To run is to waste what little breath you can catch in those first strides, or so I once believed.
In my glory days – in the Presidential Fitness Award days – I ran a 7:47 practice mile on the church track. It was my first and last mile at that speed and without stopping to walk. My treasured 7:47 mile. It didn’t matter in the end. I ran and walked an 8:52 mile on the school track when it counted and missed my award by twenty-nine seconds.
In my eighth-grade days, it felt like a hardball hit my knee the day I stepped into a pitch and pivoted too sharply to swing at a whiffle ball. My brother told me to suck it up, but my knee turned colors and swelled. It happened during basketball season. It happened during gym class. It happened when I rearranged my classroom’s desks. My doctor told me that in all those awkward and painful moments, my knee cap had popped out and back into place.
Now my knees crackle when they bend. Damaged cartilage. My doctor recommended low-impact exercise.
So when running culture took off, I scoffed at the geared-up trend followers. I rolled my eyes at the girls – those graceful gazelles – getting runner’s highs. I kicked it into high gear on my elliptical trainer. Cycling made my knees ache. Swimming seemed too big of a commitment. Walking was my go-to during pregnancy and postpartum. Walking has been my favorite forever. Then, last week, I felt the need to run.
It was weird.
Like Forrest Gump, I just felt like running.
With pent-up stress coursing through my weak muscles, I walked down the driveway and onto the street and ran. The goal was to run as far as possible, walk a bit, and run again. When I stopped to gasp in as much air as possible, I was further down the street than I thought I’d be. When I felt ready to try again, I went for it. I surprised myself with several more bursts of running, and when I sprinted up our driveway, I wasn’t dead. I could speak. My knees had survived.
I had survived. And I had loved it.
I consulted Pinterest on the “benefits of running.” I was shocked to read that new research supports running for bad knees. Cody Raygoza, my brother-in-law and soon-to-be physical therapist at Texas State University, confirmed my Pinterest consultation:
“People used to think running was horrible for you, but new research says it is actually good for you. Your body is great at building more bone and cartilage when it needs it.”
The next night, I made it a little further. Two days ago, I made it even further and had even more bursts of running before sprinting back to my front door. I can’t wait to go one mailbox further tonight. Eventually, I’ll run our entire neighborhood without stopping to walk. (Our entire neighborhood is one-tenth short of one mile. Perfect.)
I don’t recall the last time I looked forward to exercise, or the last time I declared such reasonable exercise goals.
Zero pressure and zero expectations, other than running one mailbox further than the night before. I don’t have a coach timing me, or a partner yelling out “don’t quit now!” That never worked for me. Just ask my husband. I like to be my own boss, and I go at night when no one can watch me gulp for air during cool-down.
I’m not looking to run the next local 5k. I’m not training for a half-marathon. (Just last year, snarky me almost slapped that “0.0” sticker on the back of my car.) I’m not looking to run across Autauga County or the beautiful state of Alabama. I just want to be more than an asthmatic turtle when I run down the street. Maybe even a graceful
Photo Credit: KRR
Fetters, K. Aleisha. “10 Benefits of Running That Make You Healthier (and Happier).” Fitness Magazine, 31 Aug. 2015, http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/running/benefits-of-running/?crlt_pid=camp.I9xRvp6zL0gs&socsrc=fitpin15090703.