I am not a runner. At least, that’s what I always thought growing up. Every spring, for as many years as I can remember, we were required to run a mile as part of the annual Presidential Physical Fitness Test. I would beg my mother to write me a note stating I wasn’t well enough to participate. (Which she wouldn’t.) I would bring an ace bandage from home, wrap it around my knee and try to pretend that somehow, as a child, I’d developed a chronic injury impairing my ability to run. (Which no one fell for.) And ultimately, I would walk it. That’s right. One mile. 5,280 feet. Four laps around the football field. It sounds so short and yet — it never once occurred to me that it might be something I could do.
It wasn’t that I was out of shape — in fact, I was always sort of sporty. It’s just I had a small but problematic habit of deciding I hated things without trying them. Tuna fish, wintergreen, Leann Chin … and running. Despite the fact I’d never actually attempted to try any of it — I was convinced I hated all of it. The only thing I hated more in fact, was feeling like I couldn’t do something. This belief that I couldn’t run persisted throughout my adult life until, about three years ago, after watching a television show in which overweight contestants competed for money by running a 5K they never thought they could complete, I got off the couch and went for a run.
In fact, I guess in an effort to prove to myself that I could have totally crushed those contestants, I ran a 5k. And the next day — I ran again. And I’ve been running every week several times ever since. If you run, you know, it’s a pretty therapeutic experience. I figure a lot of things out while I’m running. I get a lot of thinking done. In fact, just the other week while I was out for a run I was thinking about that Presidential Physical Fitness Test. And I was thinking about how terrible the physical education teachers were in my youth. Not one of them thought to provide any ounce of encouragement — or (shockingly) instruction on how to complete the relatively simple task of running 5,280 feet. So I never did.
Now let me be very clear — I’m not a runner runner. Meaning — I’m by no means competitive. I’m not particularly interested in talking about training, or heel strikes, or Gu. And I really don’t care about your $250 watch that monitors your pace and your heart rate and is synched up with your toe shoes and is guaranteed to improve your marathon time. I’m incredibly slow and I’m not particularly interested in getting faster. I’ve run a couple half-marathons — mostly just to motivate myself to learn to run greater distances. And, I’ve done the Headwaters Relay – a 232 mile relay race through the mountains in Montana. But mostly, I just like a leisurely run a few times a week.
In the past few years I’ve struggled with identifying myself as a ‘runner’. It’s as if doing so implied I needed to be more competitive or that I needed to be faster. Running, for me, is a hobby. And, I’m not quite ready to turn my hobby into a title. In general, however, I’m learning to put my presidential physical fitness failures behind me and just enjoy it for what it is. Since moving to Denver, I feel like I’ve had to learn to run all over again at (ironically) 5,280 feet. I’m once more training for the Headwaters Relay and have recently been motivated to move some recent runs off the city streets.
This is a short video of the trails at Mancos State Park in southwestern Colorado where I recently did a little training. It’s crazy — but when I was editing this — I almost, for a second, thought I looked like a ‘runner’.