Some days I counted my steps as I ran.
Some days my head was down as I assured myself I could make it another block.
Some days the heat caused the black top to shimmer just ahead of my steps.
Some days the cold air sliced like a knife into my lungs
Some days I felt a breeze caressing my body and I wanted to jog more than my self-allotted 6 miles.
Some days I lost my footing on the icy streets, slipping, stumbling, and struggling to stay upright.
I was addicted: to the roads, to the endorphin-induced highs that owned me, to the pleasure and pain of pushing my body to extremes.
My jogging started just after my 40th birthday as I recovered from what I judged to be a deadly bout of pneumonia.
“My god, I’m old and in terrible shape,” I lamented to the sickly image in the bathroom mirror. I had to change something if I was to attain my boastful proclamations of living to be 105.
I laced up my 8-year-old Keds, stepped outside on a sunny afternoon, and took my first awkward steps of jogging. I made it from the corner of my driveway to the near corner of the next-door neighbor’s drive, a liberally measured distance of 16 feet.
I collapsed on the concrete curb, praying I could crawl home and live another day. Reality slapped me in the face and shouted in my ear, “Lady, your shape is worse than terrible, it’s non-existent.”
Thus, began my obsession.
The next day I gritted my teeth, took a breath, and ran to the far end of the neighbor’s drive. Daily I made progress, running from one house to the next, adding a few more steps each outing.
It wasn’t a pretty sight, or let me rephrase, I wasn’t a picture of grace and beauty, but I was adding distance daily.
A friend took notice of my feeble, but well-intended efforts and asked to join me. I relented with a forced promise there would be no laughing at my progress. Soon we were running at the nearby high school track. Once around the 1/4 mile path was a major accomplishment, and when we could go around twice it was celebration time. We jumped in the car and high-fived our way to the yogurt store exactly ½ mile away.
“Hummm. We are running in circles the same distance we are driving to gobble down a cone-filled reward,” we noted. ‘Why not run one way and walk back? Or, maybe after resting our weary bodies over a fat-inducing sugar delicacy we could run and walk back.”
And how far could our legs carry us if motivated by double dips? Visions of cream-filled cones standing like fence posts along our various routes served to push us forward.
Another friend heard about the yogurt incentive and joined us as we gradually reached a full mile without stopping, then 2 miles, and miracle of miracles 3 miles.
About this time we learned of a race for runners scheduled a few weeks ahead, and my running partners, both being 10 years my junior, thought we should enter. Doubtful, but prodded by pride, I refused to admit to these youngsters 5 miles on one day was pushing the age envelope. After all, I was approaching the ‘over the hill’ mark and it had taken gallons of yogurt and several months of road work to master 3 miles.
The embarrassing race results and my running experiences will follow in Part 2 (and maybe Part 3) of this story.. Stayed tuned.