“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
“Practice makes perfect.”
With most things in life, the more you do it the better you get.
Remember the first time you tried a video game? Not too easy. But after a few weeks of learning to manipulate the controls, you were killing Nazis with abandon or saving the earth from alien invasion. Practice.
Or football. The amoeba games of children become complex contests of strategy and skill after a few years of – that’s right – practice.
So what’s the deal with running?
I’ve been running for almost four decades, and you would think I’d be pretty good at it by now. But lay off a week or two, and it’s as if I had never put on a pair of running shoes before. My legs feel like lead, my mind is a mess, and my lungs want to explode. The whole running experience becomes a series of unpleasant events.
1. Stretching. It hurts. By now I should be able to pull up my socks with my teeth when stretching my hammies, but I’m lucky if I break a 90 degree angle. 40 years of stretching has had no effect on my limberness.
2. The first steps. This should be like the first pitch of a baseball game, or the first football snap. Adrenaline should be coursing through my veins as I begin the glorious trek. Instead, the only thought is: “I have the WHOLE run ahead of me.”
3. Halfway. What should be a chance to celebrate the midpoint of a run has devolved into a realization that I have to run the whole way back. There is a big difference between, “I’m halfway”, and, “I’m ONLY halfway.” One word, big distinction.
4. The final steps. The good runners speed up here, getting in one last kick. For me, the finish line (a mailbox in my case) seems to recede with each step, like some sort of Alice in Wonderland illusion. My breathing has become staccato gasps for air.
5. The finish. I should be happy, rejoicing at the positive impact on my health. But all I can think of is the countdown until the next time I run. You know how it feels on Sunday night, knowing you have to go to work the next day? In a running sense, for me every day is Sunday night.
Runners who weigh in over 200 pounds are categorized as “Clydesdales” for some races (women over 145 are called “Athenas”). They should have a plow horse category for guys like me, who feel like they’re pulling a farm implement behind them when they run.
Nevertheless, I’ll keep at it, but I have a request. If you’re driving along one day and happen to see me plodding along, don’t wave or offer encouragement.
Offer me a ride.