When can I call myself a runner? Yesterday when for the first time I really felt my body open up and ease into a stride that – well, I wouldn’t use the term “swift” but it at least looked like running? Or the last few runs I’ve gone on when other runners wave at me and I wave back – and I don’t feel like an impostor? Or is it that after the first mile or so I know I’m not going to stop or give up? Or the wonderful, exhilarating feeling of a “runner’s high” – no seriously, it’s real – as all of my current worries and troubles melt away (“worries and troubles” – this afternoon: looking at a wonderful, affordable rental with an awesome yard, then finding out they don’t accept pets, then finding out maybe they do, and as of this moment having no idea if I should get my hopes up and just feeling like this whole house-hunting is a big silly mess)?
Today I began my eighth week of running – or rather, jogging. I haven’t missed a single training day nor even wanted to shirk one (although there have been glum moments – mostly involving wind and horizontal rain). I’m up to running 2.75 miles at an even pace, breathing naturally and feeling great. At the end of my itinerary tonight I joyfully sprinted to the end of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” – the burst of energy felt totally joyful but probably looked less than impressive if anyone had been looking on. I don’t care. It feels amazing.
It isn’t lost on me that my father, an avid long-distance runner who won many a race, died a year and change ago. Now here I am living in his house (temporarily) and using his bright yellow Columbia shell (which I bought him, years and years ago) and one of his fugly ski caps and his very, very old stopwatch (I don’t usually time myself; I just carry it). I think a part of me scorns the fad, the ritual of buying a bunch of shit for a new hobby and then not using said shit when interest in the hobby fades. So in true Kelly form I’ve spent $3 on my running career – a (brand new, honest) Danskin sports bra I found at a thrift shop (I wear a 36DD and feel most comfortable when relatively secure) and although some day I plan to get some different shoes for now I run in a pair of hiking boots I bought nearly three years ago and my husband’s thickest socks and an iPod and a lip balm tucked into my bra strap.
I listen to music when I run. I don’t mind listening to my breath I suppose but… the thing is, I like listening to music turned up to 11, and I don’t often get to do so because I live in a house with other people who don’t necessarily feel the same way. Today The Cult’s “She Sell Sanctuary” gets me through on L Street. I like a lot of kinds of music but for running I tend to guitar-driven rock. And some of these songs with their urgent beat give me so much pleasure because I always think of the lead singer hammering the cowbell-beat on his crotch encsconced in tight jeans and I laugh while I run (especially a fun imagining to George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex”, a song that my husband and I have a running argument about because he thinks it’s creepy and predatory, and I don’t find it so objectionable, perhaps remembering the video where Michael wrote, “Explore Monogamy” on his partner’s back – by the way I’m not sure how well Mr. Michael succeeded in remaining monogamous but I thought it was a pretty cool video anyway and hey, it’s part of my 80’s pop lexicon and I could probably never hate it). On Adams Street Donna Summers sings “Hot Stuff” – really belts it out, have you listened to her voice? Awesome! – and I do phantom (yet subtle) pelvic thrusts as I glide through the wet night.
Tonight I’m grateful for my body and mind, which is allowing me to comfortably run and feel wonderful during and after. It’s funny because I’ve not always been so amazed by my body and happy with it but lately actually using it, trusting it to get me through under the blue moonlight tonight, and I am stunned by the gift I have in my health and physicality. I’m grateful to friend and housemate Jasmime who gave me the pair of Adidas workout pants I run in (seriously, I hate polyester but wicking fabric has its benefits when out and sweating in winter weather!), and I’m grateful to my friend Cynthia who read this book and was obsessed about it and would talk to anyone about how we don’t really need fancy running shoes – thus allowing me to stop obsessing about buying shoes and therefore put off my running – and I’m grateful to Abi, who is also off trying to make time to run but, maybe more to the point, taught me how to make frijoles refritos, a giant pot of which I set out with all the trimmings to feed my mother, husband, children and housemate this evening at seven.
Because let’s face it, the hardest thing about running is making the time for myself.