I've run off and on for my entire life. Every once in a while, I'll get a bug up my butt to really start running again. There was a time when my dad and I ran every Sunday morning. That lasted about two months, until got cold, and then we just fell out of the habit.
My dad is a great runner. He's smooth. He has a good rhythm (I can't even spell rhythm without looking it up). He ran track in high school and actually got at least one scholarship offer out of it. He's long and lean. His only weaknesses are his knees an ankles (great weaknesses for a runner to have), and seeing as I am built exactly like him, except in a prettier, more feminine version, of course, those weaknesses are mine, as well. Even with these pre-determined weaknesses, I still have plenty of evidence to prove that I'm genetically programmed to be a good runner.
Throughout junior high school, I dreamed of the day I could join the swim team. See, though I know I CAN run, I don't really like to sweat in front of large groups of people. And I love to swim.
So, swim I did. Of course, we had to run and lift weights for about a month before we ever touched the pool. When I hit the water, it felt like home. No, I was never the strongest or the fastest, but the feel of the water against my body as I swam soothed me. And, in that heavily chlorinated, over-crowded, outdoor pool, I was graceful.
How I loved swim meets. My body ached for the feeling of getting out of the water and my legs crumbling beneath me. Only then would I know I'd swum my very best.
The smell of chlorine in my hair and on my clothes grew tiring, though, and when I started college, I tucked my TYR suit away in the back of a drawer and concentrated on other things. I'd jog around the hills of Berkeley every once in a while, but I didn't seriously commit to another fitness routine until my junior year. One of my friends (and eventual roommate) and I signed up for inter-mural soccer. We played on a team of mostly Freshmen, but I enjoyed getting out on the soccer field, running around playing defense. Our games were at 9 p.m., and the season started in February. After each game, I would run my hands under warm, then hot water, to bring back the feeling.
It's clear that what I enjoy most about sports is that feeling of complete and utter exhaustion, knowing that I've pushed my body as far as I can.
So, let's fast forward five years. I've kept up with my workouts. I do weights one or two times a week. I'm a huge fan of the elliptical machine, and when I'm feeling lazy, I'll peddle on a stationary bike and read a book.
I'd grown bored with my workouts in the past couple of months, though. They had no focus, no goal. It has taken five years, but I'm ready for some real motivation.
Even though I haven't been in a swim meet in nearly a decade, I still love to watch swimmers on the Olympics and read about those who do amazing things. So, I picked up both Dover Solo by Marcia Cleveland and Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox.
Dover Solo captured my attention more than Swimming to Antarctica, because in the latter, the author had been a life-long competitive swimmer, a life-long over-achiever who spent several hours a day in the pool. While I admire her stamina, I also recognize in her the characteristics of those swimmers who got all the attention in high school. They'd beeing swimming their entire lives and no one questioned that they would take the lead in the important races. I also see in her a devotion to a singular goal that will never be my own.
Marcia Cleveland, on the other hand, decided to swim the English Channel and began to train. She told of swimming that would never be graceful. She told of shoulders rubbed raw by bathing suits, of coating herself in lotion or vaseline or anything that would keep in a layer of warmth. She had swum before, but never at this level, unlike Lynne Cox, who swam the English Channel sometime in her mid-teens.
In any case, both books got under my skin. I never considered training for long-distance, open-water swims. I treasure smooth skin and warmth far too much to see what happens if I submerge myself in 45 degree water for 24 hours.
So, completing a 5k is my current goal. I don't know if I'll ever have the gumption (or the patience) to train for a marathon, but a half-marathon might be somewhere in my future. The roommate and friend I played soccer with has run more than one half-marathon, so I know that people in the real world (not just random, crazy marathon runners) can do it.
I started "training" a few weeks ago, when I could run for about 15 minutes at a stretch. I'd love to get to a 10 minute pace for the entire 3 miles, and I am trying to get their gradually. My 40 minute workout includes a 5 minute walk at 15:00/mile, a mile at an average speed of 12:45, a mile at 11:32, a sprint at about 10 minutes and a cool-down walk for 5 minutes at 14:30/mile. I vary the slope on the treadmill. The running gets me 2.5 miles and change in 30 minutes, but it's far from smooth and certainly not graceful.
It's sweaty. Honestly, my hair was dripping sweat this morning. There are grunts involved. My legs ache.
And it's just what I've been missing.