Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why I Hate Running...and Why I Run Anyway

I really, really hate running. Always have. Not entirely sure why. Obviously it's hard, but I don't automatically hate hard things. It's certainly not that I hate exercise, or athletics. My dad signed me up for the South Davis Soccer Association when I was in Kindergarten, and I've played sports ever since. By the time I got into football in the sixth grade, I actually wanted to make a career out of playing sports. Football was the first sport I was actually good at.

Maybe that's why I hate running. Because running in the context of playing football has a purpose. I'm running to catch the spiral, or closing in on another player before leveling him with a forearm shiver. There's a payoff. But with "running," there's just...running. And eventually stopping.

My first legitimate exposure to running came in my 7th grade gym class. During the week we'd play flag football or ultimate frisbee, but Fridays were set aside for the Mile Run, looped around the long defunct Centerville Junior High football field. For three years I dreaded Mile Run Fridays, even though the competitor in me drove myself to perform. Because I couldn't just dog it and get it over with. I got A's in my classes, and even if I hated running the mile, I was going to run it as fast as I could.

Maybe that's why one of the most memorable accomplishments of my junior high career was cracking Coach Pierce's top ten mile time list the first week of my ninth grade year. He posted a list every week of the top times, and it was pretty cool to see my list up there with the cross country kids, the track kids, and the other jocks...even if I knew it wouldn't last.

For a long time after that I avoided running because I was afraid that it would make me even skinnier than I already was. I looked at the long distance runners, and I saw bodies I didn't want. I was already skinny enough. Turning thirty took care of that concern.

For a long time I told myself that I wasn't well-suited for running, long distance anyway. I was a fast-twitch guy, not a slow-twitch guy. That's why I played football. I was a sprinter. Well, after turning thirty, all I can say is that all sports leave me twitching these days.

That post-30 weight gain is what led to my effort to drop 20 pounds a while back. I finally started monitoring my eating habits a little more closely--both what I was eating and when I was eating it--and instead of spend all my time at the gym in the weight room, I spent a lot more time on the treadmill and the elliptical...hating every minute of it.

That fall I ran my first 5K. Ran it at the Salt Lake Fairgrounds with a bunch of other people painted up to look like zombies. I cramped up and had to walk a bit in the middle, but I still finished in around 33 minutes. Far from Coach Pierce's list, but nothing to feel ashamed about. My goal was to run a 5K, not to win one.

But that's the thing about goals: you finish one, you start thinking of setting another. I had finished a 5K, and now I had to figure out what the next step was. I ignored it for a year. 2012 passed with me slowly putting the weight back on, then as 2013 started, I began ramping up my pre-workout run from one mile to one and a half, then finally to two by the middle of summer. My unofficial goal was to run another 5K, and get under 30 minutes doing so.

Then one day I wandered over to Gold's and decided to go for it. I wasn't wearing a number, and I wasn't in a pack of thousands, but I figured a 5K was a 5K, and so I ran a 3.2 miles right there on my treadmill. Final time? 29:12. The latest goal monkey was off my back.

Till the next morning. As I started about my day, I began to second guess whether I was correct in my estimate. I could swear that a 5K equaled 3.2 miles, but I wasn't sure. I started to dread the possibility that it was 3.25, or 3.5, and that the effort I was so proud of offered for nothing. Finally I punched up a Google search on my phone, and braced myself for the results.

Tender mercies. Turns out a 5K is actually more like 3.1 miles. Sweet, sweet relief.

I really, really hate running.