Running with nowhere to go

This weekend marks the end of my second week running. Yesterday, I had my first setback. Well, it wasn’t a ‘real’ setback. (The pain was more to my ego than to my body.) It was the first run I didn’t finish.

DNF. Did not finish. Three words that any athlete or anyone with a competitive spirit dreads. It is a fate worse than finishing last.

There's an old running adage that says, "Dead last finish is better than did not finish, which is still better than did not start." (stock photo)

In all fairness, I wasn’t running a race, so the racing analogy isn’t entirely congruous. Moreover, it was my fault that I didn’t finish. You see, when I first started running, I would run 3km every other day. After my first week, I started doing 5km runs, but I would take two days of rest before running again. Yesterday, after a slow day of fishing–not to mention restricting my caloric intake to what would be justifiable in light of such sedentary activity–I decide to go for a run. What I ignored was restraint (more disparaging folks would probably say I ignored common sense). I had just run on Thursday, it was 30 degrees outside and I went running on an empty stomach. The result wasn’t a surprise: I bonked out and my legs cramped up. In fact, the only surprise was that I managed to get through 3km before this happened.

After a short rest in the shade, I began to stagger home in the sweltering heat, sweat beading down my face and soaking through my shirt, my head downcast in shame as I limped past pedestrians. Naturally, one thinks about a lot of things after failing and having to march home in defeat. This experience was no different. I went through how I got to this point, I felt anger for making the stupid decision to run at that time, I wondered why I couldn’t have set a more reasonable goal, I made a list of things to do to ensure this never happened again, etc. Gradually, anger yielded to resolve, which yielded to reason. After arriving at home and showering off my sweat and my shame, I called it a day.

Sunday, after gorging myself on all manner of heart-attack-inducing carnival culinary concoctions (or what my father calls ‘instant death’) at the Fringe Festival, I vowed to avenge the events of Saturday. Even at 9:30PM, it was still 24 degrees outside, and, this time, I didn’t have any days of rest between runs. However, I did have the advantage of being loaded with both trans fats and a thirst for vindication. That thirst was not denied. After completing my usual 3km route and feeling unexpectedly buoyant, I started running extra blocks. I was ready to go the full 5km, but the timer on my watch beeped, indicating that my laundry was done. Alas, the remaining five minutes and 800m would be allowed to escape, but it was enough of a victory that I was satisfied.

In the grand scheme of things, my ‘defeat’ and ‘revenge’ are insignificant. I’ve bonked out in worse situations (like my first attempt to scramble up the East End of Mt. Rundle in early spring, with a lot of snow remaining, while recovering from the flu, solo), and even that is nothing compared to tales of survival on the top of the world, or a real injury and a real struggle to finish. Yet, I felt compelled to write this post, and the angle came to me as I was getting groceries after my run.

I had five items in my basket: extra-lean capicollo, salad-in-a-bag,  fat-free Caesar dressing, tofu dessert and protein powder. As I was scanning my items at the self checkout line, I thought to myself, “Oh no–I’m becoming one of ‘those’ people.” Who are ‘those’ people? We all know ‘those’ people. They eat organic yogurt with muesli and berries for breakfast, they sponge out the fat from hamburgers, they have six-pack abs, they have to replace their running shoes every four months, their storage room looks like a scaled-down version of MEC… yeah, ‘those’ people.

I laughed to myself and realized I would never actually be one of ‘those’ people. For me, a life without fried chicken, tempura or potato chips is a life not worth living. I may not want to be a fully fledged member of ‘those’ people, but I wouldn’t mind having an associate membership to the club.

And that’s what I came to terms with on my way out of Superstore. For me, it’s not about whether or not I finish the run that I’m on, or even whether or not I finish the next one. It’s about growth through incremental gains. It’s about running a few extra hundred metres each successive week. Really, that’s the only way anyone gets up to running 42195 metres.

Too many people comment on marathon runners (or any other athletic endurance event) and say, “Gee, I wish I could do that.” I know that because get a similar response when I tell people I climb mountains. Recently, what I’ve started telling them is that they can climb mountains too, and I break it down to terms that they can understand–like how many times they’d have to climb their office tower to equal the vertical elevation gain of a mountain.

I may never get to run a full marathon–I love too many other activities to give up all of them to focus on one goal–but, I can see myself running every day and maybe doing a half marathon. Like I said before, I don’t have a solid running goal right now–only that I want to get better. Regardless of what terminus point I end up at with my running streak, I know I’ll be a healthier, more determined (and, hopefully, a little leaner) individual. Given my past of being an obsessive planner, it’s been an amazing journey to be–figuratively speaking–running without a destination. Saturday will not be the last time that I bonk or cramp up and Sunday will not be my last do-over, but both are just two more steps on the road to becoming a better runner.


About jbsantos
Polling, politics, PR and outdoor pursuits.

One Response to Running with nowhere to go

  1. Pingback: My first half-marathon « Santos Sez

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