Presidential Fitness Test. (Remember those? OH, AHNOLD, HOW I HATED YOU SO FOR BRINGING THIS ABOUT.) We had to run a mile. Outdoors. In the heat. They wanted us to finish the mile under 15:00. “Walk or run,” they said at the beginning, “whatever feels comfortable for you.”
Until we hit the track. Then it was all “PICK UP THE PACE, YOU LAZY KIDS!” and suddenly, we were all panting and cursing and generally wishing our immigration laws were stricter because that damn Schwar..zen..nag..her guy made all this happen. And I? Pass out.
My mother was working in the school at the time, I think as the school nurse, and I don’t remember how I got there, but I do remember coming to in the nurse’s office, with bags of ice on my head and the soles of my feet.
Thus began my issue with running.
At my mother’s insistence, I went to train with our gym teacher some mornings before classes. Her name was Ms. B, because she was a lady from Argenti..izstahn, and none of us could pronounce her last name. We were trying to overcome this whole passing out thing, and surely just doing more of it would do that. One day, as I ran around the gym, she noted that my gait was odd.. I literally only moved my knees. My thighs stayed glued together. I had no stride. “Run with your thighs apart,” she’d tell me.
I attended a performing arts school, and I focused in musical theatre, which meant that I was always dancing. Not real, at-the-barre dance necessarily, but some version of swing or jazz or box-steps. I learned the signs of “I’m about to pass out” and heeded them. Sometimes. Sometimes, I’d just push through them and then pass out in the wings.
Concerned, my mom made me see a cardiologist. On the treadmill, I did a stress test that showed only that I was out of shape. No issues other than that. Even though I could polka and do lifts and stunts for five minutes, I was out of shape. And would still pass out.
I was living with my first real roommate, who was a PARTY GIRL. Although I worked a 9-5, she didn’t, and our apartment always had loud people and loud music and Lord knows I could never get any sleep. One night, because the noise was too much and I couldn’t sleep anyway and I just had to get some quiet in my head, I put on a sports bra, some shorts, and my sneakers. I ran from our apartment to the neighboring high school. Then I kept going, on to a cow pasture. Kept going from there. The night air felt good in my lungs and I didn’t feel hot. Of course, it was also two in the morning. I came back and was sore as hell for four days. And decided not to do that shit again.
My best friend and I were living together and decided to embark on the Atkins Diet to try and regain our youthful, show-choir figures. She was in a show that summer, and I got bored when she was at rehearsals, so I took the dogs out for walks. iPods were the new thing and I had one, so I soon took to walking the dogs while playing some kick-ass underground rap in my ears. Delle mentioned that the one trained dog used to run pretty regularly, so I took her up on it one night.. and I’ll be damned if that dog didn’t keep my pace up. Pretty soon, we hit the pavement two or three times a week, running until we were both drained. I got skinny. And met my boyfriend/now-husband. And stopped.
You name a diet or workout DVD, and I probably have tried it and own it. And it did not show. With a year-old toddler, a full-time (and overtime) job, a husband, and extracurriculars out of the ears, time was always an issue. Even finding time to do a 20 minute workout DVD was a challenge. I had no endurance. None. I was cast in a musical that required me to bolt up two flights of stairs in sixteen measures and then belt out another line, and my lungs melted everytime.
I was writing for a health blog, Bodies in Motivation, and one of the other writers mentioned a new initiative she was starting. For 30 days in April, we would all exercise 30 minutes. I don’t know what clicked, but I decided that I would do this. 30 minutes a day is nothing. I can manage 30 minutes a day. Part of AndreAnna’s goal was running a 5k in October, and she mentioned the Couch to 5K method. I remembered that Zoot also used this to start running, and more importantly, I saw that there was an iPhone app for it. I’m a sucker for technology.
The first time I set foot on a treadmill, and the first session I did, was not easy. It wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t easy. But the first week was soon under my belt. And then first two weeks. And then the first three weeks. And then Week 4, which was a turning point. And then Week 5, at which point I grew a love/hate relationship with running. I literally would suffer withdrawls if I didn’t run, but GAWDDAMN, I hated that damn treadmill. And Week 6..?
I didn’t sleep at all on Sunday night. I was so freaked out about this damn race. I had eighty million tidbits of advice floating around in my head, and the what-ifs that were also plaguing me. I got up with the baby around 6:30, knowing I needed to be at the starting line in two hours. I pulled on my race outfit, and my husband kept eyeing me. Naturally, I thought that meant, “Sarah Lena, what in the HELL do you think you’re wearing?”, but eventually he admitted, “You look fucking HOTT in that outfit,” and I felt better.
Bryan and the baby dropped me off at the venue, and I walked around, lost and alone. I watched several runners wrap up their 10k race and was amazed.. these were not people I would’ve pegged as “runners”. But they did it. They ran a race that was TWICE as long as mine. I was especially inspired when an 85 year old man crossed the finish line. And by inspired, I mean, I cried.
We heard the announcement that the 5k runners needed to line up at the start. Me, being the idiot that I am, took my place at the back of the crowd. Not realizing that, UM, SARAH, YOU’RE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE STARTING LINE and the nice gentleman with the gun (who, oddly enough, I had worked with for years) kindly pointed me to the OTHER side.. you know, where the 2000 people were waiting. I moseyed on back of THAT crowd, and looked around. These were normal people. Not Olympians. Not crazy runners. Normal people. Like me. In fact, I looked more runner-like than most of them. Because I was wearing the outfit, really.
The shotgun went off. People started running. I started jogging. Some people walked. Everyone was happy.
About 3/4 of a mile in, I met Zoot. We exchanged gasping pleasantries, I made sure her husband survived the 10k, and then I sprinted off. Because I’m a RUNNER, dammit! I need to go fast! Fast!
Then I ended up walking. Cause, damn, with the fast and all.
I ended up really pacing myself with a family of a father and two tweens. The man was SO much fun to run next to.. he was like having your own personal cheerleader. “Lookin’ GOOD!” he’d yell. “You’re here because you WANT to be, not because you HAVE to be! Keep it up, red!” My first mile was clocked in at 11:30, which was faster than I planned to go, so I was all inspired again.. YES, FAST, SARAH, FAST GO FAST!
Which ended up with me walking agian.
Around the last mile, I noticed names written on the street. Mine was there. (Steph and fam, I seriously love you.) And we could see the finish line! And there was a car blaring the Rocky theme song! It was the final stretch!
I decided to run it. Like, FAST RUN FAST.
Which.. well, you know the story. Sort of.
About fifty meters from the finish line, I started walking again. And guess what my body said? OH HELL NO SARAH DON’T YOU STOP BECAUSE BUHLECH. (I don’t know how to verbalize vomit.) Yes, I started dry-heaving. At the beginning of the finish line. Cause I’m? AWESOME.
I heard Zoot coming from behind me and cheering me to just keep moving, and I heard the times being called at the finish line, but I just could not move any faster than a walk. I thought I was going to die. And, luckily, there’s only THREE FUCKING PHOTOGRAPHERS at the finish line to capture this moment. Because Lord forbid I be able to forget how I suck at pacing myself and was dry heaving into the crowd as I finished.
But at the end, I saw Bryan and my baby on one side, and closer to the actual line, my sister and her boyfriend waiting. I crossed the line, proud of myself, and then stopped. “DON’T STOP MOVING,” my sister warned, “we’ve already been puked on a few times by people who stop moving.” So I walked and they gave me water and I found my family and then? Then it was done. I finished 88th in my age division. More importantly, I FINISHED.
I ran a 5k.
I don’t run.
I ran. You can too.
Even if you have no endurance. (Cause I don’t either.)
Even if you’re out of shape. (Cause I am no size 6, my friends.)
Even if you hate running. (Cause I freakin hate running.)
Here is how you’ll do it. Just make yourself try two weeks. Two weeks, six workouts. Make yourself try it. The plan is free; the iPhone app will set you back around $2. You’ll be so glad you did it. Two weeks, six workouts. You can do that.
Now, I’m beginning to train for a half-marathon with Zoot. I’m intimidated by the distance (13 miles, y’all.. MILES, not Ks), but excited nonetheless. Bryan wants to run a 5k with me in the fall (the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run for Breast Cancer usually falls on our anniversary). I want my child to do the Fun Run with us afterwards.
You can do this.