Why I Decided to Run (Sometimes)

I have hated running for as long as I can remember. It started in junior high or high school when our gym teacher decided an appropriate way to avoid the mutual torture that comprised our gym classes was to require each student to do an independent series of workouts for about six weeks. Every week we each had to accumulate a certain number of aerobics points after which we were free to return to eating Pringles, drinking cokes, watching Star Trek and I Love Lucy reruns, and the other activities that made up our generally somnolent 1970s lives. I’m pretty sure the book upon which this brilliant exercise in avoiding actually teaching (much less seeing) your gym students was Kenneth Cooper’s The New Aerobics.

I would stagger around Duke’s east campus in the hot North Carolina afternoons, convinced that I must be running at least 3 or 4 miles. It was only much later I found out it was barely two miles door to door. But my aerobics points were much higher when I self reported the greater number of miles, and hence my completion of the task much sooner.

In any event, it was those memories that faced me each time I thought of running as a form of training. But as Elbrus has drawn nearer and nearer, the fear factor ever increasing, and the conflict between the time needed for other types of training and my work responsibilities seemingly sometimes insurmountable, running has occasionally seemed like the best solution. Hence, off I have gone, Pandora radio plugged in, and at a steady 11 1/2 minute per mile pace. And very occasionally I have actually hit that point where your stride feels rhythmic, breathing even, and you feel you can keep going indefinitely. I have to admit that the purchase of real running shoes as opposed to what we wore in the ’70s has also made a difference. I’m certainly not into speed – in fact, the few times my much taller husband has run with me he claims my pace is impervious to topographical features. But in my view you shouldn’t have too much fun running downhill – I figure that it’s the sheer mental endurance that may be the most needed quality for the long slog up Mt. Elbrus.

So, I will now grudgingly sometimes go for a run – and maybe even enjoy it (but not too much!). Nonetheless, I must point out that Jim Fixx, the author of The Complete Book of Running dropped dead of a heart attack at 52. Need I say more.

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