Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I Am Not A Runner

I had one goal in mind when I went to the gym this morning: Run 5-6 miles in 50-60 minutes.
I only had a limited amount of time to workout, and I knew I had to run at least 5 miles in order to be on track for my 20-25 mile minimum this week.
For some, my goal would have been easily achievable. But for me, it was a challenge. Attainable, yes, but a challenge all the same.
I am not a runner.
I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a neighbor, a sister and a volunteer. I am many things, but, I am not a runner.
I am not fast and I certainly can’t run forever. In fact, running makes me really tired! The only thing I have going for me is that I try to exercise consistently. My routine is this: I run consistently, and then I consistently eat too much junk!
An athlete in high school, I enjoyed the physical competition of the game and I was driven to succeed. But high school was a long time ago and I don’t think of myself as overly competitive with others now. I just have high expectations for myself...expectations which span all of the many roles I attempt to fill.

I looked around and saw that the #12 treadmill was available. (Incidentally, this has become my treadmill of choice because 12 is Greg’s favorite number. It reminds me of him and inspires me to work harder.)
The guy next to me looked to be running at a decent clip, so I hopped on. I figured that I could easily match, if not exceed, his pace.
Granted, I knew nothing about this guy. He was a complete stranger to me. With a towel over his instrument panel, I had no idea whether he’d been running for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. I didn’t know his incline or his speed. The only thing I figured out (rather quickly) was that if I tried to maintain his pace for my 50-60 minutes at my incline – I would likely pass out!
You know that “mind over matter,” thing? It doesn’t work. I tried to will my shoelaces to come untied, but a single knot has never held so well!

All my life I’ve been taught to “Stand a little taller,” “Be a little better,” “Set Goals,” “Work hard and never give up,” “Discipline yourself,” “Don’t settle.”
But at the same time, I’ve also been taught, “To everything there is a season,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and I’ve read many times that, “it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.”
How to reconcile these teachings? How to strike a balance between working hard and not pushing so much that we get totally overwhelmed?

At 18:27 into my workout, the guy on the #11 treadmill slowed down. I determined to maintain my pace ‘till he quit. After all, people don’t cool down forever.
Thankfully, he stopped and got off.
Whew! I could ease up a bit.
Or so I thought.
Just as I was about to lower my incline and speed, out of the corner of my eye, I perceived a guy watching me. He was two treadmills down, and the unspoken protocol of the gym is that you don’t interrupt someone’s workout, nor do you stare at them.
So, although I didn’t look, I concluded that it was Doug, a friend from church.
Oh great,” I thought – so much for easing up!
A military guy, I was certain that Doug had to maintain a certain level of fitness. I was also quite certain that he’d never given birth to four children; but that was simply an excuse. I had to keep going.
As if that wasn’t enough, “Tattoo Man” got on the first row of treadmills, right in front of me. A “gym rat,” I’ve watched him work out many times. Although he doesn’t run endlessly, he puts the machine on the highest incline and does a full out sprint for several minutes. Despite the tattoos, and the short duration, it’s an impressive workout nonetheless.
And then, my MP3 player started blasting:

Been running so long, I’ve nearly lost all track of time.
In every direction, I couldn’t see the warning signs.
I must be losing it, ‘cause my mind plays tricks on me.
It looks so easy, but you know, looks sometimes deceive.

Been running so fast, right from the starting line.
No more connections, I don’t need any more advice…

Head over heels, why should I go?
Can’t stop myself, out of control.
Head over heels, no time to think.
It’s like the whole world's out of sync.

Been running so hard, what I need is to unwind.
The voice of reason, is one I left so far behind.

Finally, a distraction, one whose message did not go unnoticed:
Stop comparing myself to and competing with everyone else.

I ventured a quick glance over my shoulder. My “friend” was winding down. And yes, as you probably guessed: It wasn’t Doug at all…just another total stranger working out on a Tuesday morning.
Tattoo Man had finished his sprint as well.

I decreased my incline. After all, my dead body sprawled on the gym floor wasn’t going to inspire anyone’s workout.

I quit thinking of everyone else and settled in to “me.”

Not-so-amazingly, I achieved my goal: 6 miles, 57:17.
In fact, I exceeded it.
Too bad I'll likely have a headache today as a result.

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