I get a lot of good energy from running, so when a runner I truly admire asked me to write a post on why I run for her blog, I felt like I had made the big-time. She is funny, she is a great storyteller (two attributes that are extremely welcome in running company), and she spreads good energy everywhere she goes. My post is here.
Here is the story about the track that she alludes to in her introduction. The first time I went to the track, I was a couple of minutes late. I looked around for a big group of women, because I had heard about the track workout through a running group I had joined, Moms Run This Town (MRTT). (If you are a woman looking for running buddies, I strongly recommend looking for a chapter of this group near you.) I had already decided that I was going to run at the track that morning and not be discouraged, no matter what. I ran up next to this group of women and by way of introduction said "are you the moms?". Well, no, they were not the moms, they were the LUNA chix, but some of the people running with them were from MRTT and they said "sure, run with us". So I fell in to their warm-up mile. Only their warm-up was like my all-time fastest rock star pace (and I had run the 0.5 miles to the track, so I had warmed up a bit). I hung on to the back of the pack and then they stopped and said "OK, now it's time for striders" and they might as well have been speaking in Russian because I had no idea what that meant. Someone told me what they were, and I followed along for that as well.
At this point, I am dying, but also reminding myself that I was not going to be discouraged. I'm clinging to my water bottle pretending that I'm OK, but I am not.
And then someone said "here's today's workout" and sweet Jesus on a bicycle I swear all I could think of was "what the crap was all that stuff we just did?" and the woman with "today's workout" started talking about distances and tempos and rest breaks and I knew there was no way I was going to keep up, so I told myself - I'll just run whatever pace I can for the total length she is describing, and maybe if I don't take the breaks I can sort of keep up.
This whole pack of women took off around the track and I just started doing my thing. But here's what happened. When they ran by me (because even with their jogging breaks they were so damn speedy), a few of them would say "good job, Elaine". And I took that as a sign that even though I was not doing even close to what they were doing, I wasn't actually causing harm to them, so it must be OK for me to keep going. I could not finish the workout that had been described, so I just ran around that track until they all stopped, and then I said my good-byes and ran home, rather than cooling down at the track. After all, I was dying and thought dying in a private place might be better than collapsing on the track.
It took a few weeks for me to realize that those breaks were actually an important part of the workout.
I have no idea what they were thinking about me. At one point, I decided that maybe I made a good mascot for them. Maybe I made them feel good about how awesome they were, as they lapped me week after week. It was a few months in, on an exceptionally cold day when they shortened the workout that I actually finished it. For the first time, I had completed the workout, and I did announce this glory to everyone else, and their reaction told me it was clear they had no idea I hadn't been completing the workouts before. And while they were happy for me because this was clearly a huge milestone in my eyes, they weren't bothered at all by my previous early exits.
As spring approached, I learned that I had actually been going to workouts that weren't official. There is an official LUNA chix season where everyone is invited to join, and unofficially, several people had just kept it going. I had totally crowded right into their workouts (at someone's invitation, but still...), which made me realize even more how nice these women were being to me.
It took me a long time before I felt comfortable running off the track with these women. On the track, pace doesn't matter. You can't get lost, you can't get left behind. You're running in circles. But off the track, pace matters. You have to have a reasonable chance of keeping up with your fellow runners, and it doesn't feel good to know you're holding everyone back. And if you can't keep up, there is the very real chance that you will be left behind (people will volunteer to slow down, but I would've just said - oh no, I'm fine).
My only regret? I wish the first time someone in that group had asked me to run with them I would've just done it. Because I am loving my runs lately.