Thursday, October 14, 2010

This Is Ourselves Under Pressure

My alarm went off at 6:10 yesterday morning. As usual, I hauled myself out of bed, feeling approximately one million years old, with legs and back aching. Dark out. Of course. Chillier now, in the mornings. A jacket was needed, and I could see my breath. When I first started this, there were mornings when I would be sweating before I even got out of bed. Somewhere in there, there's been a transition of three seasons: spring to summer to fall. In another handful of weeks, it will be straight-up cold in the mornings but this day marks the last official day of Training.

For the past 10 weeks, since nearly the beginning of August, it's been six days a week of training for the marathon relay this Saturday.Six days a week, some in the early mornings and some in the evenings when I limp through the door from work. Running before or after work doesn't seem to make any particular difference in terms of energy levels: forty minutes of alternating jogs and sprints is exhausting regardless of whether it's at 6:30am or 7:30pm.

I originally signed up for the marathon relay back in June, when running was still a fairly new activity to me.

Let me make one thing clear: I'm no runner. I ran indoor track for one season in high school, but mostly I found the whole ordeal so boring I eventually quit for the more interesting pursuits of theater and for sports that involved a little more action and ball-hitting, like tennis. I'm a very active person, but I also get routinely bored and so tend to change it up between running, elliptical, yoga, and Pilates.

The running thing just kind of happened. One day last spring, my muscles were itching to do something and the gym was closed. I so rarely have the urge to run, and even more rarely do I want to run outside. I was always a treadmill kind of girl, preferring to watch syndicated episodes of Friends while listening to Thievery Corporation. But this particular day, the gym was closed and I was in serious need of a sweat session. I laced up my crappy New Balances, strapped the iPod to my arm, and went for a run.

It was fairly short at first, just a couple of miles through the Inner Harbor, maybe. A mere jog pace. But it felt so good that, the next day, I found myself reaching for the running shoes again.

It became an addiction. Two miles turned into three, then four, then timing became more of an issue. Everyday, until my quads hurt so badly I had to take a day off. All that day, I felt itchy. I couldn't sit still. I had a trainer teach me better stretches. My parents bought me new shoes for my birthday, and I traded in my badly-worn trainers for shiny new shoes that actually fit. My miles pared down from 11 minutes to 10 to 9 to an epic 8. I signed up for the Baltimore Womens Classic.

Running a 5k would have been, in the past, a horrifying prospect. Challenging yourself to physical feats in the privacy of your own mind is one thing. But putting money down, getting a timing chip and a bib, and performing this in a venue with a thousand other women is an entirely new arena. As I said before, I'm not a runner. Or, at least, I wasn't until I crossed the finish line in 26 minutes and 33 seconds- a very decent time for my first 5k.

My second 5k I shaved nearly two minutes off of my time. And it was on a hill course in the pouring rain. I was hooked.

Signing up for the marathon relay was a definitive turning point in my life. Not only did it mean that I would have to commit to my new hobby for a distinctive period of time (commitment being a difficult agenda for any Gemini, this one in particular) I have a nasty habit of jumping on board with some activity/passion/hobby/
project, getting my life all up into it, and then slowly becoming bored or less disciplined or otherwise drifting away. It's not something I'm proud of and, in fact, Jackal and I adopted as our New Year's Resolution for 2010 the mantra: Finish what you start.

I knew it would be hard, I knew I would get discouraged, but I also knew that if I signed on the dotted line and made a promise to a team that I would be there- fit and ready for action- that I would follow through. Because, apparently, I can't keep the promises I make to myself (I WILL finish all of those projects I started...someday), but I'll go through hell and high water and a whole lot of other crap to keep promises I make to other people. One of my biggest pet peeves is flaky individuals, and I often damn near kill myself attempting to never come off as such.

And, the thing is, this year has been a whole lot of "put your money where your mouth is" in terms of following through on what I say I'm going to do. Running the marathon relay- and doing it in a decent time- is a huge point of pride for me. After having spent a couple of years floundering around, not really sure what I wanted to do, I'm pretty damn proud of saying that in 2010 I went to New Orleans and helped build some houses; found my passion in life and subsequently found an awesome job that routinely allows me to engage in all the things that make me happy; ran four 5k races and will run a 6-mile marathon relay with an awesome team. It's been a busy year.

So, along with about several thousand other people including many of my friends who have also risen to the challenge, I'll be running through the streets of Baltimore on Saturday morning. Even if I come in over my projected goal time, if I finish then I will finally have seen something through to the end. And knowing I can do this, knowing that the power to take responsibility and discipline into my own hands, is endlessly empowering.

Now, about that novel I'm gonna write....maybe if someone makes me sign up for a deadline....

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