The Runner in Me

I started running in college. I was nineteen. I took a PE course on jogging because it was the only one I could find with openings and I had yet to work up the courage to take ballet. Somehow the idea of a shapeless t-shirt and baggy shorts was less intimidating than pink tights and a skin tight black leotard.

Despite the fact that I was not fast and was so flat-footed I took to running on the balls of my feet like a sprinter, I took to running like a gazelle on the open veldt. The freedom of limb and the sensation of time melding with movement was addictive.

Coming up on the end of my third decade as a runner, I recently had to admit to myself that I am old. Perhaps too old to continue to put foot to pavement in the pounding manner I so love. Long gone are the days when I would shed work clothes for tattered running garb and hit the suburban sidewalks like a Kenyan marathoner. My daily mileage back in the day easily outstripped what I limpingly manage in a week or more now. And I miss those days terribly.

To compensate for the call of the open road I have taken up yoga, an acceptable old lady physical pastime in the small Canadian community where I now live. I don’t know many women my age, or older, who do not indulge in yoga. It was through one of them that I began one of my most recent attempts to soothe my thwarted inner runner with spin, a sweat inducing torture that taunts me with the illusion of momentum.

But this last week I had to admit that I need to run like I need to write. It’s a compulsion. And so I purchased a treadmill. Only a slight step up from a bike that goes nowhere, it does at least feel as though I am moving despite the lack of air caressing my face and bare arms and the sameness of the surroundings.

When my make-believe road was ready fate intervened as is its wont in the form of a sinus infection.

“I think I will run a bit after skating this afternoon,” I told my husband.

“Didn’t you tell me your ears were plugged and you were feeling slightly light-headed?”

And though he didn’t go on to call me an idiot, the implication was clear. I am a runner and little short of being physically unable to stand will keep me from donning a perfectly broken in pair of runners and racking up miles. It’s crazy and incomprehensible to anyone without the necessary hard-wiring, but it’s undeniable.

Someday I hope to be one of those very old women who laps the walkers at the local fitness center with a slow but steady jog, and people will wonder just how old I am. An odd aspiration. But I can’t think of many better ones.

This was an original 50 Something Moms piece.

17 responses to “The Runner in Me

  1. Once a runner, always a runner! I first “ran” last year at age 42 when training for a spring triathlon. It’s a great feeling, I especially like racing and the mental push from the other racers and the crowd. We ran a 4-mile race at the end of Feb., it was 22 degrees F and snowing. I turned to a woman next to me and said “what am I doing here, I’m not a real runner?!” She replied – “you,re here, you’re running, you’re a runner!”

    In other words, whatever it takes – you can run on a treadmill, you can “run” while spinning, or “run” on your mat. Just catch that good feeling.

  2. I am here to speak for the plodding donkeys among us, those who can barely put one foot in front of the other, and have no gazelle-like ambitions. Even when I was young and skinny, I was so uncoordinated that running almost inevitably resulted in injury. Now, a nice stroll down a beach? That’s what I crave.

  3. I have found that doing the yoga lets me do the running. I never found my inner Kenyan but there is something about the exhaustion and the sense of accomplishment that keeps luring me in!

  4. The other day, I saw a woman with a walker on the ferry to Vashon Island. She pushed that thing through a bunch of cars and bumped it up over the heavy rubber flaps that cover the roadway so the cars can drive smoothly over the gap between the boat and the dock. The tide was out, so she had quite a hike up the hill of the ramp, and she took it slow and steady, not giving a hoot that about 100 cars were waiting patiently for her to clear to we could all unload.

    Not an odd aspiration in the least.

  5. i never ran a step until i started training for the half-marathon in 2007. never understood that ‘running’ thing. being built more for comfort than speed, however, i was never ‘gazelle-esque’, more ‘clydesdale’ in style and sound. but i got it. i looked forward to the early morning saturday long runs. knocking out 7-10 miles before 9am? sweet, sweet feeling!

    good luck!

  6. I’d love to take up running. I’ve a lot of bad habits and pounds to shed before running, but I’d love to try it. But I’m not many years younger than you; I wonder if it’s a bad idea so advanced in life?

    And back to karate; I’d love that too.

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