Friday, April 8, 2016

#417 Born To Run

I have a love/hate relationship with running.  Since I have been a basketball player for 20+ years of my life, running was always a form of painful conditioning or punishment. 

In elementary school my teammates and I vowed to quit the team each practice because Mr. Lakin made us run so many sprints.  We sat in the locker room and talked about it, but we never followed through. 

When I got to junior high I had a little relief from running.  Mr. Washburn didn’t make us run that much and we had Christmas break off.  Yes!  Then I found out the high school coach wanted me and a girl at the other area junior high to attend high school practices over our break.  I was so upset that my parents made me go.  I was shy and afraid of the high school girls whom I didn’t know.  The coach made us run the school hallways (on tile floors!) and also run timed miles around the gym balcony.  It was awful! 

When I eventually got to high school, Ms. Parrish continued her running practices.  One of her infamous quotes was to “run until I get tired.”  At least I didn’t suffer the same fate as my teammate Melissa.  She loves to tell the story about how one day Ms. Parrish forgot about her running upstairs.  Melissa wasn’t about to stop and it was only due to one of the managers that Ms. Parrish finally realized she was still up there and told her she could stop. 

In college the running intensified.  Even though I still didn’t like it, I do admit to being a tiny bit grateful that Ms. Parrish had prepared me so well.  During one of our first preseason conditioning practices, one of my fellow freshmen complained about how hard it was.  I looked at her and said, “We did this in high school.”  Just another day at the office.    

For preseason training, we had to run timed miles.  We met at 6 a.m. on the track.  The rabbits (guards) would have to run a mile in six minutes.  The greyhounds (centers and forwards), in seven minutes.  Luckily we had pacers so if we stayed with them we would make it.  I made it my first three years.  My senior year I stayed with the pacer but somehow didn’t make the mile in time, so I had to do it again the next morning.  I was not happy; my coach wasn’t either. 

That year they also added a five-mile run.  On a hilly golf course.  It wasn’t timed, but it was still awful.  At one point a group of us ran to the top of a hill thinking we were done.  One of the coaches just stood there and pointed to the side for us to keep going.  Agh! 

After college I started running on my own to stay in shape for playing overseas and for USA Basketball teams.  I would run two to three miles a few times a week.  Nothing major.  Slowly I grew to not mind it so much.  When you run at your own pace and don’t have someone yelling at you to fun faster, it’s much more enjoyable. 

Then, the unimaginable happened – I decided to train for the 1999 Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon.  In my head I thought I would run it just to say I had done it.  It’s in my backyard, so why not?  Everyone in Indy does it!  I got a training chart (for beginners) and was on my way.  I remember my first five-mile run post-college.  I was so nervous that I wouldn’t finish.  I wasn’t fast, but I finished.  (My average was a 10 minute mile over my running “career”). 

Next up was a 10-mile run, and I finished that too.  I did the mini and finished in 2:31:01.  Not too bad!  Of course, I did it again the next year to see if I could improve my time.  Which turned into seven times total.  My best finish was in 2002 at 2:04:48 and a 9:33 pace.  During that race I ran with a friend who was faster than me.  She took off and I spent the first half of the race keeping up with her zig zagging through the course.  She darted to the right, I followed her.  Then she’d dart to the left.  Back and forth.  Finally I decided to stay in one place, figuring she would eventually come back to my side.  Her goal was to break two hours.  I finally told her to save herself, and she took off.  She made her goal, finishing in 1:59:24. 

My times steadily improved from 1999 to 2002.  Then slowly declined.  2003 was 2:07:56 and 2004 was 2:17:32.  My last mini was in 2005 and I walked it with friends.  I think it took us maybe four hours.  (So long that my results didn’t come up in a search.)  Everything was gone when we finished – the food and the people.  I don’t recommend walking.  Even though it doesn’t make sense, it hurts more to walk than to run. 

After seven consecutive minis, I hung up my shoes.  My hips hurt and after upping my training to intermediate in 2004 and finishing slower, I decided I’d had enough. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t include one photo from a mini.  After the race you can look up photos online.  I didn’t buy it but saved a copy.  Every time I see it I laugh out loud.  It is the saddest photo.  During this race I ran with Krista and Julie.  They look fresh as daisies and I look like I am having a seizure. 

Is this not the saddest picture you've ever seen?  

At the beginning of my running “career”, while the running bug bite was still fresh, I took a trip to New York with some friends in 1999.  It happened to be during the time of the New York Marathon.  (New York in November?  Brrrr!  What were we thinking?)  My friend Tammy had run the Chicago Marathon and kept telling me we should run New York together. 

We went to Central Park on marathon day and cheered on the runners.  It was exciting, but I kept telling myself I couldn’t run 13.1 miles and then run 13.1 more miles.  Until I saw a man with one leg “running” on crutches.  He had a person on each side of him and was moving at a good pace.  As I watched him, I realized that I had been saying, “I can’t” and I had two perfectly good legs.  I most certainly could run it, I just didn’t want to. 

I eventually agreed with Tammy to enter the lottery and if we got in I would run it with her.  I still remember the day my confirmation letter came in the mail.  I sat on my front porch bench with my head in my hands wondering what I had gotten myself into. 

That summer and fall of 2000 I trained by myself.  I mapped out a seven-mile loop around the surrounding neighborhood.  I’d do the loop, come back home, eat some goo, and go back out.  I carried a water bottle.  Come November, Tammy and I ran and finished the 2000 New York City Marathon.  I also peed in the street. 

Tammy and me at the finish.  We did it!  

That’s one thing no one mentioned about running a marathon.  I asked several people for marathon tips.  What to eat, how to train, etc.  Not one person mentioned the mass peeing.  While awaiting the marathon start, the lines to the porta-potties were insane.  Of course, men just walked up to a wall and let it go.  I lost count of how many pee-stained walls I saw there and along the route.  I waited patiently to use the porta-potty, while Tammy peed behind a bush.  While we were running I felt the urge but didn’t want to stop for a long time to use another porta-potty.  I scanned the side streets looking for one with no people.  Finally I couldn’t hold it anymore.  I darted down a street and squatted between two cars.  Someone had to have seen my bare behind.  I really don’t care.  Ahhhhh.

I had an illustrious finish.  I told Tammy to save herself (she finished about 15 minutes faster than me) so I ran alone toward the end.  I spotted a good looking guy ahead of me and vowed to keep up with him.  We hit Central Park and I got another boost.  I had taped my name on the front of my shirt, and “War Eagle” on the back.  I saw a group of people cheering and much to my glee they were from Auburn.  As I ran by I turned my back to them and pointed to my sign, and they erupted giving me the extra energy I needed to make it to the finish line.  As I approached the finish line I got a little too close to hot runner guy and gave him a bit of a flat tire.  Whoops! 

I finished in 4:49:22, with Tammy coming in at 4:35:12.  Not too shabby! 

After my multiple minis and one marathon, I resigned myself to running once or twice a week for fun.  I’d run in the heat, the cold, and a couple times in the rain.  I even did one sprint-tri. 

A year or so ago my hip flexor started bothering me after I ran.  And my back didn’t like it either.  I would stop for a few weeks, start up again, stop for a few more months, start up again.  I started swimming regularly last year to get more cardio.  Finally, after a consultation with yet another chiropractor, I determined it wasn’t worth it to keep running.  I’ll keep up the swimming and continue to play tennis and bike.  This past summer I started walking.  Fast.  I am now down to a sub 14-minute mile. 

I’m glad I learned to somewhat enjoy running.  Even though I don’t really categorize myself as a “runner”, I did my share of research and feel that I ran my fair share of races.  And did pretty well for a “big” girl.  A big thank you to JP Dawes and Hal Higdon!  JP created a running program for my first mini, and I used Hal for the rest.  Training for that first mini was daunting, but I learned to take the training day by day, week by week.  Don’t look too far ahead or you will freak out. 

So long running shoes!  Even though I’m a bit sad to see you go, my back and hip flexor are happier. 

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