A simple joy? I ran…I jogged…I shuffled my feet…slowly. Call it what you want but “jogging” seven minutes out of fifty-six brought a river of “good” endorphins and a bit of hard breathing. Little “feel good” opioid peptides that have raised my spirits at a time when my spirits have been quite low.
To think, I sooooo hated running…I still hate the actual act of running.
I flirted with exercise my entire adult life. Flirted like the unsure introvert gazing wishfully at the beautiful homecoming queen from across the room. I’d contemplate asking her to dance and then take a good look in the mirror as I straighten my tie. Why would she be interested in dancing with me?
Similar to the pain of rejection, running was painful. Aching muscles, being short of breath, the queasy stomach after strenuous exercise…and…left to my natural state, I’m basically lazy.
The mirror suggested, “You don’t look like a runner…you are too round, your legs are too short, your feet are too big.” Compared to a thoroughbred horse, I was at best a mule, at worst a donkey…built for carrying burdens not speed.
A birthday gift from hell changed the way I looked at myself in the mirror. I embarked on a running program six weeks after a birthday heart attack in 2006. After the heart attack, I decided the homecoming queen could be damned.
Four stents overcame a life filled with Southern cooking, I completed cardiac rehab and embarked on a walking program. An old school coach, I just didn’t feel the “no pain, no gain.” I needed to hurt…and I did. I needed to pay for those caloric indiscretions of my youth…and I did. I used the “Couch to 5K”1 workout and found the pain to be manageable. I also found there were unforeseen benefits.
My feet were still too big, my legs will always be too short, but I wasn’t as round…sixty-two pounds less round. Those changes or lack thereof were foreseen. It was the changes in my mind I didn’t foresee.
I have battled depression for over forty years and suddenly my broken kaleidoscope of a brain seemed to reset itself. There were days I still battled but the din of battle had quieted. The voices in my head whispered instead of yelling.
There were (are) still days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but they were less numerous and harsh. I had a reason to get out of bed…my early morning run.
Running for me was like the guy hitting himself in the head with a hammer. It hurt like hell while I did it but, “It felt so good when I stopped.”
I wasn’t satisfied with 5Ks and continued to push through 10Ks and half-marathons. I even wrote down a marathon on my bucket list and began to train. For five or six days a week, I battled my body instead of my mind. I was addicted. I wasn’t fast and would win no races. I might win in my age group if everyone in my age group had died.
My running wasn’t about competing with others it was about competing with myself. My running was about finishing a workout or finishing a race. I could put a 13.1 bumper sticker on my Jeep and look in a mirror and say, “I am a runner!”
And then I wasn’t. On my last run before a half-marathon in 2015, a misstep opened a can of worms. For two years I hobbled through workouts, tried to prepare to run only to reinjure myself until I decided I was being hardheaded and put my pain into a doctor’s hands. A torn meniscus was an issue…also the discovery of early-onset osteoarthritis. “A knee replacement is in your future,” he said. I wish I had never gone. I wish I had never found out.
For two years I have walked or rode a bicycle and mentally bitched over every mile. Walking doesn’t do it for me. Cycling doesn’t blot out the voices in my head no matter how much I crank up the volume. Walking fails to reset my brain.
This winter season has been the worst. The SAD and depression had laid me low until the New Year. I decided to run…jog…shuffle my feet. A different program, a thirty-second jog out of every two and a half minutes the first week, a minute out of three the second, the same next week.2 Twelve weeks to a 5K. I feel like a baby taking his first steps, but I am hopeful. Even my walking days have been…hopeful.
I am also going to be smart. Three days a week only, on the grass, not the pavement, no back to back days no matter how many workouts are rained ut. Good shoes and braces.
I scratched the marathon off my bucket list. It will never happen. I do hope to do a 5K even if it is a walk/run…jog…shuffle. Anything to reset my mind. Anything to keep the negative voices at bay. Anything to repair the broken kaleidoscope. Anything to get my mojo back.
1 Couch to 5K http://www.c25k.com/
2 None to Run Plan https://www.nonetorun.com/
Don Miller writes on many subjects, fiction, and nonfiction. His author’s page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM