Recognizing that I’m a lost cause when it comes to running 5K’s, my wife has shifted her focus to our 4-year old daughter.
Her dream of having a family that bonds together through running died on the day we got married, because unless there’s a basketball in front of me or something with fangs behind me, I just can’t find the motivation.
Regardless of the health benefits, I find it extraordinarily boring and equally pointless to run around in circles until you’ve rendered yourself immobile with lung cramps.
It’s not that I haven’t tried to get into the spirit of it all. When Heather and I were first together, I thought I could further galvanize our relationship by joining her for a few laps around the block. I had witnessed other couples doing this together, being all romantic as they ran side by side, and I thought it’d be nice to do that with her and then return home for a sezzy-time shower to cool off.
Instead, it almost killed our relationship.
The problem with using sex as a motivator to run is that the desire to snuggle vanishes when you feel like your chest cavity is on the brink of implosion. The last thing I wanted following my collapse was more exertion and I could barely even muster the strength to wave her off.
Our run started out great. We ran alongside each other, shared some light conversation, and I was able to keep pace. But as our run progressed, I saw Heather’s ugly side. By the time we turned off our driveway and onto the sidewalk, she became a tyrant in Reeboks. Doting and caring just minutes earlier, this beautiful girlfriend of mine had suddenly transformed into a berating drill sergeant hellbent on running me until I was wheezing like an asthmatic in a cigar bar.
It wasn’t long before she was several hundred feet ahead of me. She stopped, turned, and briskly jogged in place while telling my “sorry ass” to “catch up.” I’m not sure if many of you know this, but it’s really hard to run fast when you have to clutch your sides to keep your innards where they belong. She either didn’t know this or simply didn’t care because she commanded me to “run through the pain.” Which I did, deviating only occasionally to make sure I wasn’t being trailed by my intestines.
At one point in our run, one of my legs just stopped working. I’m not sure if it went on strike or if it had simply exceeded its exercise threshold, but it went limp. While my right leg still had that galloping spring, my left was forced to drag a foot behind it. What this left me with was an awkwardly bouncy Igor-like runner’s gait to go along with my side-clutching survival technique.
Spectators of our failed attempt at bonding wouldn’t have seen a loving couple running together on a beautiful spring day. What they would have seen was a spastic grunting freak shuffle-chasing a lovely young woman who was cursing as she ran away from him.
Had the recent apocalyptic Miami zombie experience been fresh on people’s minds back then, I’m certain I would have been shot based on how it must have looked. Quite honestly, I could have used the rest. At least until Heather leaned over my seized body demanding that I get up and run my “sorry ass” to the gurney.
In the interest of preserving our relationship, that was our first and last run together. She did coerce me into doing a 5K Run/Walk 12+ years later, but our marriage was strong enough by then to handle the strain. As I explained it, the “Run/Walk” portion meant that one person had to run and one person had to walk. I volunteered to do the latter and then watched Mickey Blue Eyes on my Blackberry as I slowly meandered my way through the course.
When I was lapped by a pregnant woman and then passed by two mothers pushing strollers tethered to dogs, I knew I was keeping the proper pace. We had paid $25 a piece to be in this thing and I saw no point in getting it over with as soon as possible. I wanted to get my money’s worth.
By the time I crossed the finish line, I had already been long penciled in as the last place finisher out of more than 400 entrants. The only people behind me were the police officers in charge of picking up checkpoint pylons. I rushed to Heather with open arms as though I had just finished pulling my own sled in the Iditarod but she shunned me. Say what you will, but I was the only participant in that 5K who wasn’t dripping in sweat.
Fast forward to last weekend and I was asked to attend Paige’s 5K Butterfly Run in Syracuse, New York to help raise money for pediatric cancer research. Because we had to leave the house at 6am, and because I’m lucky to even know my own name at 6am, I made it quite clear that I wasn’t going to run, jog, or even walk. I would be there purely in the interest of financial and moral support.
Over the past several months, Heather has been helping with the local “Girls on the Run” chapter, which is an organization devoted to building self-confidence, self-esteem, a positive self image, and a healthy lifestyle in girls in Grades 3-5. Twice a week she would be there helping to coach and cheer on the participants with fun games, lesson plans, and spirit sprinkles.
The program was partly designed to train these girls for the upcoming 5K race at Paige’s Butterfly Run. Kamryn had been attending each of the GOTR sessions and was excited to join the 1500-person strong event. Mainly because at her age she just doesn’t know any better.
As I explained to Heather, I don’t need to actually RUN to support the cause. Whether I write a check and blitz across the finish line in first place or write a check and then set up a lawn chair next to a Hibachi grill, it’s of little concern to the organizers. Besides, I can always live vicariously through my children and keep my lungs as I like them. Relatively deflated.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting her to finish the race considering she just turned 4 years old. Even more so because she’s my child. My lazy genes have to be in there somewhere. Fortunately, it seems apparent that my wife’s genes clubbed mine into submission because she did it. In fact, she crossed the finish line in just under 41 minutes. 40:54 to be exact.
Even though she came in 1,398th place out of 1,531 entries, she proudly tells everyone she sees that she “winned” the race. I know it’s poetic and acceptable smarminess to say she’s a winner because she tried, but she really did win the race. At least for her age group. As the youngest entrant by three years, I think her time is quite an achievement. Especially considering she would have smoked me had I not been busy guarding the finish line.
In the end, all of the Girls on the Run participants finished the race, just as they had set out to do together. As each crossed the finish line, those already there were cheering loudly and embracing the incoming GOTR runners. Cheers that got louder and hugs that got more plentiful as the last few girls approached.
The entire scene and the camaraderie they exhibited was quite motivating. Not nearly motivating enough to inspire me to run anywhere, but I could see the gradual change in these girls as they went through the program. And I think the fact that they conquered their own metaphorical version of Mt. Everest will give them lasting and rewarding memories.
At least in Kamryn’s case, she can’t wait for the next 5K. And, to be honest, neither can I. There’s a few movies I wouldn’t mind catching up on.