Saturday, June 21, 2008

Running is Like Pants: A Metaphor in the Key of Amy

Exactly two months ago, I signed up for the Sharon Timlin Memorial 5K to Cure ALS because if I was going to start running, there needed to be a goal.

This morning, the alarm went off at 6 am. I heard Kristen shut it off, pondered moving, and then burrowed deeper under the covers. When she came back into the room a few minutes later, I informed her, "Not running today. Staying in bed and sleeping."

"No, we have to leave in 20 minutes." There would be no nonsense this morning.

This running thing is sort of like when I started wearing a size of jeans I haven't worn since high school. Despite being able to zip them and sit in them, I remain unconvinced this actually fits. This isn't the first time I've woken up at 6 am to run, yet it feels like I'm faking it every time.

The race itself was really great. I was worried after receiving an email about how participation would be at an all-time high (which will happen when the Red Sox are involved), as I'm pretty uncomfortable in large crowds. However, that's one of the benefits of being slower. As I jogged along the residential streets that made up the majority of the race, the runners had thinned out so that it almost felt like any other run, save for the people in red waving us through the next turn. And there were plenty of those turns. Instead of seeing a huge throng of runners in front of me, there were trees and houses.

Before today, I've never run 3.1 miles without stopping -- traffic lights will do that -- so I was a little nervous. I ran slowly for the first mile, having learned my lesson in our first 5k, and managed to keep a consistent pace. I turned on the jets a little when I saw the "1/2 mile to go" sign. And there, at mile 3, was Kristen waiting to run me in.

"You can call me mean and hateful," I heard her say over "St. Elmo's Fire" pumping through my ipod. Sometimes I scream that at her when she's coaching me through a run.

"I"m actually okay," I told her. "See where those yellow lines start?" This was about 10 feet in front of the finish line.


"From there." I knew she'd know what I meant.

When we hit the yellow lines, I reached back for all I had and sprinted those last 10 feet, pinwheeling my arms like a crazy person. I'd joked about doing this when we first signed up and dammit, if I couldn't finish quickly, I could it at least finish with pizazz...if pizazz means pinwheeling so hard you pull a muscle. My shoulder screaming, I made a beeline for the curb and immediately started crying. "I did it. And I didn't have to stop once."

"Oh, pumpkin," Kristen said, realizing it just wasn't just sweat streaming down my face. "You did do it."

The thing is, these pants still feel weird and I'm not sure they fit. But I could totally get used to them.