When I was a kid, running, even barefoot, was about as natural as breathing. Then I got hit hard with seasonal allergies, and some of my running was curtailed. I took it back up again as a young bride when I taught P.E. at a private Christian school. However, there were times when the allergies literally did me in to the point that I had to teach P.E. from my Mustang, occasionally rolling down the window to wheeze out coaching commands to my students, and then rolling it back up. I replaced running with dancing as an expression of worship, and ultimately running became something that I didn’t know I was missing.
Fast forward to 2016. For reasons I can’t exactly explain, last winter I pretty much parked my keester on the couch, and other than the rigors of delivering Athens Now, I became a semi-permanent fixture there. I quickly put on “the freshman fifteen,” except I was no longer a freshman in anyone’s book. I found that I was caught in that Catch-22 of exercise and wellness: you need to move to have energy, but you are too tired to move. Then, my faithful Clean and Green columnist, Lynne Hart, who was recently honored for her volunteer efforts at the Tourism breakfast, submitted an article for her usual column in the paper, and it had to do with the national movement called “Couch to 5K.” Her sidekick, Leigh Patterson, who is married to Eric Patterson, himself a trained running coach, were starting another round of the training in anticipation of the annual Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful fund raising 5K race known as the “Duck and Run.” Couch to 5K was held at the Athens Parks and Rec Center three times a week, and it began in the early part of the summer.
I had made a list of goals during my season of being ensconced on the couch, and one of them was to train for and complete a 5K. Had I lost my ever-lovin’ mind? I am 62 years old! Who did I think I was? I began walking the 3.3 miles at the urging of my digital nag, the Fitbit, on a regular basis, and then I set out to begin my training. Leigh had told me that one of the best parts of the training was the community that emerged from “sweatin’ as an oldie,” and as someone who has been profiled by one psych testing group as a “Tribe Member,” I was ready to rock and roll.
Early in our training, I mashed the daylights out of my toe. I think it’s a fair guess to say that I probably fractured it a bit, given how swollen, ugly and purple it was, and it looked like my nascent senior-citizen running career had been given the kibosh. Though I would stop by to say “Hi” to my fellow “Couchers,” I was put in the position of training on my own.
Enter an invention for which I have developed a keen affection: the rebounder. Someone in our family had picked one up for a song at a yard sale, and I dragged it out into the living room. I did most of my scheduled runs on it, and that circle of aluminum, springs and nylon mesh kept my dreams alive. The date for the run was inching closer, but the question was, “Would my toe and I be ready?” I decided to do a practice run in anticipation of what Coach Eric calls our “celebratory run,” and with literal fear in my heart, I signed up for and completed the 9/11 Heroes’ Run held at the Vets’ Museum on September 10th. I did so with 300 of my “closest friends,” and I did it in 45:59. I was feeling pretty fancy until an award was given to an 80 year old man who did it in 40 minutes flat! But the point is, the log jam of limiting beliefs got broken, and that was worth the price of a mashed toe, as well as weeks of running solo. I can check “5K” off my list now, and I have a sneaky suspicion that I might just become a 5K fool…we shall see. All I know is that I want to express my thanks to Eric and Leigh as they cheered me on my way. My goal is to beat my time on Saturday the 17th, and my great hope is that I will be able to pay the whole thing forward real soon.