Columns

2006.08.09 Will slow and steady win the race?

on . Posted in Midnight Musings

By COLLEEN LEDDY

The Neal V. Singles Memorial Run.

That explains my new-found interest in jogging. I almost said running, but what my legs and body are doing when I propel my body forward in slow cacophony cannot accurately be described as running. Every spring and (in times past) every fall, ever since Ben joined the cross country team in seventh grade, when I cheer my children on at track and cross country meets, I vow that I will start running again. And every spring and every fall, I make an attempt.

But in the fall, life is busy. Before I know what happened to my pledge to get in shape, winter is in full swing and I’ve totally lost my zing. In the spring, I pledge again, but I’m always so out of shape it takes so long to work my way up to jogging, and then the heat kicks in and my reluctance kicks up and I plunge into inactivity...or merely walking.

I enjoy walking, but it takes so long to work up a sweat I mostly feel like I’m wasting my time. I want to run, but after seasons of relative inactivity, I’m physically incapable. It’s so inspiring to watch cross country runners and track races, but inspiration only goes so far. So, mostly, I walk the track with my husband. Occasionally we run for a burst of a hundred meters or so, on the straight-aways, but not much more than that.

“I’m ready to quit,” I say at 90 meters. “You ready to quit?”

David doesn’t answer until we go another 10 meters. He usually quits, out of kindness to me, I think, so I have my out. Now his knee is acting up so he’s not running at all.

When the Neal Singles run was announced in the paper I started thinking it might be something I could shoot for. I can’t imagine ever having the stamina or ability to run three miles—even in my younger, athletically fit days I never ran that distance—but I think maybe it will spur me on. David and I try to walk at least a few nights a week and after I jog one lap without stopping, I see a ray of hope, and set my sights.

By Aug. 1 when I make this decision, there are 54 days before the Neal Singles run. I divide that by the three miles of the run and determine I have 18 days to reach each mile—one mile by Aug. 18, two miles by Sept. 5 and three miles by Sept. 23. I’m counting on Neal to get me through the last tenth of a mile of the 3.1 mile or 5K run.

For a few nights, I con my daughter Maddie into accompanying me to the track. Under her tutelage, I make it up to two laps—half a mile—without stopping.

The first night, she lets me do my one lap around without comment. I run one lap two times—walking before, in between and after. On the second night, she starts getting tough.

“C'mon, Mom, you’ve made it to one and a half, you might as well go to one and three-quarters,” she says.

“No, I feel like I’m going to die,” I say. “I have to stop.”

I stop.

“Pshhh,” she says, like I’m wasting her time.

The next night I know I have to show her I can do it, so I slug through one lap ready to croak half way through. But Maddie is beside me, barely breathing, it seems, as I huff and puff and my stomach flab flops up and down and my butt and thighs jiggle with every step.

“What’s that noise?” she asks. “It sounds like you’re dragging your feet.”

If I weren’t dying I might have laughed. Can she hear my excess flesh flapping?

“It’s...just...my...shoes,” I pant. “They...squeak...when...I...step.”

Maddie’s not convinced so I make a concerted effort to lift my feet off the ground. It’s a struggle.

Saturday night, I jog two laps while David walks. I’m fairly proud of myself, but I know if Maddie had been there urging me on I would have tried to go a quarter lap more.

The first night Maddie accompanied me to the track I asked her opinion: I always wonder if it’s better to start out jogging at a fast pace and go as far as you can and then just keep increasing the distance or just jog real slowly and steadily and go farther and eventually gain speed? Which way will get you to your goal faster?

“I think the first way,” she says.

But once I start jogging, I find there’s only one answer to that question. A combination of my lungs, my legs and my legions of fat determine the rate I will travel—the pace of a tortoise.

But I’m hardly discouraged. If I don’t reach my goal, there’s always the Neal V. Singles Memorial 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk.

    - Aug. 9, 2006

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