Thursday, October 10, 2013

Shuffling in the dark

For the past three years, I've run a short race on our campus called "Trick Or Trot." As you might gather, it's Halloween themed; costumes are encouraged but thankfully, not required.

This year I signed up even though I haven't run hardly a step in over a year. I stopped running because (a) I really hate running (although I love having run), and (b) I felt like I was destroying what was left of my knees and ankles every time I pounded around the track. In place of my slow, painful jog, I joined many people many age in walking. I racked up as many miles, or more, by walking my daughter to school and walking myself to work, as I used to accumulate at the gym. I took up weightlifting, too, and experienced that gratifying surge of strength, so quantifiable by the heavier and heavier plates you can pile onto the bar.

So why sign up for Trick Or Trot? The most simple reason is that I don't want to break the streak. Not signing up feels like capitulating to age. And I don't have to run; a lot of people walk the short two-mile circuit around campus after dark, peppered with glowstick-waving volunteers and cheerleaders.

But I'd like to run. Here's where I'm at with running: I'd like to think I could crank out a slow, steady mile or two even though I haven't done it in a year. Even though the thought of actually training to run is unbearable. I'd like to see how much I'm fooling myself with that notion.

So I'll line up at the back with the walkers, and I'll jog as far as I can go, and then the moment will come that I consider walking. It might be after a hundred yards, or after half a mile. Maybe I'll astound myself and be able to press on farther. But at some point I'll find out just how thin a soap bubble my abandoned veneer of "runner" really is. How long can I pretend, and what will I think of myself when I can't pretend any longer? Oh, I'll finish, walking, jogging, or crawling. I'll start my 49th year with a new t-shirt and a feeling of accomplishment. The question is whether that accomplishment will be a pleasant surprise, or a salvage job.

Update: I ran about 1.1 miles before walking, and only walked two stretches. A very pleasant surprise!