I hate running. If I could just fill the rest of this column with those three words, over and over again, it still would not fully illustrate my complete disdain for running.
In fact, I avoided this vile act for nearly 25 wonderful years of my life — the last time I did it over a long distance (say, more than a lap) was my senior year of high school. And the only reason I did it then was my sadistic football coach who thought competing in a two-miler would keep me in shape and build character.
My high school district meet was an 8 a.m. race in 45-degree temperatures. My legs were cramping on the second lap. My shoe became untied on the fifth lap. I was lapped by the eventual winner on the seventh. When I crossed the finish line, collapsed on the cold, wet grass and laid there until my breath and my reasoning returned to me; I vowed to never purposely run long distances ever again.
Until this year, for some reason. It started harmlessly enough as afternoon walks with co-workers — something that not only got us away from our desks and into some fresh air, but also felt like we were exercising, if only a little. A brisk, 20-minute walk … a little sweat … some good conversation. Nothing wrong with that.
Somehow, running got tossed into the equation. Even more shockingly, I agreed — I blame it on my dying metabolism. The truth is, another thing I hate almost as much as running is sit-ups and push-ups and anything core-related. In fact, let’s just toss any type of exercise into the equation. I hate it all.
This is what makes the last few months for me all the more remarkable.
Thanks to the trusty, never-let-me-down internet, I discovered a “Couch to 5K” — made for adults who can’t jog to the mailbox without stopping for air. You start with a 20-minute workout that involves 60 seconds of jogging, 90 seconds of walking, and repeat for 20 minutes. By Week 6, when the jogging portion starts hitting 12 and 15 minute intervals, and the walking gets shorter. The goal — which comes around Week 9 or 10 — is the 5K (or three miles, for those of you who prefer the American equivalent).
And that’s where I am today.
Last week, on pleasantly cool Tuesday afternoon in late July, I ran my first-ever 5K. The third mile was run in a torrential downpour, but it wasn’t enough to stop me. From start to finish, I ran for about 27 minutes. I suppose that’s terrible. I hated every second of it.
If you thought this column was going to end with a reveal that I’ve converted to a man ready to train for a half marathon (slapping a fat 13.1 sticker on my car), you’re wrong. Running sucks, and nothing you can say will change my mind. When I run, all I can think about is not running. My legs hurt, my side hurts, my lungs hurt. My soul hurts. I’m thirsty, but drinking water while running (which is difficult) just makes the water slosh around in my belly. My breathing sounds like a man drowning, gasping for air. All of it is terrible.
So why am I putting myself through this hell? Sadly, it works.
After three months of it, I’ve lost some weight. I feel like I’m in better shape. I feel a little healthier. I’m in a good state of mind — and all of this is a positive for a 43-year-old man about to head to Texas for a 25-year high school reunion.
I told myself I’d do this until I hit the 5K and then throw away the running shoes forever. But I suppose I’ll stick with it, if only to avoid sit-ups. My second attempt at a 5K two days after the first one was far less successful — I quit about two-thirds of the way through it, because it was hot, my sides hurt and I didn’t have a coach threatening me the whole time.
I still hate running, and I will never (I repeat, never) be a marathon or half-marathon guy. But it beats dying early, I think.
Actually, I’ve got a lot to think about here. I’ll get back to you.
Billy Liggett is a writer and co-founder of The Rant. He’ll gladly accept an invitation to your next 5K as long as the temperature is below 75 degrees, there are no hills and there’s a nice, comfortable mattress waiting for him beyond the finish line.