Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Born to Run? Probably Not

I recently read Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. In it he tells the stories of ultra-runners who race for 50 to100 miles at a time. I was baffled and inspired by the feats of human determination and endurance. Never one to bite off more than I can chew, I am now considering signing up for a 10K race. However, it is dredging up some mixed emotions based on my race history, and so I’m torn. Should I or shouldn’t I?

Perhaps I should explain.

After bearing and nursing three sons, I decided the only way to regain some semblance of health was to take up running (I use the word “running” loosely. The term “jogging” or even “shuffling” would also be accurate).  The “Couch to 5K Running Plan” seemed to be a good starting point. I wasn’t exactly starting “on the couch,” but the last time I had actually run, I was screaming at my run-away toddler as he exited through the automatic doors at Wal-Mart.

Turns out a 5K is actually three miles! Wow. Didn’t know that.

I followed that plan religiously. And after…a really long time…of consistently laying down three miles of tennis shoe rubber on the treadmill, I proudly signed up to run my first 5K.

I finished the race and didn’t die.

With invincibility coursing through my veins and two months to train, I set my sights on the next race. The 10K.

I was so invigorated I bought a new outfit. It was like planning for prom, only instead of a dress, I bought black workout pants with a slimming vertical line down the sides and a matching dry-fit shirt. I completed the ensemble, of course, with new running shoes and accessorized with ear buds. I totally looked like a real runner!!

But apparently my cute new outfit had, infused me with a tiny dose of competition. The truth is, a person of my running caliber has no business competing with anyone but herself. Not only that, my training plan had labeled the “6 mile day” as “race day” so when I arrived at the starting line, I had never in my life run six consecutive miles. So what possessed me to think I was going to “compete,” I’ll never know.

I eyed all the participants and spied an easy target, or at least one I could keep pace with. Surely I can beat the lady pushing the stroller. Sure, she looked super fit, but she was pushing a stroller filled with 25 pounds of toddler!

With my super cool running get-up I looked as if I belonged at the front of the pack. I let Stroller Mama out of my sight for the moment, made my way to the front and toed the starting line.

Bang! The race had begun. With the wind in my face, music in my ears and all those distracting wispy bangs slicked into a pony tail, I settled into a race-pace shuffle. I felt light on my feet. I can do this. And then maybe 400 meters in, Stroller Mama passed me.

No problem. I’ll just keep her in my sights.

By the one mile mark, I’d completely lost her in the distance.

At that point my good sense returned, and I decided to compete against myself. Just finish the race, Shauna.

It was a run-out-and-back kind of course so there was a turn around point. A lot of runners were on their way back towards the start (which was now the finish) while I was still pushing forward. Keep going, Shauna.

Perseverance and determination pushed me forward, albeit at a snail’s pace. At last, I reached the turn-around point. Half done. Gotta do it all again.

My intense focus on oxygenating my muscles was broken when one of the race coordinators drove his pick-up towards me. I was slightly alarmed and a little embarrassed when he hollered, “You’re doin’ great!”

Then he added, “Is there anyone behind you?”

“I don’t think so,” I gasped.

Then he proceeded to retrieve all the race markers behind me and each one in front of me as I passed it. My blistered feet begged me to ask for a ride to the finish, but my pride silenced me.

Miles 4, 5 and 6 were grueling but at last, the finish line was in sight. The time-clock had been taken down and the registration table cleaned up. However, a boy with a stopwatch called out my time as I staggered across the finish line.

To my great astonishment, the whole ordeal lasted just a smidge over an hour. Definitely the top of my game!

But I was last. Dead. Last.

When I reached the award pavilion, the names of the first three finishers in each age group were being announced. I grabbed a bottle of water and took sips between each gasping breath. The bagels and bananas were pretty well picked over since most had already cooled down and eaten their post-race breakfast. In fact, by the time I arrived I’m pretty sure Stroller Mama had already collapsed the stroller, buckled the toddler in his car seat and headed home.

Then I heard my name… sort of. “Shauna Let…Let…Let-tell-lee-yer??”

I wobbled around to face the announcer. He was holding up a “bronze” medal.

Apparently there were only three female participants in my age group.  

Flabbergasted and partially horrified, I forced a smile on my sweaty red face, and willed my shaking legs to take me yet another distance to the front. Still sweating, huffing and puffing, it was clear I had just finished.

I received my medal with feigned dignity, thanking God that no one could differentiate between a face flushed with embarrassment or one reddened by overexertion.

As the crowd disbursed, my embarrassment subsided, and a sense of accomplishment took its place. I finished.

I inwardly giggled as I headed for my car, toting the only medal I have ever won.

Since I can only improve, I’m considering trying again. Anyone with me?


  1. I ran a 5k obstacle course last year and I am pretty sure it took me 50 minutes. But I am planning on doing it again!!

    1. Running AND obstacles!!...I think it would be too much for me :)

  2. Hi Shauna, Great post! You are such a fun writer to read. You are truly gifted. Keep writing and submitting. I see a publishing contract in your future, maybe several!!! But no, I am not offering to run. I tried to "run" yesterday because this 43, almost 44 year old body is getting bigger than I want it to be. I made it about 15 feet. Then I decided I'd just walk!

    1. Thanks, Jane : ) Hey, 15 feet is a start : )