“You ran a 10-K? I thought you said that was for crazy people.” –my mother
I should start by correcting the record. I never said that running a 10-K or longer race was for crazy people. I might have said that I chose to run the 5-K at the Spinx Run Fest in Greenville, SC last October – instead of the half-marathon or marathon simultaneously on offer – because, “I’m not crazy enough to run a race longer than 5-K.”
A subtle difference, perhaps, but a difference nonetheless. I was sure that plenty of sane people run 10-Ks, half-marathons and marathons (well, maybe not marathons). They were simply a little less sane than me.
People have been telling me I have a “runner’s body” my whole life, from Mr. Parker in freshman gym class, who unsuccessfully tried to get me to join the cross-country team in 1990, to a friend from Colorado as recently as December. My response has always been, “Maybe so, but I don’t have the runner’s mind.”
That’s a photo of me and M from last Saturday morning, taken by someone who apparently never has used a smartphone. I’m the one on the left, with a stump for a right arm and a look that screams “cancer patient”. The time was 9:15am, the temperature 32 degrees Fahrenheit. We’d both gotten up at 6:30am to run 6.21 miles in Central Park with 3,142 other fools. We paid real American dollars for that privilege.
Apparently, I am not quite as sane as I led my mother to believe.
Usually I end my training runs with a modest half-mile, 3% grade hill in Prospect Park. Surprisingly, that hill doesn’t contribute much to end-of-run exhilaration. But the Central Park race taught me that running isn’t awful. Not always.
It’s something I’ve struggled with since the beginning, the source of what I considered the runner’s insanity. Running wasn’t fun. For me it was more about mind over matter.
I started running because a friend who was a long-time smoker quit smoking and took up running. He inspired me and shamed me with his level of fitness, to the point where he was hitting distances and paces that I knew I couldn’t. Running became my three-times-a-week dose of “suck it up, this is doing you good.”
I kept running because, along with the improved fitness, it was rewarding to see some numbers (pace) go down and others (distance) go up. I might be slightly competitive. Maybe.
Yet after the Central Park 10-K last weekend, after I downed three cups of Gatorade and a slightly stale bagel, I realized that I actually enjoyed the race. It was quite the revelation. I felt good. And maybe a touch more insane.