my love-hate affair with running

and vegan adventures week 9

I was in my forties when I started running. Oh, I’d done a few laps around the campus in college (on my way to buy a fresh pack of Marlboros, no doubt) and during the Jane Fonda exercise craze of the early 8os I think I bought some leg warmers and jogged up the hill from our house as a warm up for an aerobics workout that I would do in front of our 12 inch tv in the living room, and I remember one really pathetic day on which I parked my newborn in a stroller in the center of the soccer field at our middle school and ran laps around her as she slept and I tried to run off my postpartum gut. To recall these events makes me squirm. But worst of all are my memories of being the fat kid in grammar school on the days in which we were subjected to the annual “President’s Physical Fitness Test” which included “running” a mile (I walked most of mine), “climbing” the gym rope (my feet never left the ground), doing chin-ups (no way) and being weighed on a scale that the nurse dragged in to the gym. As the nurse got us each to step up on to the scale for the weigh-in, she shouted the results to her assistant who recorded them, mortifying those of of us who weighed more than any President thought we should, in the process. Needless to say, I was not one of the kids who went home at the end of the day with a certificate (suitable for framing) with a shiny gold medallion and the President’s signature.

Oh, the cruelties of youth.

I met a friend when I was in my late thirties who lived in our town and had opened a gym. The gym offered aerobics classes, weight classes, step and spinning classes and had all the treadmills and weight machines you could hope for. The gym closed after awhile when my friend decided to spend more time at home with her children, but she gave me a gift that I will always cherish: she moved a bunch of the equipment from the commercial gym into her garage and invited a group of about 6 of us (5 women and 1 man)- all neighbors and friends- to workout each morning with her. At her house. For free. Under her fitness tutelage. It lasted for a decade. These early mornings (we started at 5:30) got me through seminary, through the hard years of my early ministry, through parenting, and all the stresses and foibles of life. We also celebrated birthdays, children’s milestones, anniversaries, holidays and successes at work. We were a great group together.

This friend- Laura- got me started in running. Together, we trained for my first half marathon. When we crossed the finish line that October, I looked at her and said,”Next, we do the full marathon!” I trained and ran several marathons in my time and always loved it- when it was done.

Here’s the “hate” part of the love-hate affair: I don’t actually like the act of running, itself. It is hard. I lose my breath. But worse than the physical stresses of running, are the mental stresses of it- the voice that tells me I am too slow…. that I have no business being out there… that I’m not improving The eyes that look ahead to how far I have to go still, and that do not look back at how far I’ve already come. I don’t feel a sense of peace or accomplishment in the moment. I don’t feel like I’m running with the wind. I feel old and slow and plodding. I feel regret that I didn’t do this kind of thing when I was younger and more lithe. (Regret like this is pretty useless.)

One time I had an amazing experience while running. I was down on the river trail in our town in CT. I loved running there. It was a 6 mile out and back from our driveway to the far end of the Burlington section of the trail and back. The Farmington River was clean and quiet and a lovely companion along the way. One morning as the sun came up over the mountain, I sensed that someone/thing was with me. I looked to my right and, running along with me, on the shoulder of the trail, was a large doe. It was amazing. She and I stayed together for probably 25-30 paces before she darted up the embankment and across the road. I was stunned and delighted; I wondered if I had imagined it, but I could see her up on the other side of the road, making her way up the hill. I doubt that she was as delighted as I had been at our chance encounter.

I held onto all of the trophies and medals and awards that I got for running in 5ks, half and full marathons. They are still in a box in our basement. I think I’m ready to get rid of them now but for a long time, they were a visible reminder of accomplishing the very thing that 55 years ago, puffing my way around the gym past a teacher with a stopwatch, I could not do very well. I still can’t do it very well, but I have done it… to completion… several times.

This morning I finished an eight-week training program for running a 5K. I used a program by an old runner, Hal Higdon, whose training programs I have used for years. In the weeks that I’ve increased my mileage from running just a couple of miles in fits and starts to this morning, I have to say that I have not improved in time or attitude. I’ve gotten it done (because I thrive on calendars and plans and schedules) but it has not “sparked joy.” I do love the feeling of being sweaty and completing a run; the jury is still out if the half hour or so that it takes me to get that way is worth it. The health benefits of walking and running are not so different, it turns out. It takes me just about an hour to walk 4 miles and during that time I get to listen to books. When I run, I listen to the same 1960s and 1970s playlist and to my defeating self talk. So- we’ll see what’s next. In my immediate future, I think it’s a few weeks of only walking.

In vegan adventures, I made some delicious bread this week. It had molasses, whole wheat flour and oatmeal in it. I used it as a base for some homemade baked beans with coleslaw on the side. All vegan. So good. Hearty winter treats.

I also made a “Thanksgiving dinner” comfort food meal featuring mashed potatoes, shiitake gravy, air fried tofu, over roasted broccoli and cranberry sauce. Comfort food. What’s not to like? Until next time, be well.

Published by audreycadyscanlan

mother. grandmother. wife. sister. bishop. priest. deacon. hiker. cook. writer. early to bed. up before dawn. I like to sleep in tents. anxious, persistent, frank.

3 thoughts on “my love-hate affair with running

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