Friday, December 4, 2009

Cardio as Religion

So I just got back from a 10.5 mile run, which is in fact a personal distance record for me. It took me close to forever, which pretty much goes without saying, but I did it. Sadly, I did not come back from this run a size 4. You chuckle...but there is a part of me that is honestly surprised by this. For real! I mean, you run that far for that long you think you'd just shrink to almost nothing, right? Yeah. Wrong. But, anyway, 2.6 miles to go and I have a 1/2 marathon under my belt. You can all pat me on my size 8 (ish) back now.

But as I was running, two questions burned in my mind - - - how on earth did I get to this point and why the hell do I stay here i.e. why do I continue to do this to myself?

Well, as far as the "how did I get to this point" question goes - how it all started is really not terribly glamorous or inspiring. It was not a situation where I felt compelled to be more healthy or look better. I did not push myself and track my progress as I got stronger and better and faster. It was more an issue of having to walk multiple dogs and getting impatient and pissed off with how long it took so I would break into a jog - and it just went from there. Soon the jogging spurts were longer, which probably directly correlated with the smoke dissipating from my system.

You see, I used to smoke - really smoke. As in not one of these "I can take it or leave it" bullsh*t smokers that seem to be prevalent these days. I smoked like I meant it and then smoked some more. Air travel was pure hell. OK lets be honest an hour long meeting was pure hell. You know how the human body is like 80% water or some such pretty shocking figure like that? My body was 80% tobacco smoke. I made Phillip Morris proud.

But suddenly, out of nowhere, one cold February day almost 3 years ago, I quit. Again, not because I wanted to be healthy or because I had any inspiring desire to live longer for the sake of my kids - it just plain started to irritate me. Budd Lake is effing cold in the middle of February. The "needing" of a cigarette at inopportune moments - like when it is 4 degrees outside - just got to be too much for me to take. So, instead of going on my freezing cold porch to smoke I just said the hell with it - and that was that. That's not to say quitting was even more pure hell than air travel - and I will admit I still want a cigarette to this day - but I kicked it and its over and hopefully I will never have to deal with that whole hot mess ever again.

So that was how it went. The smoke cloud lifted its way out of my system, the running became more frequent and I went for longer periods of time without stopping...until I was counting miles instead of minutes. It got to "ok I did 3, maybe I can do 3.5? ok did that for a few weeks, now maybe 5?" and on it went until today's 10.5.

The bigger question is why do I keep doing this? Seriously, it's more like physical punishment. As I sit here and assess how I feel I can honestly tell you that practically everything from my waist down hurts. My hips, my behind, my quads, my hammies, my calves, my shins, my heels, my arches, the balls of my feet and the second and third toes on my right foot. And I am bound to get a headache later. But I can keep going because most importantly, my knees and ankles don't hurt. And shockingly, I can breathe - except maybe on the really big hills.

I certainly don't do it because I look better. As I sit here and assess how I look after months and months of running, combined with occasional walking, lap swimming, elliptical machine sessions, sit ups, push ups, weights, pilates - I can honestly say that my forearms look really good. But I keep going, because now I'm really scared to think about how I would look if I didn't. I'd loose my awesome forearms at the very least.

In assessing the long distance routes, I have to admit they are not at all relaxing. In order to get the distance, I have to go on main roads - many of which do not have sidewalks. There is not a lot of pavement between the white line on the side of road and where the uneven ground begins - and all along it is covered with sticks, acorns, leaves, trash, hidden divots...all manner of things that can easily produce a broken ankle. But it is understood that this little sliver of pavement is your allotted space if you are a pedestrian...staying on it often times makes it feel as though you are trying to run on a balance beam. Which makes it very interesting when you and the Pocono Produce 18 wheeler need to share the skinny little bridge crossing the Musconetcong River. It also makes it very interesting when you are running by the high school and loads of 17 year old boys are driving their broken down Tercel hatchbacks at Mach 8 to get back to the school before study hall ends and someone notices they are gone. But the most interesting of all was today's run - I was chased by an enormous Great Dane. Boy was he big! I half expected Shaggy and the gang to come barrelling around the corner behind him to lure me into some ridiculous trap and then try to take off my mask.

But I keep going, because once you've done long distance you have to keep trying to go further. You learn to block out the extraneous. And there are the peaceful runs through the woods and past the lake that quiet the mind and are good for the soul.

So get here I did, and stay here I will, and talking like Yoda I will not continue - I'm not entirely sure I answered the "whys" of it all, why running has indeed become a religion for me - but I guess when it all comes down to it, it may hurt like hell, I may not look a heck of a lot better for it, and it may at times be death defying, but it really and truly does feel good.

Keep in mind I am saying that while still sitting down....!!!!

As always, would love to hear everyone's thoughts/experiences etc!


  1. For me it's more satisfying somehow than other workouts even though it's quite unenjoyable at times. Maybe it's being able to point to miles covered with your own two feet. And once in a while you really do catch that sensation that you can go on forever. I have a long way to go to catch up to you... you're my inspiration to up the miles!

  2. I can't relate to this. As I'm sure you remember, I always hated to run! Ever since I tore my MCL two years ago, my knee hurts even if I walk too fast on the treadmill. I am very impressed by your achievement though, and I always enjoy your blogs.

  3. Go Janet! You are so ready for a half...let's register! :)