Friday, July 18, 2008

You have to keep going. Otherwise, you'll stop.

The sickness appears to finally (knock on wood) be lifting. My throat is back to normal and my head is clearing up. I no longer feel like I'm breathing through soup. I hadn't run since Monday and it was driving me crazy. So before lunch today I Googled "Can you run with a cold?" because in addition to being the world's biggest dork, I realize that I'm still a novice at this running thing and I want to be aware if there's some running endorphins/head snot connection that could kill me dead if I went past a mile or something. This time, the internet proved less than helpful since most of the hits referenced running IN the cold. Not the same thing.

But, I reasoned, I was only going to do two miles. Two miles isn't going to kill me. There was a time not that long ago when it probably would have, head full of snot or no. But that time has passed.

I am happy to report that I did not die. Which you've probably figured out unless you assumed that my hastily reanimated corpse was writing in my stead. Not so. I am alive and well. And the things they tell you about endorphins appear to be true. I feel about a thousand percent better than I have in a week. All good things.

Today while I was running along the river, I was thinking about the social aspects of running and how I've gotten to the point where I will schedule runs with friends. It still seems strange to me to schedule things like an 8-mile run in the same way you would plan to meet up for a 1pm matinee on a Sunday or at the bar at 9 for birthday drinks. I had never considered that running would be something that people would do together. But that's another thing I've learned about runners, they are always willing - and some of them are positively eager - for more people to join their ranks. For some of the best athletes and strongest people I know, runners are the most welcoming and encouraging. There seems to be a real dearth in judgment that you simply don't find in other pursuits.

As someone relatively new to the whole thing, it's really easy to get intimidated by the elite runners - those who have run marathons or have been running for years. Even if they're some of your closest friends. But the enthusiasm they show in bringing you into the fold makes the fear dissipate rather quickly. There are some people, though, who are always going to intimidate you. For me, there's someone at work who I often see running on the track or around campus. I'd heard that he ran the Boston Marathon and was, in general a long-distance marathoner. (Does one become a marathoner after their first or do you have to run several?). He's one of those bouncy runners who seem to be flying, as though they're not in pain, they're not sweating to death and there's nothing else they'd rather be doing. When I wasn't eating his dust, I was assuming that he was judging me as a slow-moving running poser.

But today I saw him outside. And when I passed him he didn't snarl or roll his eyes or do anything that would leave me to believe he didn't think I was just another runner. In fact, he waved and gave me a head nod of recognition. Likely all it meant was "right on." But that meant a lot. Because if I'm getting recognized and acknowledged by runners I consider to be "elite," maybe that means I'm not faking this any more.

It always takes me longer to realize things about myself than it does for people around me to realize them. But I believe you have to come to terms with things at your own pace. Which is hard, believe me, as I'm the world's most impatient person. But I think I have my pace now. It's about 10 minutes a mile. And that's just about right.