Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why run?

Running affords you some headspace that you wouldn't otherwise wouldn't have.

Just after twelve 'o' clock I strapped on my heart rate monitor, struggled into two bras, climbed into my leggings and singlet and shoved on the trainers. Leaving my work tags with reception, I set out alone for Birrarung Marr and my Tuesday run.

Reindert's words were working through my mind - run slower than you think you need to. Interesting advice, but his three pieces of wisdom for his novice were, run slower, run more often, don't over do it. So, with this in mind, I warmed up on my way to Exhibition and Flinders Streets, joined by many other people in similar dress and look, heading to the river for a run. I was on my own today - Dan was on the late shift, Jason had a meeting and Paul piked on me.

Running solo is different to running with the pack - although we really only walk to our starting spot and meet up after for a stretch, being on my own gave me the option to go on - to not have to be somewhere at a certain time. It also gave me a chance to think.

Five minutes in, I always seem to ask myself why I'm doing this. Why am I training for a marathon? What gives me the audacity to think I can cover 42.2 kilometres? The marathon's eight months away and the 14.6 km Run for the Kids in a fortnight is already frightening me -though I know with intervals I'll be fine.

For me, running is a matter of definition.

I've defined myself by three monikers over the last forty years.

The first came when I was four-years-old. I was defined early, on the corner of Kermode and O'Connell Streets in Adelaide. I was with my mother. We were waiting at the lights to cross the road to the Children's Hospital. Four-year-old me, legs bound in calipers and bandages, unable to bend my legs, held onto my mother's hand.

A passerby made the comment, "Look at that little crippled girl."

The crippled girl. Me.

I spent what seemed like the better part of my childhood in and out of hospital having my legs fixed - to be precise, having my achilles tendons lengthened, my knock knees straightened and my arches lowered. I was never allowed to do sport. Allegedly, my ankles were too weak and sport would be bad for my legs. In a country school this made you somewhat of an outcast as you weren't part of the netball or tennis teams. I was the chubby kid on the sidelines in the plaster boots.

Not being able to run around was made up for by an overactive imagination and a love of reading. Despite finishing treatment when I was twelve, the feeling that sport was bad stayed with me - and running - phah. Can't run. Weak ankles. Running's bad.


Coming with the inactivity of childhood came being chubby. Thirty-five years of inactivity and eating your feelings will do that. So not only was I crippled, I was fat. Exercise was all too hard - fat people didn't exercise.

However, living in London, I discovered walking. I can walk all day. But run - nah. Walking gave me a method of transport and a base fitness. I've walked ever since. But run - no way, too fat and I have weak ankles.

My other definition, the one that has been the most difficult to overcome - invisible. Who want's to see a fat, crippled kid run? I'd get laughed at! They'd shame me off the running track. Invisible people like me don't do things like run. Think of the pot holes. I'd run and the geiger counters would be set off. All too hard. All too confronting. If I were to run, I'd be putting myself out there.

Nelson Mandela said it well - "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?" (Marianne Williamson said this first - but Nelson Mandela is best known for it)

So, for forty years, fat, crippled, invisible me shunned running like I now shun membership to the Australian Liberal Party, lasagne and the thought of working in the banking industry again.

Things clicked over late in 2008, after my fortieth birthday. Reindert took me under his wing. God knows why, but he said I could do it, and I did try, but I gave up. Crippled, fat me go so far on the treadmills, and dropped it after week five of the couch potato plan, thinking it a fool's errand.

A few months later, joined by a mate at the gym, we gave ourselves the challenge of the 4 km Mother's Day Classic - an event that I had walked the 8 km route for the previous four years. And we did it. We did it well for a first run - four kilometres, thirty minutes - and I was hooked.

A year and two half marathons later, I'm contemplating a full marathon. I prefer running outside, only hitting the treadmill when it's hot or raining. And I look forward to going out in a group on Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes - it makes my day. Friday's I run to work - loving the sense of achievement I get from walking into the office at 8.30 a.m. all sweaty and feeling like I've done something for the day already.

I've shaken the labels of crippled, fat and invisible.

I'm a runner. Not a particularly fast, graceful or slim runner, but a runner nonetheless.

It's a tag I can live with.

Now if only I could learn to accept some other labels - intelligent, sexy, pretty, capable. But we will learn our lessons one at a time.

I returned to the office and hour later, red faced, sweaty - and happy.

Card for the Blog: Two of Cups - a meeting of minds, a relationship, a contract. Meeting as equals.


Kilometres walked since 29 January: 66 km
Kilometres run since 29 January: 39 km
Currently reading: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes
Weight lost since 29 Jan: 0.7 kg


shellygold said...

Hey Manda
What I remember from high school, was a funny girl that wrote the best stories and always had time to chat. I use to think you were so strong because whenever you were teased you seemed to brush it off. It's weird how we all see things from such different perspectives. Some people remember lots about their high school years, the students they had in classes or on buses, then others can't even remember names or faces.
I think you are doing a great job with this blog, I'm really enjoying reading it.


Pandora Behr said...

You know it's strange - I don't remember being teased at high school - maybe by then I was immune to stuff like that. Actually I don't remember much at all about that time. Glad you're enjoying.

Kath Lockett said...

"I've shaken the labels of crippled, fat and invisible.

I'm a runner."

Brilliant. And true.