Last week, I shared the essay I had written in response to www.literarymama.com’s (LM) writing prompt. LM’s editor had provided some feedback about my piece, which I also shared with you in last week’s post. So, this week, here’s the revised piece, hopefully incorporating LM’s very constructive feedback.
I am running around in circles (ovals, technically) to rekindle my passion for running. I have company.
Every Tuesday night, I join approximately 20 runners at the Florida State University track for “supervised” interval workouts. Intervals are multiples of short distance runs, accumulating to three miles, with rest periods between each run segment. Interval workouts help improve oxygen delivery to your muscles, and by doing so help athletes improve endurance and speed.
At the same time this weekly gathering is getting oxygen to my muscles faster, it is accelerating the delivery of confidence to my psyche. Although I run solo round and round my neighborhood several times a week, running in the intervals group round and round Mike Long Track at FSU has become a core part of my workout plan, mentally and physically.
At this workout, runners are always divided into three strata: blazing fast, pretty fast, and slower-than-the-first-two-groups-but-still-fast. I am the unofficial fourth group: not fast.
My abiding memory from my first brief stint at intervals, in 1995, was when Gary, the coach, said, “I just don’t know what to do with you.”
In the years between 1995 and now, my children became involved in the local running scene. I frequently found myself standing around on the sidelines, envying the athletes who were due a generous dose of endorphins.
I began rekindling friendships with the running community.
I clicked “yes” to the “I Am Runner” application on Facebook.
That “I Am Runner” thing started to bother me. You can be a runner at heart, or a past runner, or a wannabe runner, or parent of a runner, but that isn’t always enough.
In December 2008, I decided to live up to that “I Am Runner” declaration, with a goal of running a five kilometer race in less than 30 minutes. At the first race I ran after deciding on that goal (in January 2009), my time was 43:30. On July 5, my race time was 42:48. I still had not broken 40 minutes, much less 30. I had plateaued It was time to return to intervals.
I was not feeling brave about the prospect of setting foot on the track again. Coach Gary is still in charge, and the “I don’t know what to do with you,” had morphed in my head into “I don’t know what to do with myself.” When I saw Gary at the July race, I broached the subject of my returning to intervals, and he said, “come on back.”
I have been back at intervals now for eight weeks. This group has rekindled my passion by its sheer acceptance. Although I probably provide a little comic relief with my less-than-elegant stride, there is not one iota of ridicule.
Some groups build their members up through verbal exchange. Although we chat at intervals, it is not the talking that fortifies us. It is the silent fact that every quarter mile, as I pass the clock, I can say:
I am runner.
I will “run” into you next week!
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
Great post Paula! I know a lot of people who feel like they have to run a certain time to be a runner, when all they really have to do is put in their best effort! I love that you had the tenacity to get back to intervals, even though you knew they were not your strength!
I wrote a piece a while back about not being a “traditional” runner, http://www.runningbj.com/2012/02/not-runners-body.html. Just because I'm a bigger guy than many runners and may never win a marathon, I'm still a runner! Hope to see you at a race one day!