Sunday, December 23, 2012

Running in tutus and other epiphanies

I have hated to run since I learned how. I know a lot of people say they hate running, but I hate it so much that I’d rather do insane boot camp workouts and 90 minutes of Bikram yoga than attempt to jog a mile.

I was the least likely person to sign up for a 5K ever. But when my friend posted something on her Facebook page about The Color Run, I was intrigued. It was in Portland, where I have “people.” Running in a tutu getting sprayed by colors alongside my friends seemed a hell of a lot more fun than my current routine of running listlessly around the same block time after time on a freezing cold morning, gasping for air.

So, despite my many hesitations, I decided to do it. While it wasn’t as impressive as winning an Olympic medal or even running Spokane’s Bloomsday Race in your 50’s like my Grandma B. did, deciding at 30 to literally go from couch to 5K seemed like an admirable goal. I vowed to get into good enough shape to run the entire 3.1 miles. To a normal person that’s not very far. To a non-runner, it’s a marathon.

I signed up in April. The race was in September, leaving plenty of time for a normal person to get into shape. I took my usual Jessica approach: I found an eight week training program on The Color Run’s Facebook page. I diligently completed week one (running for one minute, walking for two), pounding the pavement to Eye of the Tiger. I moved onto weeks two and three, slowly dragging them out. I lost interest, thinking I had plenty of time. When I did try to run, I’d run for two or three minutes before needing to stop to catch my breath. I got mad at myself. Then it got cold. Then the damn 5K was in a week and I was more out of shape than I’d been in months.

Though our trip to Portland was going to consist of three days of awesome adventures with our friends, I was anxious as we made the drive. I was about to perform a physical activity with my two most active friends, one of which has been a runner for years and one who does absurd things like Cross Fit and the Tough Mudder. What in the hell was I thinking? I prepared for embarrassment and the likelihood of vomiting.

To make matters worse, Mr. W hit the wine a little too hard the night before the race when we were celebrating our friend V’s birthday. Having dubbed him the responsible one in the relationship years ago, I panicked and stayed up most of the night, terrified we’d sleep through our alarms and miss the run. I think I got a total of four hours of sleep, thus becoming a prime example of how not to train for an athletic event.

But when I woke up in the morning, I was excited and strangely energized. And when we located our friends last-minute and started our run together, I felt as if I’d had four Red Bulls chased by coffee (and just as dehydrated thanks to my own share of wine). I’d spent months telling Mr. W and the girls that I wasn’t a runner and they’d have to be patient with me. But as we passed the race milestones together, I realized I had no problems keeping up with them.

I ran the entire thing. It wasn’t a fast run… ok, it was more of a medium-paced jog. But I ran it. That’s something I never thought I would do. And not only did I do it, I loved it.

I have hated every single second I have been forced to run throughout my entire existence. And somehow between the friends, the colors, the tutus and the energy, I became a convert. Hating running had become such a part of who I was, I almost experienced an identity crisis.

I hadn’t forgotten that feeling months later when a local friend asked me to run The Jingle Bell Run with him and a few of our friends. I agreed right away. As the date got closer, though, I panicked again. What if that ability had been a one-time thing? What if I embarrassed myself in front of my friends? What if it really was the tutu that made it possible, as I’d suspected?

It wasn’t. Apparently, running with a crowd of people including good friends, and for a good cause, is what it takes for me to enjoy it. And I really do enjoy it. I can’t wait until the next one, which will probably be this amazing event that is pretty much made for me:

To say this was unlikely to happen to me is an understatement. I don’t think words can ever convey how much I hated running. Once my mind wrapped around the fact that I can change my mind about something so intense, it started to carry over into other areas in my life. I’ve started trying foods I always thought I’d hate and I end up loving them (for example, fresh oysters are effing delicious. Seriously).  I’ve started striving for goals I’d always told myself I’d never reach.

Change is hard. Trying new things is hard. But what is harder is staying the same because of your limited thinking. And once you realize that, you’ll be surprised at what you’re willing to change... like bad habits you’ve been carrying around that no longer serve you, or anything keeping you from being your best self.

My great epiphany came wrapped in a tutu and a rainbow of colors. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 


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