I love to run. I’m not fast. I don’t look like a runner. But I miss it if I’ve gone a few days without a run. I started running track in high school and I was dreadful. They always had me run the 3000 meter, because so few people ran it, that you got points for the team if you just finished. I always finished. At the end of my senior year, we had a track awards luncheon and in the program, the coach gave me an “A+ for effort”. That would make a lovely epitaph on a headstone.
Running in the Army, sometimes in full gear, sometimes in the creepy, creeping gym shorts we were forced to wear, was not enjoyable. I was motivated only by the fact that I didn’t want to fail a PT test and that there was usually some florid-faced sergeant bellowing behind me. The only thing that ever changed was the scenery and the weather – red, dusty heat in North Carolina, dry, windy afternoons in Texas, cold, foggy mornings in California, and diesel scented morning runs in Germany.
The joy of running hit me when I was in college, juggling jobs and too poor to do anything except add to my credit debt and run. My run always started with a miserable, long hill and I never modified my route. About a mile in, I’d feel a tempo and I’d stop thinking. By the two mile mark, I was thinking again. I had to start having that conversation with myself “just make it two more blocks and you can stop” and I would have to repeat that conversation with myself every two blocks, until I got back home in the 4th mile. As I would round the corner and see my apartment building on the straightaway, I’d really start cussing myself out. “Move it! Screw you! Faster, you’re near the finish line! Bite me!” I was an angry finisher, but I was committed.
It’s hard to tap into that angry motivation these days. Life is a little easier and it’s hard to get worked up on a treadmill at the Y during the winter. I have to manufacture the angry drill sergeant within to push through the discomfort and get to the good stuff – that magical runner’s high. It still fizzes out around mile two and I have to push myself, but I have a friend in Eminem. That man is angry, but his poetry is powerful. Every time the intro to “Till I Collapse” begins, my pace picks up, I square my stride and pound through the next mile. As a workout philosophy, it explains the rather frequent injuries I get, but for pure adrenalin, it does the trick.