I recently saw this picture come up on my Facebook feed and, like I imagine most runners would do, I found myself nodding my head in wholehearted agreement.
Image from Hippie Runner Funktional Facebook page
I run a lot, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. Once, when I picked my boys up from the babysitter, who had watched them for an hour so I could go crank out 6 miles, she said to me, “I think it’s so awesome that you like running as much as you do.”
I had been bending over to pick up my sons’ bag, and I remember I stopped. Straightened. Looked at her, my brow furrowed in thought. “Hm. Except I don’t really think that I like it.”
I can picture her face in my head right now, and the statement that would’ve come along with it had she been assholey enough to actually voice it: Then why do you leave your kids with me at least twice a week so that you can go do it, you fcking dumbass? You’re only paying me $5 each time, and I have a lot of other shit I could be doing…
I love the way it feels when I’m finished running, and when I was forced to take a break from it during my pregnancy with my second son because of an overly cautious doctor paired with complications from previous pregnancies, I just about went crazy. I did get to do the stair stepper, but it just wasn’t the same. Especially when the gym’s manager met me at the front desk as I was swiping my membership card three days before my 2-weeks-overdue son was born.
“Shay,” he said.
I raised my eyebrows. I knew what he was getting at, and I wasn’t having it.
“Seriously, Shay?” he tried again.
“Shay, there is not one person in this gym who knows how to deliver a baby—"
“I personally know of several doctors who work out here,” I interjected.
“Shay,” he said warily.
I held up my finger and motioned for him to come a bit closer. He leaned towards me, and I conspiratorially hiked up my shorts a few inches so that the ruffled edge of the Depends that I had put on just before coming to the gym stuck out.
“I wore Depends,” I whispered. “So if my water breaks, you won’t have to clean it up.”
He jumped back. “DAMMIT, Shay!” he exclaimed. “ONE MORE DAY. Seriously, this is the last day. If you show up tomorrow, I will throw you out.”
“Whatever,” I replied, shooting him a glare over my shoulder as I headed to what had become my favorite stair stepper.
I do other workouts besides running. I am addicted to home workout DVD’s the rest of the days of the week. But if I don’t get my twice-weekly runs in, I’m a raging bitch.
At least that’s how my husband put it one time. We were at my in-laws’ house for the weekend, and we were busy. There was hardly any time for a jaunt on the gravel roads just outside their house—even though you only have to open their front door to lay eyes upon pretty much the best flat running trail in the world. It was about 8 in the morning, and I’m not sure what I was doing, but whatever it was, I was doing it with a nasty grimace on my face.
“Holy shit,” my husband said, taking a sip of his coffee after observing me for a few seconds. “You are being a raging bitch. Please go take a run. I’ll watch the boys.”
“But we have all of this stuff to do to get ready for—"
“It’ll get done. Please. Go run. Everyone that you encounter today will be the better for it.”
He was right. I ran 5 miles and came back shooting rainbows straight out of my ass—or however that saying goes. There is a saying that goes something like that, right?
Anyway, I attribute the fact that I continue to run to two things: I’ve got a case of OCD that, although never diagnosed, is glaringly obvious to pretty much anyone who passes me in the street, watching as I double-check (If you do it 172 times, is it still called “double-checking”?) my purse to make sure I replaced my phone, debit card, and driver’s license (even though I hadn’t used it) when I paid for my cup of coffee at the corner Starbucks.
I always say that the only thing my OCD is good for is my workouts: I will most likely always be in shape because if I don’t get a workout in, my schedule is all thrown off and my day is unnecessarily upset. You can say it however you like: Type A scheduler/planner or blistering case of OCD. Potayto, potahto. In either case, a schedule (and in my particular case, including a workout) is necessary to avoid upsetting the smooth running of the day.
And although I can—and always do—recover from that lopsided, things-aren’t-right feeling if I miss a workout because I have learned to manage those feelings, it still sucks a little bit.
I know I should seek counseling. Or drugs. But I’ve heard that you can’t drink when taking anti-anxiety meds, and we all have choices to make in life. I choose beer.
The second reason I continue to run is MEDALS.
Finishers’ medals, to be precise. I refuse to run a race unless they offer them, because let me tell you something about my running stride: It ain’t gonna win me any medals for placing. At a pace of a somewhat respectable 10-minute mile or so during longer races, I consistently come in at smack dab in the middle of the pack. But dammit, if I’m running 13.1 miles—yes, I want a medal.
Just before I deleted my mother-in-law from my personal Facebook page, she made a comment about one of the half marathons I'd recently run. She started out all sunny and cheerful. “I noticed you ran another half marathon last weekend!” she chirped.
Pride blossomed in my heart; despite the finish-line pictures that I or my husband always put onto my Facebook page, my mother-in-law had never offered a word of encouragement or a congratulations about my running.
“I did!” I said, my face breaking into a huge smile. I opened my arms to receive the congratulatory hug that I was sure was coming.
But then I saw her wrinkle her nose in distaste for what she considers a silly habit. “I saw on your pictures that you got a medal, but don’t they give everyone medals for just doing the race? So it wasn’t like you really accomplished anything,” she snapped.
I happened to catch my husband’s eye, and I could tell he was working really hard to stifle his laughter. Almost a little too hard—as if that dick wanted to make sure I noticed. In any case, it made it hard for me to stifle my own giggles at my curmudgeonly mother-in-law.
Whatever the case, I keep running, and I keep signing up for races.
At the starting line of my 3rd half marathon, I heard some women talking about the course.
“Sarah told me she ran this one last year,” one said, “and that it was really hilly.”
“Yeah,” the other agreed. “Kate told me that the first 8 miles were all hills.”
I had rolled my eyes behind them. Whatever, I thought to myself. People are always so dramatic about how hard a course is.
And were there hills?
Nah. Not at all.
There were motherfcking CLIFFS. Like, we were running on streets that had been carved out of the natural landscape—which happened to be quite mountainous, I noticed, since I had precisely 2 hours and 15 minutes to study it.
At one point during the race, I looked around me, fervently hoping for a downward slope. I looked to the left, to the right, in front of me, behind me…all fcking 4 sides of me contained hills.
How is that even possible? I thought in between the thoughts I was having about how I was pretty sure I was going to pass out. Isn’t there some law in Physics about what comes up must go down or some shit?
At the finish line, I saw my husband and two young boys cheering me on. I wanted to lift my arm in a wave, but it wouldn’t work. When I crossed, they met me with open arms, but I was honestly scared I was going to fall down on my shaky legs. I held up a finger—the only motion I could manage—to signal them to wait just a second for their hugs that I always love to receive.
My husband’s shoulders drooped. “I thought you’d be happy to see us,” he said.
And I was. I really was. But all I could manage to reply was this: “I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m right in the middle of truly believing I’m about to die.”
But really, I don’t think half marathons are that hard. It was just that particular one, which I was really glad hadn’t been my first because otherwise I might have been scared off of them for life.
Instead, I just signed up for my 6th, which I will run this weekend. A friend of mine sent me the link, and that was all she wrote, peeps, because you know what?
The finisher’s medal is FANTASTIC.
My husband and boys are going with me; I’m going to make sure I get a picture of all of us at the finish line petting my medal so that I can frame it and give it to my mother-in-law for her birthday.
It's coming up.
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