Strapping on my Running Shoes and Going

I have wrestled with weight my entire life.  Enough said.  This year, my husband is taking the Boy Scout troop for which he is the Scoutmaster on a fifty mile hike on the Appalachian Trail.  I’m not big on bumper stickers, but for some reason, I am crazy-obsessed with getting an AT sticker for my car.  But to do this, I want to feel like I can earn it.  I want to do the entire AT before I die; however, I know that, at this point, I don’t have the time, money, or ability to do the entire thing non-stop.

But, hiking fifty miles with the Boy Scout troop this summer, I think that would qualify me earning an AT sticker.

But, there’s that whole weight thing.  Now, I can hear you all doing that stupid, “Oh, you’re not fat.”

Seriously?  I know you’re trying to be nice and reassuring, but let’s not dismiss reality, biology, science, or logic.  And when did the word fat become such a bad word?  True, it doesn’t exactly have the nicest sounds associated with it.  But, in the end, it’s the truth.  I’m fat.  I’m not denying it, hiding it, or covering it up.  All right.  I am covering it up, with a t-shirt and shorts because I’m not about to go around and make everyone look at my “cheesecake.”

To go on the fifty mile hike, I have to drop weight so that I will be able to comply with Boy Scout standards of a 10% BMI.  I don’t know that I’ll be there by August; Pat knows this.  He also sees that I have completely changed my eating habits and exercise patterns.  And the fat has steadily been disappearing, for which I am grateful and proud.

Just before I got pregnant with the Girl 12 years ago, I was running 6 miles a day and loving it.  Then, pregnancy happened and I stopped running because I was exhausted.  And the maternity weight came on and I dropped some of it and then I put on the weight I lost and dropped some of it and put it back on and that weight decided to invite some friends.

I tried running but developed tendonitis and bursitis in my left foot which was so painful that running became impossible because I would barely run a tenth of a mile and then I couldn’t walk for days.  Even limping was painful.  Good-bye running.

Since January, the weight has been going away.  Good bye fat and all of its friends.  And my left tendon stopped hurting.  Woot.

About two weeks ago, I decided to try a little experiment.  I wanted to see if I could run a mile and be able to walk when it was done.

I did it.  I ran my mile.  And then I walked for a while before switching to an elliptical.  And that day, I walked around my house tentatively and realized that I had no pain.  So, a couple days later, I tried to go for a mile and a quarter.  More success.

Over the last couple of weeks, I set myself goals that I think I can accomplish and I have blown them out of the water.  Mile and a half?  Try two miles.  Two and a quarter miles?  Try three.  The last time I ran on the treadmill this week, I wanted to go four and a quarter miles.  I stopped at five.

Today, I decided that instead of going on a treadmill, I would do something completely different.  I would run on the road.  Across the street from my teeny neighborhood is a rather large neighborhood. I have charted out what I call the “Big Circle” which is somewhere between three and four miles.  I’m really not certain….I’ve charted it out with my car, Google Maps, and some running app…everything is a bit different.

As I was pulling on my running shoes, my husband asked me where I was going.


“At the gym?”

“No, around the Big-Circle.”

“What about your heel?”

“I don’t know.  But I’m going to try.  I need to start running hills and acclimating myself to the heat.”

“If it hurts, you need to stop.”

“I know.”

First, you need to realize that this was a lovely conversation because, what you can’t see is that Pat is showing me huge amounts of love.  He’s not the cuddly guy…remember, the post about how he is as romantic as a rotten snake corpse?  He shows his love in ways that most people would find unromantic.  But I know him better.  I’ve known him for twenty-one years and this is a romantic conversation that warmed the “cockles of my heart.”  And I have no idea what the hell cockles are.  But they are very warm right now…unless that’s gas.  It might be gas….nah…it’s warm cockles.

I grabbed my iPod and a water bottle and started.  Recently, I have loved the song “Funeral for my future children.” (Link to the song/video done by NPR is available if you hover over the song’s title) Yeah, sounds depressing.  Don’t care.  The music is lovely.

Anyhow, today, the sky was a bit grey with low lying clouds that have no shape or definition, just layers upon layers of condensed, cotton-candy water suspended over my world.  As the simple drum beats collided with the complexity of the organ, my feet ran in perfect harmony to the song and my breathing spun into a counterpoint to the pounding of my shoes upon the pavement.

The first third of the mile was gone as I burst from my neighborhood and onto the main road that separated my neighborhood from the one across the street.  Everything was quiet as I was out and running before nine in the morning and the only people who were out were either on their nomadic quests for good yard sales or were getting ready to do yard work.

I started the first bit of the Big-Circle and songs just kept spilling out of my earbuds and into my brain.  I lost track of my steps and stopped thinking about any possible aches, pains, or discomforts.  It was me, the road, the feel of my feet hitting the pavement, and the music that was pushing me forward with no thought to anything but the glorious feel of a light breeze on my face.

Eventually, after a good mile and a half, I hit the first major hill.  It’s not high.  It’s not that big of a hill. But it’s steep and what my father would call a butt-kicker.  And I adjusted my steps and chose a mailbox for a goal to run to and tapped it and kept on running.

God must have been choosing songs for me because songs that I love but weren’t expecting burst out of my earbuds and flooded my brain.  U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” pulled me out of the suburb road on which I was running and put me four thousand miles and twenty five years away and I was on my bike in Germany, riding down a hill that took me across a little bridge that had a memorial brick in it for Kaya and then past a pub which was next to a horse stable.  I wasn’t a forty-three year old woman in the states; I was eighteen and living in the shadow of the highest mountain in Germany.

“One” played out and I was twenty-two and singing with a young man who threw his head back and arched his back as he sang out his pain.

Mumford and Sons reminded me of the value of Timshel of how I may choose…of how I may choose…of how I may choose.

And I have chosen.  I chose to run longer than my original goal.  And I felt no pain in my heel or my tendon but my hamstrings ache a little and my legs are a bit stiff and I’m fabulously hungry.  But I chose to run in a suburb to see if I could handle (on a minor level) the hills of the Appalachian Trail.  Yes, I know there’s a huge difference between a relatively flat suburb and an barely paved path in the mountains.  I’m not stupid.

But I’m choosing to change.  I’m choosing to free myself of all the stupidities of my youth and the neuroses of my adulthood and will choose to move forward.  In my running shoes with music blasting in my ears.  In my hiking boots with bird song pulling me down a dirt path.  In my ugly-Dansko shoes that enable me to teach for eight hours and listen to the songs of my students’ laughter coupled with their literary analysis.

Come with me, if you choose.  The paths are open.  The roads are long.  But don’t hold me back.  Because I might choose to kick you if you do.

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