W1D3... D2 had been a disaster. Rest day brought out aches in muscles I didn't know I had. What on earth would today bring? Thankfully, it was as though D2 had never happened. I could put one foot in front of the other without thinking about it... much. Breathing - check. Speed, (or lack thereof), - check. I made it. I even managed to go a notch faster for the last 30 seconds of the last run. Week 1 in the books & clearly I had a LOT to learn.
And I spent a few days trying to cram every bit of running wisdom into my fevered brain I could. Negative splits, intervals, tempo runs, 10k long runs. Diet, cross training, shoes, Garmin, podcasts... I ended up scaring myself half to death & almost wanting to quit. I'd NEVER be good enough for all of that! Clearly, I wasn't meant to be a runner. I was asking too much. A book I'd reserved at the library came in & I rusghed down to get it. I read most of it in one sitting. Then I took myself to a quiet place, with the book & went over much of it more slowly & it dawned on me.
I wasn't asking too much of running. I was asking too much of myself too quickly. No runner authoring a book or mentioned in one came out of the womb wearing the latest high end Asics, magic training formulas memorized & a guaranteed entry to Boston. They all had had to start where I did - with the First Run. I wasn't looking to beat the world. I was looking to just do my sessions & week by week get a little better. I'd figure the rest out later, if I needed it. Right now & for the foreseeable future - just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Day 2 of Week 1. Yeah, I was a bit achy & stiff on rest day but rolled out of bed eager to get at it. Warm up walk at dawn. I'm smiling at the pretty birdies & admiring the glistening dew & quiet roads... finish my warm up walk & blithely launch into what I expect to be a happy little trot for a minute, then some walking - rinse & repeat. Except somewhere around the third stridde, I realized nothing was working right. I'm 49 - when did I forget to run, to breathe? Who was shoving that hot dagger into my left butt cheek, then my right? Why was this suddenly so complicated? It's just... running. Chin was down, shoulders up past my ears, legs like jellified logs, not sure where my feet were...It was a surreal nightmare. I gained a new appreciation for dawn 'running' - there was no one out to watch me make a fool of myself.
I somehow staggered through the session, twice losing track of how many intervals I'd done. I think I ended up adding one or maybe two but finally, thankfully, I finished & managed the humiliating walk home. I was crushed. I think I might have snivelled a little. Two year olds run better. A diabetic, blind 93 year old could have done better. My running career was doomed, before it got started even. I KNEW it - all that chirpy talk about a gradual program being doable, being EASY in the first stages was so much hooey Not what was I supposed to do? A shower first, then maybe unceremoniously retire my running shoes. Sigh.
I did something smart for once. I hit the C25K rofums. After 20 minutes, I was heartily ashamed of myself. Maybe I'd run like an intoxicated, three legged rat but I HAD been able to finish. I wasn't dead - just wishing I was. Others seem to have had a tougher time on their second day. Some could barely manage Day 1, then did fine Day 2. Experiences seemed to be all over the place. I didn't have to run tomorrow. I had time to think about it.
My heart was racing, palms sweating & my mouth felt like it was stuffed full of rags. With steely determination, I fixed my eyes on the goal... the mailbox at the end of the long stretch of road. I had to get there, I had to DO IT! Yup, I had to walk briskly to the box, then launch myself into a 60 second, slow jog before my first walk interval of 90 seconds. Eight times... it couldn't be that bad... could it? And at the end of it it actually wasn't too bad at all. In fact as I thought about on my walk back home, it was pretty pathetic. I had no business being proud of being able to run 8 slow little intervals of 60 seconds.
I wasn't really sure why I'd decided to run my way to some level of fitness. I'd run before in my life. It had never been fun, enjoyable, satisfying. To be blunt - it sucked. Running in basic training under the eagle eyes of military PT instructors who looked as though they ironed their quads & starched their gluts; who barked out the old: "No pain no gain!" and "Pain is weakness leaving the body!" I remember thinking I must be a whole lot weaker than I could have ever imagined. Somehow I survived but vowed never to run again unless it was to sprint for a bus.
So what was I doing out there starting not just a one time attempt, but a running program? What could this possibly do for an almost 50 year old, depressed, underweight smoker with a lousy attitude to life? Why running, why something I'd formerly hated? A big part of the reason was coming across the C25K program & don't remember how or when & reading the active.com forums. Runners there, even those who'd barely started made it sound attainable. They even managed to make it sound FUN. That didn't make sense. Some of them admitted to carrying 100+ extra pounds or close to it & running was... FUN??? I remember dry heaves, gagging, power puking. That's FUN? What was I missing?
I launched into a reading program of sorts, scanning for & reading anything I could find about beginner running. And I discovered running had changed. No pain, no gain was gone. Going as hard as you can as often as you can didn't exist. Everything I read spoke of starting slowly, walking if you have to, then adding small bits of running here & there. Hey, I can do that! Over time, add a bit of running, a bit less walking - just go really slowly & don't kill yourself. I'm all for that! I carefully read the C25K program. I didn't look too long at anything past week 2 - too scary. But surely I could handle the first few weeks? I didn't have much to lose; a bit of embarassment maybe, a few sore muscles.
My doctor told me it was a good idea to start exercising BEFORE quitting smoking; it would give me something new & healthy to focus on. It would help my depression. It would possibly help me gain weight as it might ignite an appetite in me. It couldn't hurt. I passed a check up, started on a mild antidepressant, got a lab req. for bloodwork & a date for a follow up appointment. Now...
I was on my own.
And nervous. I wanted instant results. I started picturing myself triumphantly crossing a finish line, impressing s[ectators with my awesome time for my age category. Panting with exertion, I saw myself being interviewed by the local media. All before I'd trotted a single step.
I had to figure out what I wanted from running - millions of $$$ was clearly out of the picture & it would't regress me to age 25, nor would it make me gorgeous. So what DID I want? I wasn't & still am not entirely sure but I had & have some ideas.
It's extra motivation to quit smoking. I want to, I REALLY want to be first be able to run 30 minutes straight, then 5k, then... who knows? I want to put on 15 pounds. Depression sucks; if running can help, I'm willing to try. I want more energy; heck, I want it all. I think. We'll see. Most importantly, I really, really want to STICK with something.
I have problems with that. I'm great at starting things but rarely last more than a week. I'm too impatient & often to my shame, too lazy to put in the effort needed. I had behind excuses - not enough time, too hot, too cold, too this, too that. The truth is, I expect too much too quickly & when I 'fail' to live up to my own absurd expectations, I quit in disgust.
So this time, I've dialed back the expectations. Oh, they're still lurking in my brain but I can generally beat them back by swatting at them with old running shoes. That's easier when I'm out running & doing a lot of gasping. The newbie that staggers, eyes rolling & chest heaving, up a tiny little incline, is hardly likely to breeze effortlessly through a 10k by next spring.
The biggest lesson I have to learn right now is to keep things small & simple. Big goals are more easily attained in small steps... or so I'm told. So... get off the cigarettes, stick to the program. Don't quit. Don't overthink it. Just do it & trust that at some point, I won't feel like a bumbling idiot slogging through some self made hell.