Columns

2006.10.18 Running the race, and living to tell about it

on . Posted in Midnight Musings

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Grace (Tarala) Johnston was right. Intervals of two minutes running at an easy pace and one minute walking at a slow pace will get you to the finish line faster than my combination of running at a faster pace until you feel like croaking, and then walking at a relatively fast pace until you’re afraid if you don’t start running again, you’ll be dead last in the race.

Ah, the race. The Neal V. Singles Memorial 5K Run. My husband groaned when he read the start of my column two weeks ago.

“You’re not going to write about running again, are you?”

“What else am I going to write about?” I asked.

“You can’t do that to your readers,” he said.

So I didn’t.

But then people kept asking me if I finished the race, and if they happened to read the race results, they asked if I was happy with how I had done.

Let me say that I was both pleased with and amused by my performance. Even though Grace showed me the folly of my ways, I am proud to be the owner of the coolest medal I have ever seen; far cooler than any medal any of my three children have won in cross country and track events.

Yes, I placed third in my age group and thus became a medalist in the first annual Neal Singles run. Of course, there were only three people in my age group (the amusing part), but as Grace said, think of all the women who didn’t even enter the race. I beat the pants off of them, all right! And, I like to think that the first two placers in my age group were among those who took the wrong turn and thus lopped three tenths of a mile off their course. I ran/walked the whole dang 3.1 miles.

I liken the experience to being in labor with my firstborn, Ben. David and I had taken Lamaze or whatever childbirth preparation classes were offered 24 years ago. They taught us breathing exercises and relaxation techniques and harped on focal points and the stages of labor and which breathing patterns to do for each particular stage of labor. I don’t remember what else.

David was an excellent Lamaze partner who made sure I exercised regularly and practiced my breathing and relaxation techniques every night.  When I was finally in the throes of labor, all that regimentation went out the window. Relax? Hell, I was having a baby! There’s nothing relaxing about that. I found comfort in throwing up. And when David consulted his stopwatch to time the contractions, I could have belted him one. I just wanted to sling my arm around his shoulder and lean on him as I walked up and down the halls of the maternity ward.

When he noted I must be in the transition stage and should begin a different breathing pattern, I think I might have tossed his watch across the room. There was no way I could breathe in any prescribed pattern. I just did what felt right. I’m sure I must have learned something in that class that came in handy for the actual birthing experience. I know pelvic rocking proved beneficial in Rozee’s birth three and a half years later. But when it came to the breathing exercises, they went out the same window. It seems the only purpose they served was something to rebel against: Well, heck, that’s not working. I’ll do this instead.

And the same sort of thing happened with running. As the day of the race neared, I realized none of the standard methods such as Jeff Galloway and coolrunning.com were working for me. So I tried the technique David had suggested at the start of my “training.”

“Why don’t you run until you feel like stopping and then walk until you feel like running,”  he said.

Ah, after all these years, the man knows me better than I know myself. When he had first suggested that, I pooh-poohed him.

“That won’t work,” I told him. “I feel like stopping just about as soon as I start. I’d be walking the whole race.”

By the week of the race I realized I really only like running if I can do it at a faster pace. Sure, I could “run” three miles continuously, but it would be at such a slow pace, I’d be miserable the whole way. So I may not have completed the course as fast as I would have liked, but I had a good time doing it—the anti-Lamaze way, so to speak.

And I didn’t come in dead last.

Or dead, for that matter.


   - Oct. 18, 2006
 

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