My lungs screamed for oxygen. The sound of blood pounding in my ears was deafening. I stopped running, and breathing heavily, I looked down at the hill I had just run up. Disappointment flooded through me. The road that I had bravely scaled now looked no more than a speed hump. Just then, two sporty looking women out jogging with their dogs ran effortlessly up that same hill then past me, casually chatting to each other. I watched them go past, struggling to regain control of my breathing, and with my legs shaking like jelly.
I am not a runner.
In fact I have never been a runner. I stare enviously at those people with angular running physiques, you know the ones – they are tall and skinny and have legs that seem to go on forever. I don’t have a build like that, and after becoming a parent to twins, my child bearing hips somehow got even bigger.
In my lifetime so far, I’ve had a few attempts at running. I’ve even done a couple of half marathons and a handful of fun runs. But despite hours of pounding on treadmills and out on footpaths, I’ve never really gotten past a slow jog.
I know all about fartlek, interval training, long runs to increase your stamina Arthur Lydiard style. I’ve had runners knee, orthotics, polar heart rate monitors, and a Nike GPS watch. I’ve tried running with friends, running with dogs, running with kids on scooters. But mostly I run by myself.
I have some strange genetic blood condition which means that my red blood cells don’t really do their job to whiz oxygen round my body. Not a biggie on any normal day, but during exercise I get puffed quickly, so endurance isn’t ever a word I’ve ever become familiar with.
My Dad was the runner in our family. He has a runner’s build – that lean, muscular look that long distance runners have. He ran an impressive list of marathons when I was a kid, and he even completed a mammoth 50km race. He has always encouraged my feeble running attempts, asking after my progress, comparing notes about routes or shoes or techniques (if you could even call them that). My running goes in phases – I’m a fair weather runner so the slightest hint of a cloud in the sky can put me off (I am not heavily committed as you can tell). Wintertime mileage is close to zero, summertime slightly above.
But you know what? After all these years I have figured out that you don’t need to be super skinny and muscular to go for a run. You don’t need to be kitted out head to toe in lululemon and Nike. You don’t even need to be fit. All you need is some shoes, some determination and some time. I can guarantee you will feel better afterwards – I’m never sorry that I went, when I do actually go. The endorphins kick in, I feel semi virtuous about eating chocolate, and your legs have that lovely achy tired feeling after exercising.
I am not a runner, but I do run.