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Wednesday, June 6, 2012


The past week and a half I have done something that I had always aspired to but had, in almost 40 years, never managed to accomplish: I started to run. About two weeks ago I stopped thinking of my treadmill as an expensive dust bunny generation unit and decided to throw caution to the wind and see what thrills awaited on the sleek black band of the running board. I'm not sure what caused this sea change; perhaps the excitement of the coming summer Olympics or perhaps a photo posted on facebook of a friend of mine completing a race under the sweltering Southeast Asian sun, whatever it was, I looked upon it on the seventh day and saw it was good.

I've always wanted to be a runner and I am not quite sure why- maybe because it just seemed like such an impossible thing to do-the more I tried the further away I was from my goal.

In my teens my main running disability was located on my chest. My cups runneth over and prevented me from running comfortably. It's only in recent years that I have found training shirts that literally bound my breasts to my chest, allowing no uncomfortable and painful wiggling and wobbling. But 20 years ago, there just didn't seem to be the sport wear technology that there is today and I was severely handicapped.

In university I tried very hard to learn to run. I knew the correct way to train and work up to a longer and longer run but I could never do it.

My second foray into university taught me a lot about running and fitness and once again I tried hard to be a runner. I was enrolled in Dalhousie's Kinesiology program and almost everyone in the program was a confirmed jock which is something I would never call myself.

I did exercise labs, learned about muscle fibre types, the best training regimes for endurance, speed, weight loss ecetera but I never managed to learn how to be a runner myself. I did learn a lot about weights and trained to be a person weight trainer but left the country before taking my final exam for certification.

In one exercise lab the professor took my stats; blood pressure, heart rate, lung capacity and he turned to look at me and said, “You must be quite an athlete.” I didn't tell him that compared to my classmates I was a couch potato. My heart rate and blood pressure have always been preternaturally low and my lung capacity I chalked up to several years of playing a wind instrument. So I continued to longingly watch runners ply the streets around the university; always a spectator never a participant.

Despite not running I was/am a pretty active person. I could walk all day and not get tired. I walk fast. The longer I walk the faster I go. I seem to just get into high gear after one hour on the road. And of course there was a time when I was queen rat at the gym, lifting weights three hours a day every day. But no matter what I bench pressed, I still wasn't a runner.

So what was different this time around? Why do I call myself a fledgling runner now? How did it happen? I will give credit to The Nature of Things.

About a month ago I watched a show entitled The Perfect Runner which explored the bio-mechanics of barefoot running. This was something I had heard of before and it really seemed to make sense. So almost two weeks ago, against all the manufacturers recommendations, I started running barefoot (actually just with socks). And it worked. All the manuals for treadmills say, “wear appropriate footwear.” For me it seems the appropriate footwear is none at all. In the past, during my many attempts at running, lacing up my shoes seemed to automatically increase my workload by 100 percent. Running barefoot makes me feel like I am running on air.

From that first day last week, I ran/jogged 15 minutes without stopping. Five days later I ran 30 minutes without stopping. I am steady at 30 minutes (I don't have time for more than that) but have increased the speed to 5mph from 4.5mph and added an incline of 2 degrees. 

Now, after all these years, I think I have finally broke my body code; bound breasts and no shoes seems to have corrected all past wrongs and allowed me to run like I never have before. To finally reach a goal that you have attempted and failed to achieve so many times is a true victory.

In addition being top heavy and shoe encumbered, part of my problem, I believe, was pacing. I am an all or nothing kind of person and when I started to run I just put in as much power as I had thus hitting my exhaustion point very quickly. In school I had been good at sprints and hurdles but nothing that required endurance. On the treadmill the pace is set and there is no jack rabbit start zapping my energy.

I am still just a treadmill runner and don't know if/when I will run in the out of doors. There I'll have to wear shoes, face road conditions, and weather but I will give it a try at some point. For right now I am happy to be a indoor runner.

In some ways I feel like I have started a new life. Running is my new addiction. I feel good.

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