Here's the thing: I am not naturally athletic. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think my peak athleticism was in 6th grade when I was the girl to beat, among both sexes, in short sprints. I had a pretty mean slap shot in floor hockey as well, both in gym class with Mr. G, and in my basement where my brother and I may have broken a window a time or two. Ah, the glory days. I suppose I'm one of those nearly middle-aged people reminiscing about their athletic prowess in their school-days. Elementary school days.
At any given moment, i would much rather read a book than exert myself in any way. I would also rather, at all times, be inside the comfort of my climate-controlled air conditioned house fully furnished with couches than to be outside for almost any reason- where temperatures fluctuate, humidity wraps itself around you like a smothering cloak, things are forever swarming and crawling on you. I think Denise said it best when describing our family, "We're low-level recreators".
However, from as early as I can remember, I've envied runners. I always assumed that running was something that required a specific gene- you either had the gene and were therefore a runner or were capable of becoming a runner, or you did not. I fit squarely in the latter group: I definitely did not have the gene. I remember watching Law & Order over the years, and determining if I could outrun my attacker. Sadly in every instance I was forced to stop, doubled over, hands on my knees as I tried to catch my breath and my attacker inevitably overcame me. I could never escape someone in pursuit of me. So I resigned myself to envy and sloth.
It's not that I never tried; I remember several times as a teenager trying to get out there and improve my run: walk ratio, but it was just so hard. And even after 3 or 4 tries I still didn't seem to see rapid improvement. It was still hard. It still made my lungs burn and my feet feel like they were encased in cement blocks. I was an imposter- who was I fooling? I could try and run, but I would still never be a runner. Genetics were against me, and genetics combined with fat legs and a propensity towards laziness were formidable opponents indeed.
I don't know when my mindset changed, but I think about 2 years ago when Fiona was a few months old, I got it in my head that I was going to try again. I know I will never be a talented athlete- I can't play any sports and do not relish any activity where a ball is flying towards my head. I do not enjoy the thrill of exercise. I find it all boring, tedious, and hard. However- I thought through hard work and perseverance, I could train myself to run. You don't necessarily have to have any skill to run, you just need to work hard. And lazy though I might be, I am also quite tenacious. It's one the strange dichotomies of my personality. (Hence, the Badger. Badgers are nothing if not tenacious.)
What appealed to me so much about running was the honesty of it. It was so simple, so clear cut, unpretentious, not contrived. It was hard, but I saw through many examples of former non-runners, it was something you could learn to do. It was solitary. Running took me somewhere, both in my mind on on my feet. Exercise is not a social activity for me. I run to escape. I run to run away from my family. When I run, I am both running towards something, and running to escape something. Only this time it's not an imaginary predator from Law & Order- I am running to escape the pressures and stresses of domestic life. Smotherhood. I am running away from the role of mother and caregiver and running towards myself. While I am running I leave it all out there so that when I return I am ready again. Ready to be the mother.
6 months ago I was able to run 3 miles at a stretch (albeit very slowly) several times a week. I don't think that I will ever be especially skilled at running, or ever very fast. But the fact that I am running at all, is a huge accomplishment for me. The exhilaration and pride I feel after a run when I have pushed myself to the limit and given everything I have is unrivaled with anything else I have ever done. Running 3 miles was impossible, and I proved to myself that I could do the impossible. That I could change who I was and who I wanted to be. That I could do hard things. And if I could learn to run 3, why not more?