We're running, my husband and I. He's pushing the girl in a big stroller and I'm watching the boy ride his bike up ahead. The pace is slow and steady, and I'm trying to keep my breathing slow and steady, too. We've rounded just one corner on our block and already my breath is coming harder. I'm in terrible shape.
It feels like cobwebs and rusty gears and a thousand other things besides capable, strong muscular legs. I'm praying, yes literally praying, that this will get easier. Or at least that my family won't notice that it's already getting hard.
There's a conversation going on between the kids and their dad. I wish I could join in, but I've got my own dialogue to deal with. I'm talking myself into each step right now and convincing myself that I can't ask if we can walk for a few minutes. At least not yet.
I've never been a runner. This running thing is stupid. And it hurts. I think I'm too old to take up a new hobby, and I am certainly too busy. But I signed us up for a race this weekend (The Beach Beast, it's called), and I have no more time to pretend like it'll all work out just fine. In a few short days I'll be running through sand and surf and over obstacles for 3.2 miles alongside my athletic husband. I MUST conquer it here on this quiet neighborhood terrain first.
This is the quiet dialogue I'm participating in when my husband breaks through. "Great job, honey! If you can make it to the next cross street, you'll have run a mile."
Wow. I'm thinking that's pretty good! And yes, as a matter of fact, I believe I CAN make it to the next cross street. I wish I could say all these things out loud, but I manage a tight smile and a thumbs up instead. I don't want to waste my energy.
I meet the first mile marker and slow up to a brisk walk. My right knee screams for attention. I feel like I'm sixty years old. I'm regretting the fact that I missed my dose of "anti-inflammatory" meds this morning. Geesh... Make that more like eighty years old.
My husband seems genuinely surprised and impressed. "Great first mile! You're doing great! We'll walk for a few minutes and then pick it up again, ok?" I nod and manage to say something affirmative, although I'm not sure he can hear me above the sound of blood churning through my ears. I certainly can't.
I do manage to look over at him at some point while the pace is slower and notice that he hasn't yet broken a sweat. Must be nice.
Over the course of the next 2.2 miles, David directs us into short intervals of running and walking. "Just make it to that stop sign." "We'll start running again at the light pole." A few times he lies. Do all good fitness instructors feel the need to lie? What do you mean, keep going!? You told me to run to that yellow mailbox!! My head screams. I wonder if profanity is more easily forgiven when you're in a state of extreme physical duress.
At one yellow mailbox, I feel the urge to puke. I say so much out loud. I catch a glimmer of (could it be?) pride in my mate's eyes. Ah yes, all the good workouts make you want to throw up, don't they? It's a false alarm, and I have to pick up my pace to catch up with the stroller and the bike and the man who is STILL NOT EVEN SWEATING.
Before I know it, another surprise announcement is being made. "OK, we're almost at the last turn. We're hitting 3 miles right now." I'm doing it! I'm really doing it! I'm running! I've actually committed to this running thing for more than forty minutes now and I am still moving! It's a great feeling and a terrible feeling all at the same time. I experience nothing even close the elusive "Runners High" that I've heard about. My legs feel like sandbags. My right knee is cooperating finally but it's making snarky threats under it's breath.
I arrive in our driveway behind the boy on the bike, but ahead of my husband (only because he's now let the girl out of the stroller and she's jogging "just like mommy"). He finds me a few minutes later walking circles in the driveway. "You ok?" he asks. "Uh-huh." I take it as a good sign that I can put two coherent syllables together and communicate a thought. I am busily contemplating two ideas.
1. Keep moving or else every single muscle in both legs will freeze or cramp up
2. Fall down into the grass on the front yard.
My front yard grass looks like a big soft blanket to me, and I'd give anything to collapse face first into the lush green carpeting. The fear of never getting up again keeps me on my feet for now, though. I pace up and down the driveway, cooling off and stretching.
We eventually make our way back into the house. My clothes are drenched. My face is red, but I'm surprised by how healthy the "flushed" look appears as I catch a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror. I turn the ceiling fan on and stand directly under it. My husband asks again, this time with legitimate concern if I'm going to be alright. I assure him that I think I will.
He tells me again that he's proud. I point out again that he's not even sweaty. He shows me a small, slightly damp spot on his shirt to prove me wrong. He asks when we can do it again.
Um.... at the race on Saturday? I ask.
What... you say I need some more practice before that?
Yeah, no problem. I'll just need to pick up a few prescriptions tonight.