Monday, May 3, 2010

Run of the Pink Balloon: 5/1

Saturday I chose to run to the gym for the first time in nearly a year. The last time I ran to the gym was last summer, and I was pretty foolish about it. I got over excited about being able to run outside and ran to the gym three consecutive days. By the third day me knees were stiff and popping anytime I climbed stairs, and they were so sore after workouts that I had to alter my workouts to reduce the stress on them. Now, I am considerably lighter, stronger, and wiser, so I felt pretty good about the idea of running outside. Also, I had done a lot of research about footwear since my last run outside, and I have invested in a pretty good pair Asics 2150's, which got the Editors Choice Award from Runner's World, so I had a good feeling about moving towards running outside. But, I was still on edge a little because my rotator cuff had just started to heal up. I was still worried about it, and the last thing I needed was another injury. But, I really wanted to run outside.

I am not sure why this is, but whenever I see people running outside, I always feel envious of them. My guess is that I was in such bad shape for so long that I started to idealize the people that I saw running through neighborhoods, along trails, and in parks. I desperately wished that I could do the same thing. I always imagine that they run every day for endless hours on end, just pounding out the miles with hardly any effort. Now, I know that is in no way so, but when you are deeply dissatisfied with yourself, it is really easy to let your mind wander to extremes. When I am driving along, I always notice the people that I see running. An ex-girlfriend of mine used to get mad at me because she thought that I was just checking out some girl. She didn't get it, and I never tried to explain that there was something more to it than me just ogling girls in a sports bra . . . Really . . . I've felt this deep seeded dissatisfaction with myself for so long because I truly want to be the type of person who can be physically active, to compete, to push myself.

I see that I am close to being the type of person who can run, push themselves, and enjoy the physical aspects of life. However, what honestly worries me is that I've waited too long and done too much damage to my body to truly do all of the things that I have wanted to do for so long, and I can't forgive myself for waiting this long. I am glad that I am doing this now, without a doubt, but every day I write down on the colander what I did that day there creeps in a small voice of regret asking me: why? Why did you wait so long? And sadly, I don't have any answers that aren't bullshit other than: I didn't want to put in the work that I knew was need . . . I was lazy, and I let life slide past me and embrace excuses.

On Saturday, despite last year’s mistake, my injured shoulder, and the prospect of feeling every step in my jaw because of the wisdom tooth that had been removed less than two weeks ago, I decided to run to the gym. I got my I-pod and stretched outside of my apartment and thought about the route that I would take to the gym. I have mapped it out on  USATF   and knew that it would be 4.06 miles round trip. I planned on stopping at the gym and doing some abs before running the return. Also I decided that if I something went wrong that I would just walk to my wife’s work, which is near the gym and drive home.

The run start out nicely. I began with a slow jog for the first few blocks, which were uphill, but as the ground began to level out my pace began to pickup. My jaw felt alright with just a bit of throbbing from the vibrations of my stride. I crossed several streets, ran down my first little hill, and past people watering their lawns and playing with their kids, and I felt strong, my legs were stable and I wasn't gasping for air . . . I was enjoying myself. I was still worried about my arm, but it everything was fine. As I approached  The Raleigh Rose Garden at The Raleigh Little Theater, I noticed that someone had put out some helium balloons. I thought maybe there was a going to be a birthday party or a wedding in the Garden but when I looked down the hillside I couldn't tell. But as I rounded the corner to go around the back of the garden, I saw to girls and a guy tying balloons to the fence. They were in their teens and seemed to be having a good time. As I ran past them the guy held out his hand and offered me a pink balloon as a joke. I don't think that he thought I would take it and at first nearly ignored him, but for some reason, I just thought why not, so without stopping, slowing down, or looking back, I took it and saying only "thanks." At first I thought about just letting it go and watching it fly off, but instead I decided to keep it. I tied it to my right wrist, which was the arm that was hurt. By this time, I was back on the main street and there were lots of cars, so I thought the balloon would help people notice me when I crossed the street. At first I was really conscious of what people might be thinking as I ran by with this pink balloon tied to my wrist. I wondered if they thought that it was for breast cancer awareness of if I had just had a daughter, and I began to notice people in car giving strange looks as they drove past me, but as I continued to run those thoughts passed away as I became increasingly concerned for the safety of the balloon. I did want it to slip away or get popped by low hanging pine needles or some rose bush that was growing over a fence. And as the gym got closer, I realized that my arm felt good. It seemed like the balloon was helping to hold it up, my pace had gotten stronger, and I wasn't worried about my knees. Instead, I was thinking about what I should do with my balloon while I worked out. When I got to the Y I asked if I could leave the balloon at the fitness desk while I worked out.

I did some crunches and fire hydrants -- nothing much -- just enough to justify the stop at the gym. The pink balloon was waiting for me when I finished, and I again tied it to my wrist while I jogged home. The jog home was pretty easy. And, I did notice some people looking at me, but I just turned on Explosions in the Sky and it all seemed to melt away. It was such a peaceful run. When I got home, I went inside and got a camera and took a picture of the pink balloon tied to my shoe. Then I did some stretching and iced my knees. It just was a wonderful feeling to have completed this run. However, I plan to take baby steps with my running because I know that it could all go very wrong quickly if I get careless.

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