I'm a TERRIBLE runner. I'm slow. I'm fat. I have terrible form. I have a collection of injuries that tend to flare up at inopportune moments. I sweat. I turn fuchsia (not plain, old, exertion-red, but freaking FUCHSIA). Oh, and I walk more than I run.
But for the past four or five years, I've tried to be a runner. I know that people look at me and wonder, "Why?". I'd love to say it's because I'm hooked on endorphins and "runner's high" but I've never experienced it. It certainly isn't because I enjoy lumbering along like a drunken ox. And, despite the fact I do enjoy it, I don't do it for the runner's "swag". (Swag may be defined as something a runner receives "for free" after they've PAID their entry fee for a race. This includes anything from band-aids to running shirts.)
So why do I torture myself with something I don't expect to ever be good at?
I like the challenge. I like pushing myself. I like that I'm slowly (ever sooooo slowly) getting just a little bit better at it.
This past weekend I was signed up to do a local 5k that I've done for the past few years. I REALLY didn't want to do it. I'd been in lousy mood for days AND I'd had a low-grade stomach bug that had left me feeling drained. I could have easily stayed in bed Saturday morning, but instead I forced myself to get to the start line (my stomach rumbling in protest for the entire hour before as though it was some sort of Harbinger of Doom).
The race started, my husband took off, and as if on cue, my stomach cramped painfully. I considered just returning to the car and waiting for Long Suffering to finish the race, but then I remembered my favorite t-shirt. It says:
DEAD LAST FINISH
BEATS DID NOT FINISH
WHICH GREATLY TRUMPS DID NOT START
I'd already managed to start, did I really want a Did Not Finish in my personal record book? No.
I've completed two half-marathons (13.1 miles). Was I really going to bail on a measly 3.1 miles? No.
So I kept going. I started to pass a few people (sure they were in their 80s...literally, I looked them up when I got home) and I was pretty sure that as long as I kept moving, I wouldn't even come in fast.
But my stomach still hurt and I hadn't gotten to the killer hill I knew was part of the course. (Even real runners hate this hill, not just my slowpoke self.) I got to the top of the hill and for the first time in the six times I've done this course, I didn't feel like I was going to collapse. Sure, I was huffing and puffing, but I didn't think my heart was going to explode out of my chest. It felt like a victory.
I picked up my pace. I didn't take any walk breaks for the last 1.1 miles (another first for me) and passed a bunch of runners who'd gone out faster than me, but whose energy was lagging. Suddenly, as I rounded the last turn, I realized that if I sprinted to the finish line, I could beat my fastest time for this particular course. Yes, I, who NEVER sprint, sprinted.
I logged a Personal Best time in a race I didn't even want to do.
That's why I keep trying to run. For those moments when I do better than I ever thought I could.
It's also why, day-after-day, I sit at the keyboard and write. I just have to do it. Because, sometimes, when I least expect it, and when I'd rather do pretty much ANYTHING else, I surprise myself.
Tell me Killer Friends: What do you force yourself to do, even when you don't feel like, ESPECIALLY when you don't feel like it, that has netted you some surprising benefits?
Speaking of pleasant surprises, CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN was named a Recommended Read by Jennifer Porter at Romance Novel News!