So a little less than a week ago, I'm talking to a good friend of mine who has over the past 2 years become a running enthusiast, going from brief recreational runs to tacking a marathon last winter.
She's talking about the Heart of a Spartan run on campus - a 10k, 5k, and 1 mile set of races that took place today. She's planning to participate, along with her fiancé. At some point, she says, "You should do it with us. You can do it."
A few days later, we're at a rehearsal, and my new horn sectionmate and carpool partner mentions the race as well. She's friends with the other friend who first mentioned the race. My carpoolmate is on the fence about running, and I tell my first friend that she needs to talk her into participating. They huddle up and much cajoling takes place. They then approach me and say, "You should do it too."
I'm not a runner. I tried running briefly in college, and my oft-maligned knees betrayed me. Since then, I've discovered the problems aren't my knees but my hamstrings, gone through physical therapy, and bike every day to work. It's not a long ride, but enough to break a good sweat most days. I've gotten good at that.
So my thoughts go like this:
I don't run.
But I'm pretty fit.
There's a 5k and a 10k.
K says that when she ran the marathon, her best previous run was 20 miles. She did the last 6 on guts.
C says that her best run is 3 miles and thinks she can do the 10k.
And then I think:
I'm thinking too hard.
Here's the thing. So much of my daily decision-making is about thinking out options, weighing possibilities, considering pros and cons, making evidence-based informed decisions. At the point of this conversation on Tuesday, something snapped in me. On paper, there was no conceivable way that running a 10k today was a good decision. I didn't run, I wasn't in any particular shape or training, I could seriously hurt myself, I could even just do the 5k and probably get through it and be fine even though everyone else was running the 10k.
I realized that thinking through the decisions is limiting. It takes out the notion of imagination, of risk-taking, of doing something that scares the hell out of you just to see if you can.
And so. I decided to do it.
People said I was crazy. I talked to lots of folks about it - people who knew me well, people who didn't, people who ran. Their reaction, across the board, was that I had lost my marbles. My friend at work, training for a triathlon, told me she didn't even run 10ks. prynne was deathly afraid I'd hurt myself. My friend C., who is an incredibly thoughtful guy, told me this was a whole new level of crazy - not just crazy quirky, but crazy what are you thinking should we call the guys in the white coats.
By all rights, I should've been deterred. I'm still not sure why I wasn't.
On Saturday, I bought running shoes and some gear. I tested it running with the dog, cold. 2.1 miles about an 11 minute mile pace, was a little sore after it but okay. I caught myself thinking about whether or not I could do this. I shut that thought process off.
My alarm went off on Sunday morning at 6. It was pouring. Do people really run in this weather? I snoozed, and the rain let up a bit at 6:45. Got up, fed cats, bid prynne good morning, and went to the race.
My left knee was stiff from Saturday's run. I felt it at the starting line, clearly telling me not to go forward. I ignored it. I couldn't find my friends - something that might've prompted me to walk away another time. I didn't. I put the headphones on, cued up music that would probably prompt me to run at way too fast a pace.
Starting gun went. Knee complained immediately. I wondered how much of it was my mind trying to find an excuse. By the first mile, the rain had picked up to a steady pour. I decided a 12-minute pace would be fine with me. Hit mile 1 at an 11-minute pace. At mile 2, I saw K's fiancé, M, someone whom would be keeping about my pace. I ran for a mile behind him thinking that this would be a good focus for me. And then I realized I was slowing myself to keep up with him.
I blew past him at mile 3 and didn't look back. And I just kept running.
In mile 5, I started to pass people - people who were clearly experienced runners. My pace was actually accelerating. The funny thing was, I was all psyched up to have to tell myself all day to keep going. I didn't have to say a word to myself.
Something happened to me when I started that race. I said I'd do it and I never had to think, never had to remind, never had to convince. I had this thought as I approached M in Mile 1 - I'll follow him, focus on shadowing him and making sure he's okay (he looked to be laboring early), and that'll be my motivation. When I passed him, I realized that it wasn't about him. For this moment, in a way that I hadn't ever really executed before, this was about me. And it wasn't about making a big deal of it, it wasn't about shouting it from the rooftops, it was about a new way to think and make a decision - to just make a decision, follow it through, and do something that I couldn't have imagined doing if I had plotted it all out on paper.
1:02:57 later, I finished. 67th in my age bracket. 10 minute per mile pace.
And so, in the spirit of the C25k program, I present Mike's C210k program.
1. Imagine that you can do it.
2. Get off the couch.
3. Run 10k.
I'm not sure what this all adds up to. But I know it's different. And that's kind of neat.