Saturday morning, 7am – my alarm goes off and reminds me that I need to wake up and run 10 miles. It’s 23 degrees outside and the ground is dusted with that beautiful early winter snow. My bed is warm – so very, very warm – and I’m tempted to bail. I know that to do so would mean later retribution from the queen of guilt, a lovely Catholic trait we share, and zero sense of accomplishment, so I leap out of bed and into my cold weather gear. Egg, toast, a little coffee, layers, sunscreen, keys – out the door.
Thankfully, today it’s not all that windy and the sun is glowing just behind a light curtain of clouds. It’s actually beautiful up on the Sante Fe trail and I’m excited to tackle 10 miles again. We gear up, secure layers, and walk just to the first downhill to start. 10 miles. I can do this. Slowly.
It’s hard to believe some days that I’ve become this dedicated runner. When I started running last Spring, I hated it. I felt good about myself, I dropped a few pounds and probably added years to my life because of the stress release, but I hated pretty much every mile. I was going it largely alone, and I always felt unaccomplished.
I really was ready to drop the whole idea until Christina moved back from Tennessee and foiled my plans. We ran the Garden of the Gods 5k in May and I caught the bug – that little accomplishment fueled the next few weeks of workouts.
Then there was Summer. I hated Summer – it was hot and I am apparently not built for heat. After each Wednesday Run Club 5k loop I wanted to quit. I hurt, I was sick, and it never got any better. Somehow, I kept going. And under other Christina coercion, I started running longer distances. Wait, 5 miles? 7? A 10K race?
My “running breakthrough” came in that 10K race at Venetucci Farm. Running cross country through a working farm in the cool morning was amazing. I crushed my goals, I felt accomplished. I was in for at least another few weeks. Even my painful trudge through Denver’s City Park last weekend left me feeling like I was growing and gaining strength. So Christina won – she’s molded me into a suitable running partner, though I’m aware there’s a lot more work to do.
The last time we attempted 10 miles I was apparently not really doing much breathing. I have asthma, which is usually not an issue, but I’d been so stressed out at school that I didn’t even notice I wasn’t really breathing. There were miles of wogging and more walking than I ever wanted to do. I’m a little terrified each time I run that it’ll be like that again – that I’ll burn out a mile in because there’s not enough oxygen in the air at 6500 feet to feed my lungs, let alone my brain and muscles. I keep running, though.
There’s something about running with Christina that makes the bad runs feel a little less horrible and the good ones feel like a real victory. Maybe it’s that she and I just work that way – a 25 year relationship has to matter in the equation. It definitely helped when she admitted that she hates the first two miles every time, that she wants to puke when she’s done at a race, that it took her months to find her pace. I have to remember that I’m still pretty new at this, and that I am in competition with no one.
Today, 10 miles felt amazing. I’d like to do them about 15 minutes faster, but 10 miles on Sante Fe is no joke, and I feel like a fucking champion when we creep up the final hill. Then she drops the bomb – “so 14 on Sunday?”
Yes Christina, 14 on Sunday. Call me your companion in zombie turtle paced masochism. I hope it snows again.