I’m working toward running a 10k.
Don’t get me wrong: I like running. Specifically, I like the 47 hours after I’ve done it, when I feel pretty good and also don’t have to do it again yet.
But after a long break from being in running form, my whole body struggles against the levity that is required to yeet myself forward across space and especially up a hill. I’m a bit bottom-heavy, like an orc*, and the physics just aren’t there.
Plus, I had pneumonia for a while earlier this year, and now it’s allergy season, plus there’s a pandemic so I’m trying to wear a mask, which by definition makes it harder to breathe, so—
Okay, okay, I’m coming! Yeah, just have to put on my shoes. No, I’m not lacing them up really slowly, what do you mean?
Ah, fresh air. That is lovely.
The first five minutes are a warmup walk, which is both nice and also sort of exciting in the same way that a movie is exciting when you know a jump scare is coming. For now I feel good, slightly chilly because I intentionally underdressed, and I have more than enough energy for this walking part but I know in a moment it’s going to be time to start cranking.
Oh, look, at that intersection there are quite a lot of people—a cluster of construction workers on a break; a flotilla of strollers; several walkers bearing dogs meandering in different directions.
Start Running, says the voice in my ears with a somehow-menacing friendliness.
I obediently start running, sending the group scattering as though I were a linebacker coming right for their defensive line and they’re also not aware that they are playing football. Sports!*
The first few minutes are great. I’m a runner! I’m really going! Sometimes I do this thing, which I somehow invented during middle-school P.E., where I imagine I’m running in a narrow hallway where the walls are made of cables suspended floor to ceiling. I propel myself forward by pulling myself from cable to cable. That makes me go marginally faster for a bit.
Oh God, a hill is coming up. You’ve got this. Don’t pay attention to the other runners going a lot faster across the street. Grab those cables. Propel yourself forward with your upper body strength. You got this!
Start walking, says the voice in my ear gently. Whew. I love running when it’s walking.
The nice thing about running is the chance to cover more terrain per minute than you would in an ordinary walk. I mean, theoretically this is true, although my running and walking paces are barely distinguishable. Still!
Start running, she sneers in my ear. I pretend I haven’t heard for a guilty, sensual split second, but then I haul into it. At least I’m cresting the hill, and now I’m coming over and down.
Oh, yeah, that’s more like it. Running downhill is running I like. Not to brag, but I’m really fast. I think that earlier interval was just the warmup. Here I go, what a pace.
A slight problem arises, however: I’ve been quarantining largely not at my normal dwelling, so my clothing selection is limited. All this to say, my activewear is beginning to betray me, even as I’m hitting this remarkable pace equivalent to the cycling pace of a large child whose training wheels are due off. My pants are falling down a bit, so I’m having to do a bit of yanking to keep decent, but my underwear are falling…Up? Somehow?
Anyway, this is rather difficult to adjust in public. Plus, I’m barreling down the hill at such a speed that it would be a shame to stop for any reason, up to and including impending nudity.
Start walking, she coos, and I sigh with relief as I duck behind a bush to avoid being arrested.
Soon I’m rounding a corner and she screams to start running, and wouldn’t you know it but I’m on another hill. I hold my head high, keep at a pace that feels reasonably challenging but not backbreaking for me, and pay no attention to the walkers overtaking me.
One more walking interval: she announces it and I hear angels singing. The city is really pretty. So is the sky. This is my favorite time of year. God, these endorphins are a trip.
Finally, it’s the last run. Her tone shakes me to my core as she announces it’s time. But I’m doing okay. I mean, I kind of want to collapse and then call in a rescue to take me to a sofa with snacks, but I’m pretty sure I can make it.
I pay no attention to the ivy outpacing me as it grows up the street.
My muscles are burning. My throat is almost certainly not working. It’s unspeakably hot outside. No one was meant to exert themselves to this degree. It’s unholy. It’s unthinkable.
Begin your cooldown.
Ah, that run felt good.
But tomorrow perhaps a walk and some yoga instead. After all, I’ve always been a bit more Druidic Grove/Mystery Ruin than Fire Temple.
*Side note: there are a lot of facts that have settled somewhere into my brain but are completely unverifiable. One of them is that a lot of the background orcs in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were women, because women typically have more lower-body strength relative to their size, or a lower center of gravity, or something like that which was desirable given how squatty and skulky the orcs are. But after a quick attempt to verify this by Googling (is there, after all, any other way?) I came up empty. Still, let’s pretend it’s 1993 and I’ll just have said it and now it’s a thing you, too, have heard.
*I’m sorry if this sports metaphor made no sense. I’ve been practicing so that I can rise up the corporate ladder, but I’m still rusty.