Wednesday, January 6, 2016

running

My name is CA and I’ve been addicted to running for three and a half years.

What else do you call it when you jump out of bed on a freezing cold morning, an hour before sunrise and tuck into your carefully piled clothes, lace up your sneakers and bound out the door?

I had attempted to become a runner several times before Spring 2012. I guess because I thought it must be “good”. Everyone else does it. I didn't enjoy it, because I was always getting out of breath. Not being able to breathe is an uncomfortable feeling. I would give up after only a few tries, wait weeks or months, try again and give up. Not for me, I’d say.

Then came the moment of commitment. We were living in Ghent, Norfolk VA in a beautiful turn-of-the-previous-century apartment with a long hallway. Occasionally I would succumb to the urge to skip down this hallway. As I was skipping one morning, I heard/felt a terrible rending and collapsed on the floor shrieking. My calf muscle had given it up. 

I immediately looked up information on my injury, since I had to leave for the airport in less than an hour. I found the description for what I thought I’d done and in the first sentence were the words “Calf (Gastrocnemius) muscle tears commonly occur in middle-aged recreational athletes”. 

What? I ride my bike to yoga class three times a week, that phrase can’t refer to me! Or can it? I was certainly middle-aged. I had collected 20 pounds over my high school graduation weight. I, um, did yoga three times a week, but the rest of the time I sat around. I did some walking, to be sure, but there was never any sweat involved.

I had 6-8 weeks of recovery time to plan out my strategy for improving my fitness. Running seemed a good place to start, but how to stick with it this time?

This simple tool - Couch to 5K - turned the tables. Working through this program finally allowed my body to adjust to comfortable breathing while running. I gained the stamina to run for 30-40 minutes without stopping and without feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath. I learned to sweat.

Ghent is a beautiful place to run. There are streets with block-wide medians full of gardens. There are no hills. There is scenic water, a pedestrian bridge to the downtown harbor park on the Elizabeth River. The more kilometers I racked up the more in love I became.

One of the things about running that I love, aside from the simple repetitive foot contact with the earth and the air in my happy lungs, is tourist running. To be able to run while traveling is to forge a connection with a new place that is far better than any postcard or souvenir shot glass. I can remember the weather, the terrain, the sights and smells - because while running, one is present and moving through the place on it’s own terms. A runner is part of the landscape - a participant and observer at the same time. It is the quintessential experience of place.

Some of my memories of place (in no particular order):

the wash in North Las Vegas NV
the beach in Wrightsville Beach NC
the wooded path along the Brandywine in Wilmington DE
the cobbled streets of Ghent, Norfolk VA
the gravel shoulder of the General Puller Highway in Deltaville VA
the neighborhood sidewalks in Los Feliz, Los Angeles CA
the narrow streets and alleys of Old City, St. Augustine FL
the dirt paths through the swamps of North Charleston SC
the walled mansions of Coconut Grove, Miami FL
the park in Westover Hills, Fort Worth TX, round and round with the dog…
the Canal Walk along the James River in Richmond VA
the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach DE
the bike paths in Mountain View CA
the tiny village of St. Mary’s GA
the Alberta Arts District in Portland OR
the wide, empty sidewalks through the business complexes of Tysons Corner VA
the campus of Union College in Schenectady NY
the punishing hills in Hendersonville NC

Looking forward to adding Anchorage AK to the list this summer.

Until then, my eyes pop open every day, in the early morning dark, eager to greet the sidewalk - totally addicted.