Bet You CAN Catch Me!
When I first returned to running after an 18-year hiatus, I was very proud of my morning jog. Here I am! I’d think. I’m 43 years old, mother to four (bli aiyin hara)! I have three bulging disks in my spine—but I’ve still got it!
(Don’t ask me what “it” is, because I have no idea.)
Anyway, I was in Pan Pacific Park this morning, jogging, even though today I didn’t really to be there. Once October rolls around and my alarm starts ringing before sunrise, getting out of bed becomes an ordeal, even though I’m usually a morning person. Every limb weighs as much as a 12-passenger van.
Nonetheless, I went running because it’s good for my blood pressure and good for my bones. (I do not want to end up with a hunch in my back like Grandma, aleha hashalom.)
So, I was running around the park, feeling tired, but proud of my persistence. And then the first person passed me.
It’s okay! I told myself. It’s not a competition. And anyway—that young woman? She’s no more than 19. I’m more than double her age!
I kept on running. After a couple minutes, I was feeling a better, hitting my stride…and then the next person passed me.
He’s a man, I told myself. He’s never carried a baby nine months! He’s never had a C-section.
Smile back on my face, I ploughed on.
The next person who passed me was a woman who looked at least 15 years older than me. She had wrinkles all over her face. Her hair was dyed black, but white roots peaked out.
Oh, the horror!
When I first started running, I was 22 years old. I had two roommates who were marathoners, and their sheer stamina inspired me. At the time, I lived in DC, and I was used to walking up and down hills, often hiking for an hour in each direction to commute. My walk to shul was 45 minutes the first year I lived there, 35 minutes the following one. I was never a marathoner, but the transition from “walker” to “runner” was pretty easy. I ran three or four days a week for the next couple years.
As a teen, I’d had asthma. I was that kid, the one with the permission slip to sit out of the most rigorous portions of PE, the one who had to be hauled off the track after walking (!) too fast so I could go to the doctor for a corticosteroid injection in my posterior. The problem was only compounded by a bout of pneumonia at age 15.
At 22, running signaled a triumph over asthma.
But then I suffered a foot injury, and then chronic back pain, and then 18 years passed without running.
This spring, I was so happy to return to running that at first, I didn’t care that I ran a 13-minute mile on a good day. But last week, I started caring. There are people who walk faster than me! And I am pretty sure some of them are over 40.
My nine-year-old has a theory: the folks running eight- and nine-minute miles are robots.
But somehow, I doubt it.