Running For My Life: Part 1
This is the first of a series of posts here at My Pleasant Places. It is about a significant discovery I made a couple of years ago that has truly made my life more pleasant. The subject is about more than meets the eye, thus the necessity for the series rather than a single post. Please stay with me through the finale; the best stuff is at the end! 🙂
Most of my adult life, I have tried to incorporate some kind of physical exercise into my life. Some periods of life were much more difficult than others (namely, when my four children were small and when I traveled extensively), but over the years, I dabbled in aerobics classes and gym memberships. I lifted weights at home and worked out with videos/DVDs. But the one activity that remained pretty consistent through the years was walking. Of course to be counted as exercise, the type of walking I am referring to was not a casual stroll. I would time myself and aim to walk a mile in under 15 minutes. That pace won’t get you in the Olympics, but it will increase your heart rate.
Depending on my responsibilities and the demands in my life at the time, I walked various distances, but my self-imposed minimum requirement was at least two miles, or about thirty minutes. I always enjoyed my walks. They were quiet time for me, a time to not only get some exercise, but also a time to get away, to “meditate,” to think deep thoughts, to work through problems and dream dreams. Consequently, though I did occasionally listen to books on tape while walking, that wasn’t my norm; I valued the quiet too much.
When my husband, Steve, and I moved to northwest Arkansas, we started building our house, and for that period of time (about nine months), I was pretty consumed with that process, and so walking—and every other kind of exercise—dropped by the wayside. Needless to say, dropping any activity for that length of time pretty much breaks a habit. With that loss of habit came the addition of pounds on my body (not a fair trade, if you ask me), and so eventually I was motivated to start making the time again.
There’s a community park located alongside the White River about five miles from my house. I started driving there in the mornings to walk the paved loop around it. The peace and quiet of the early morning combined with the sights and sounds of nature in the Spring quickly lured me back into my old habit. I loved it all—the walking, the thinking, the bluebirds flitting around, the fresh smell of morning by a river, and the fact that this qualified as exercise! I was so happy with my routine. And it was in the midst of this contentment that something significant occurred and changed it all up.
As I mentioned, I did occasionally listen to an audio book while I walked, but only as a brief interlude to my treasured quiet time. One morning in late summer, the book I was listening to came to an end about ten minutes before my walk did. I suddenly remembered that I had downloaded four high-energy songs from “my teenage era” onto my iPod just the week before. I had not even had a chance to listen them, yet. I fiddled around with the iPod, located the songs, pressed ‘Play’… And my life changed. When the music hit my eardrums, it was as if I had to move, I had to do something to release the sudden surge of energy that overcame me. So I ran.
Granted, it was a VERY short run (just a few feet, actually), but it did something to me. I experienced a childlike thrill; I felt energized. When I had to quit (due to inability to breathe!), a huge smile was plastered across my face. There was no one to smile at, but I smiled anyway.
I made the decision right then to incorporate this little burst of energy into my walk the following day, too. And thus begins “my running story.” The following day, I duplicated the exact same process. I walked my usual course at my usual pace and on the last lap, I pulled out my iPod, turned on my songs, and let the music do its magic. I am not exaggerating when I say I could only run a few feet before maxing out my lung capacity, but the return for that small investment of energy was so great that I was a believer; I was committed.
Over the next few weeks, I repeated this same routine with precision. I never planned on running being anything more than a ‘grand finale’ to my daily walk, but at some point, a little thought toyed with my 52-year-old brain: I wonder if I could ever run a full lap without stopping. Do you know how far “a full lap” was? Half a mile. Please stop laughing at me and continue reading.
Some may be skeptical that a half-mile was a serious challenge for me, so perhaps this is a good place to interject that I was 52 years old (I know I have already alluded to that, but in this case, it bears repeating), and I had never been a runner in my life. Not ever! So believe me when I say that the idea of running a half-mile was more of an improbability in my mind than a possibility. But because I like setting goals, and for my own fun and sense of self-competition, I took up the challenge. I started not only a half-mile challenge, but I started a new chapter in my life. TO BE CONTINUED…
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