp myself up for a run.
As I detailed in my column, running is one of those activities where I almost instantly — when the lungs take in the air, and my brain realizes what I’m doing when my feet hit the pavement the first time on a hot jump — the synapses start firing, “Yeah, what? No. Stop.”
But then, if I do keep going, as I did back in 2014, the body starts warming up, getting with the rhythm, and like an Eminem song, building up into a chest-pumping chorus.
Aaaand then it was back to the couch and Chipotle. Womp womp. Those romantic notions tied to running have always been fleeting and few and far between.
On the blog, I’ve talked a number of times about my recent diet and exercise efforts to drop the pounds. I know, like with dieting and exercising, and virtually anything else in life, it takes a few weeks and before you know it, your body is loving what you’re doing. It’s accustomed! Unfortunately, I’ve never stuck with running long enough to get to that point.
Primarily, I think it comes down to the impact for me? Even since I was a teenager, I’ve had feet issues, but also, it’s impactful on the shins. And my shoulders also get weirdly achy, so I’m sure my technique is just wonderful to enable that! And I hate, hate that feeling like your chest is going to explode from your seemingly overworked heart.
I like to think, related to running the mile, that at my best shape and weight, I can be a pretty fast layperson, but it’s a spurt that lasts in short distances. I have never, ever been someone with endurance. I think the loop around my old neighborhood used to be about 2 miles? Maybe 2.5? So, when I wasn’t trying to do a fast mile, I would try to see how fast I could do that, and almost always, I would drop off by the second mile. It is always astounding to me that people can not only stay even with their mile splits, but can even get faster with the miles as they go.
The reason I bring all of this up is that on Sunday, I did a 5K walk/run for a fundraiser for a nonprofit that supports K-9 units in the area. I’m sure those more accustomed to running, especially long distances, would find a 5K to be a proverbial cakewalk.
Anyway, the 5K was at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, which I didn’t realize is the third biggest cemetery in the United States. Whoa! Well, it certainly is big, and quite hilly.
Of course, it’s not like I do training in the run-up to something like this. I just think, Welp, we’ll see how it goes.
It was awful. I felt awful. I was already having cramps for some reason a few minutes prior to the start of the race. When the race started, of course I wanted to start off with a good jog. If I’m doing the timed race — my parents picked the timed one, not realizing it was timed, so they walked — I figured I might as well try my best to get a good time, right? Within, oh I don’t know, a quarter of a mile? I was blown up. My chest wanted to disassociate from my skeleton. My feet hurt. I was cold. Unlike in 2014, I did not power through and took to fast walking.
I largely walked the 3.11 miles that a 5K is, up and down the path. Seriously, there were a lot of hills! Big hills! I didn’t know Mount Everest’s family was buried at Spring Grove Cemetery. In all seriousness, because of my stupid pride, I still had my spurts of fast jogging, and even at one point, a full-on sprint. I joked to one of the photographers for the organization that the camera inspired me to at least jog for the camera rather than walk. And admittedly, something that motivates me to move faster is trying to stay ahead of people who are continually near me, whether slightly ahead or slightly behind.
There was never a doubt in my mind that I would finish the race. Of course. It’s only 3.2 miles. Even if I walked the whole time, I would still finish. The question was, how fast would I finish? I figured with all the walking I was doing, and how terrible I felt, my time would be especially atrocious.
When I finished, I finished at 40 minutes and 28 seconds, with a pace of 13 minutes, two seconds. Overall, regardless of gender and age, I was 182 out of 336. Among my gender, I was 103 out of 161. Eek. But out of my age group (and male gender) of 30 to 34, I was actually eighth.
What was compelling to me about my results, and what I automatically thought about, was, Oh, that has to far worse than what I did in October.
In October 2021, I did another 5K for a different organization and good cause, and this one was not as hilly (if I recall correctly, there was only one steep hill), but it was super muddy; so muddy, that there were moments it was impossible to run for fear of slipping. For that 5K, I felt great! I jogged far more, with a few spurts of outright running/sprinting when the path wasn’t as muddy. When I finished, I still felt great!
Part of that had to be that I was more on my stuff as it regarded consistent exercise and diet, as opposed to now. But more on that in a future blog post.
Well, when I got home yesterday, I looked up my October time: 41 minutes and 15.5 seconds. My pace was apparently 13:17, according to the chip thing I was wearing. Overall in that race, regardless of age and gender, I finished 399 of 2,076. Among males aged 30-39 (what the heck, I’m in a category that’s aged 30-39 now), I finished 43 of 133.
So, there is not a huge difference between 41 minutes and 15.5 seconds, and 40 minutes and 28 seconds, and if you add in the mud factor from October that sort of explains why I did better most likely, but still, I was surprised I did better this go-around when I felt worse.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to inspire me to do more running or anything, but it did make me feel slightly better mentally compared to how bad I physically felt.
By the way, for comparison’s sake to those who do this kind of thing regularly: The first-place winner finished in 17 minutes and 20 seconds. His pace was 5 minutes and 35 seconds. Goodness. And the best part? He’s 45-years-old! The second place winner is 16-years-old, but the third place winner is also 45-years-old, and only a little over two minutes slower than the first-place finisher. Which, to be fair, two minutes is a century in racing (or swimming).
Those people are walking — running — magic to me. They are sculpted from magic dust. I admire you runners immensely. Obviously, because I have my moments where I desperately want to be like you!
And yes, I know, at the end of the day, I take part in these 5Ks for the good cause, but my pride (ego!) is still a thing, okay!
If you like running, WHY. And HOW. Explain your magic.