This is why you do it

Group runs for my 5k training started last night.

Because of the size of the group and our different levels of ability, there were coaches and volunteers staggered throughout the pack. We were doing a total of 20 minutes with just two minutes of running. My group left from the downtown activities center, led by my coach, who ran into the street and hollered, “Halt!” at an SUV packed with a work-and-school weary family trying to get to church on time.

We followed Main Street to the downtown square. A man on the sidewalk outside the ice cream shop held his waffle cone toward the street and yelled, “This is why you do it! This is why you do it!” And although I know it was really fucking annoying that a pack of pedestrians was meandering through downtown during rush-hour traffic, a lot of other people came out to cheer us on.

I was at the middle of the pack. I was hustling along, but not really killing myself, and there were plenty of people behind me. I could hear them talking to the coach. And I heard the coach loud and clear when he yelled that it was time to start running. “Two minutes! Run for two minutes! Don’t stop, you can do this!”

So I ran. The coach’s instruction before we left was to go as slow. As. Possible. I’d run for probably a minute before doing intervals on my own. But two whole entire minutes? God help me.

I was chugging along like a good little tug boat, concentrating with all my might on not dying on the street in front the windows of a super popular hotel bar, when a man appeared next to me.

“Hi!” he said. “I’m James! Are you a volunteer, too?”

“No,” I puffed. “I’m just trying to keep running.”

James smiled. “Well, you’re doing it!”

And that’s when I realized I was running with the person who had volunteered to run with the person in last place. That I had just been smoked by a chubby older woman and I was last. Last!

“You’re doing a great job,” James said. “Have you ever run before?”

Was there even enough air in my lungs for me to answer? So I wheezed, “Not for two minutes straight.”

And James said what I would hear 20 more times before I got home last night: It gets easier.

And finally, the running part ended. And a little later, we hit the 10-minute mark, which meant it was time to turn around and go back the way we’d come.

And don’t think I didn’t yell, “Oh yeah, look who is in first place now!”

Of course, like my coach said, it’s not a competition. The only competition is in here *taps head*.

Today was not a rest day, which, to be honest, kind of surprised me. I mean, can’t I run a 5k in 8 weeks just because I meet with a group on Wednesday nights?

The weather was going to be absolutely wretched today, too, and I much prefer running outside to running on a treadmill. I work in a big office, but I’m an independent contractor so I have to work on my own computer. And after about 10 this morning, I couldn’t get on the network. Seeing it as a great opportunity to squeeze in my run before the tornado sirens went off (and they did!), I decided to work from home after lunch.

I came home, changed into my running clothes, and headed out. About three minutes in, knowing I would have to run soon, I started telling myself there was NO WAY I could run for two minutes without someone there with me. Running for two full whole entire long minutes is just crazy insane, who the hell does that? I checked my watch again: 4 minutes, 50 seconds. I should really run soon.

At 5 minutes, I started running. As slow. As possible. Just as my coach (whose last name is Rush, if you can even believe how funny that is) told us to. And after about 45 minutes, I checked my watch.

One minute. One second.


So I screamed to the street, “Fifty-nine seconds!”

And an hour later, I checked my watch again. One minute, 30 seconds. I let out a cry.

Eventually, about a week later, I hit 1:45. And in the next glance at my watch, I was at 1:55. I never took my eyes off my watch until I cleared the two-minute mark. I came around the corner with both arms over my head. “I did it!” I yelled at the recycling truck. “I fucking did it!”

Tomorrow is a rest day. Then it’s on every day for the next 10 days. Stay tuned to find out if it gets easier or if all those nice volunteers are just a pack of dirty liars.

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