I keep promising myself that when I start taking running seriously, I’ll buy myself a new pair of running shoes.
Mine, embarrassingly, aren’t even “running” shoes. They’re cross-trainers or something like that. The rubber is worn through on the outside edges at the bottom because my arches are high, and cloth that is supposed to cushion my right ankle bone is torn and haggard.
But until I run a little more seriously, I tell myself, until I run more often and run further, until I actually start to like running, I shouldn’t invest in a good pair of running shoes.
That is hogwash.
I will never like running. It is not fun. I don’t like to sweat or have burning lungs. It hurts. Every time.
And yet this morning, I found myself standing in the kitchen asking myself, Self, are you going to drink that pot of coffee with fancy creamer you bought on sale at the grocery store or are you going to go for a run?
I turned the coffee pot off.
I laced up the not-running shoes.
And I went for a run. Got sweaty. Lungs burned. It hurt.
So why do this?
For exercise? Well, yes, as someone with heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses in her family tree, exercise is important to me. But certainly there are other ways to exercise. Walking, for example. I like walking. Or riding the stationary bike we have in our basement. When I do that, I can read at the same time, and kill two birds with one stone. Makes more sense than putting oneself through misery, doesn’t it?
So exercise is not the reason I run.
Some people run to lose weight. I do not. In fact, there is sometimes an inverse correlation: the more I run, the more I weigh.
Some people run so that they can call themselves “runners.” First of all, serious runners don’t just call themselves runners. They follow that statement with their time at their last marathon. I don’t even know what those numbers and colons mean. Second of all, I will never run a marathon. That is why I say I “pretend to run,” if I ever speak of this pasttime in a public setting.
Some people run for the sheer joy, the exhilaration, of it. I do not. I have never felt a “runner’s high.” The only high I feel is when I am finished running, when the misery is over.
So why do I run?
Well, this morning I ran to get out of a house that was choking me. If I stay inside, behind a computer, most of the day, I will go crazy. And I become suspicious of cars that drive by slowly. I try to keep my eye on everything and everyone. It is close to compulsive behavior, and it’s not healthy in too big of doses.
When I feel like I’m choking, I go out into the neighborhood. It was an unfortunate choice of neighborhoods in this regard, actually, because we are at the top of a hill. That means no matter what direction I head on my runs, I must go down a big hill and up a big hill (or two or three…).
It forces me to see the houses, the cars, the people that surround me, and I see that the world is not a scary place. It is a place that is living and breathing and noise-making (especially with the new firecracker law), but there is no reason to feel like I am choking.
As I pay attention to this not-scary place, I go out of my way to wave at passing cars–for the sake of safety, to make sure they see me, as well as to be friendly.
Today, I waved at the trash truck, and the guy clinging to the side of the truck, the same guy who looks grouchy when I watch him from my living room window as he picks up our trashcan, broke into an enormous smile. And he waved at me.
Our mailman engaged me in conversation as I huffed by.
A white-haired man gave me the peace sign. The peace sign.
I exchanged hellos with an unlikely lawn-care worker, a twenty-something fellow with giant earring holes.
I was tag-teaming it through a nearby neighborhood with the Schwan’s delivery guy, which reminded me of those nasty French-toast sticks we used to love as kids.
No matter when I run, I see people going about their business, often speeding by without paying attention to what’s around them. I try to pay attention. I know the street names in our neighborhood better than my husband. I know how roads connect. I know where the biggest hills are.
And that’s why I run. It reminds that I’m not just part of a neighborhood.
I’m part of a community I get to see first-hand, slowly, one huff-and-puff, burning lung, worn-out-sneaker at a time.