Thursday, May 10, 2012

Evolution of an Athlete

If you had ever told me that I would feel like an athlete, I would have snorted my white chocolate mocha out of my nose and choked on my chocolate dipped biscotti. I hated running as a kid, actually tripped myself in a middle school track meet and broke my arm, which cemented the idea of exercise being awful.
Married life held no time for exercise, other than the occasional New Year's burst of effort or the endless triceps dips with Lisa at the Y so that we could talk and have two hours of freedom from the monkeys. We never used anything other than seven or eight pound weights, so I don't think this counts as a workout. The rest of my married life was too busy taking care of everyone else and making casseroles to ever think about exercise as something more than a guilt-inducing undone task.
Divorce-I lost twenty pounds without trying, which I think was more twenty pounds of misery falling away than anything else. That and not eating all those damn casseroles.
Dating-aaaaah, dating. Dating C for such a long time, you'd think I would have gotten in touch with my inner athlete. C was such an accomplished athlete, the kind of guy that could drink a case of beer one night and ride a century ride the next day without much thought. He had ridden all over the world, skied different continents and was completely intimidating. You'd think this would have propelled me to be more athletic but it was actually so intimidating that I was scared to try anything in front of him, knowing I would never come close. Breakup- I spent a couple of days smoking cigarettes. Bad. Bad. Bad. That helped a little but was ├╝ber-disgusting so not a long term option. Then I looked at the trail by my front door and just went for it. Slowly. Went. For. It. One plodding foot at a time.
And I have gone on to discover something. I am an athlete. I love running. I look forward to it. I only feel right when I wake up to a little soreness, whether it's my shins or my calves or my ass, soreness makes me feel alive. I get more excited about buying compression shorts than I do about buying summer sandals. I run to entire playlists now, instead of just trying to make it through half of a song. I no longer get grossed out by the dirtiness of running. Spit, gnats in my mouth, pools of sweat-they are all just part of it. I compete with myself, seeing how many miles I can log in a week. I admire my shoes, not because they are pretty and new, but because they are caked in a red clay film from the trail and about to be replaced after only two months.
I love the way that running hurts. I was trying to explain it to a friend the other day, and probably came off as a wee bit masochistic. I was telling him how bike riding is like being a kid again, freedom of the wind at your back and flying by with a smile on your face. Running is different. Every step with running requires intent and effort, and you reach a point where each step hurts. Whether your arch hurts, your shins ache, or your lungs hurt, you go far enough and something is going to hurt. It's in those moments that I love running. All of the bullshit and drama fall away and everything ceases to matter except my foot hitting the ground. It's pure peace, just crystal clear presence in the moment as I make it through the hurt to the next step.
And this, buttercups, is the making of an athlete. One step at a time.


  1. This is amazing to me and it gives me hope. I hope that one day, I will experience that shift, too, and will fall in love with athleticism. I don't think running will ever be a passion but maybe there's something else out there for me just waiting to be tried (probably again) and embraced.
    I'm pretty impressed with you.

  2. Thanks, Chico! It has seriously been a journey :)
    Now, if you saw my form, you would not be impressed. Think phoebe from Friends...

  3. Do you sing about smelly cats while running along?
    I totally need to change my profile so that people stop calling me Chico. I'm fairly sure Chico is long gone from this world by now. He was rehabilitated and sent back into the wild in, like, 2005. Yeah. I need to do something about that.

  4. I am gonna miss Chico, but you will henceforth be Chico's person...

    I do not sing about smelly cats while running, but I may start. It will go along with my elbows-out, slow gait :-)


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