It’s official, Chronic readers.
I’ve crossed over the other side.
I’ve joined the Cult of Runners.
Allow me to present Exhibit A:
I’ve wanted to purchase a pair of real running shoes for a while, since like, January. Chronic life got in the way there for a while, so I kept putting it off. I was waiting to feel better. But, as we’ve all learned one way or another, if you wait to feel better before you do something, you are going to be waiting a long time my friend.
After reading 99 books and 9,000 web articles about running and running shoes, I decided to go to City Sports, as it is the official shoe store of the Boston Marathon. I figured you should go big or go home, right?
My research already led me to the conclusion that my feet are flat (SO. FLAT. Like, Great Plains flat. Like, you could put a level on my foot and the little floaty thing would land dead center.) and I overpronate, which means that my flat, flat feet tend to roll inwards on account of them being arch-deprived. I feel like I gained brownie points with friendly neighborhood sales associate Doug for using the correct terms.
SPEAKING OF friendly neighborhood sales associates, I don’t know if this happens everywhere (it probably does), but the people who work at City Sports are serious athletes. Their muscles practically ripple out of their work t-shirts, which all happen to be one size to small, just in case you were wondering what their pectoral muscles look like. If they work on commission, I can only imagine that they are set for life, because it is impossible to say no to them, whether because you think that if you buy shoes, a hat, and some gum, maybe they might invite you to join the store’s running club (since you have the gear now!) or because they are just walking Fit-spiration. Just so you know, beforehand. Be prepared.
Anyway, I went to a “real” running store because it’s important to get the right pair of shoes. My only requirements for this (major) purchase were that 1) they fit correctly, 2) that they cost under $120 (running shoes are pricey), and 3) that within those aforementioned parameters, I get the loudest, brightest, most ostentatious pair they had.
Because, why not?
I mean, if I am going through all the trouble of becoming a runner, why on earth would I want to blend in?
My shoes definitely fit the bill. Comfy, stabilizing, affordable (plus I had a coupon!), and if you can’t see them from space, at least you can see them coming from down the block.
Something funny happened once I put them on, though…
I can’t stop talking about running.
I don’t know if you know someone in real life who runs, but chances are, they love to chat about it. Even if they are not a chatty person, they will talk about running. It’s a weird phenomenon whose intensity level is second only to people who are into CrossFit (It’s high on my social anxiety nightmare list to get trapped in an elevator with someone who has just come from the “box.”).
Background: Prior to October 2014, I hated running. Scratch that, because when I started running, I still really kind of hated it. So, like February 2015-ish? Yeah, when I could get to 2 miles in under 35 minutes without initiating cardiac arrest, I started to think it was kind of ok.
ANYWAY back to the story.
Like most people who had gym class in elementary/middle school, I have a whole host of bad running memories and experiences. Add in to that the fact that I have a chronic medical condition that seriously affects my heart rate, blood pressure, and ability to regulate, well, everything, and you can bet that I was the kid who was hiding in the bathroom when it was time to run the dreaded mile in gym class.
Do they still have the Presidential Fitness Award? I will have to ask someone if this is still a thing.
Hey, Someone, is this still a thing?
Every year, gym class would culminate with the running of the Great Mile, the main piece of the Presidential Fitness program/plan/award/thing. For my school, that meant running 6 laps around the field. For me, that meant running 3-ish, and then getting really creative about how to get out of the rest of them.
There was a huge stadium light fixture at one end of the field, and with the gym teacher across the field, it was a perfect hiding place. I was skinny and it was probably 2 of me width-wise across, so I would run ½ a lap with a pack of people, and then stop at the light, willing myself to be invisible. When the pack of people came around again, I’d join up with them. Sure, I was on Lap 4! I just forgot to yell out my last name and lap number when I came around the previous time!
My other scheme was to tie my shoelaces too tight. This would cause my feet to turn bright red, and so, around lap 2 or 3, I’d have to go to the nurse because “my feet were swelling” and it could be the sign of a serious problem.
Eventually, the course was switched to running 3 laps around the whole school building. This was even better for me. Because the gym teacher could only be in one place at a time, she enlisted Moms to help out.
Let me tell you, Moms love me.
So I would stop and have a chat with Mrs. So-and-So, usually about how archaic and inhumane it was to make children run, and what-do-you-know we talked so long class was over!
If you were out sick, or didn’t finish in the 30-minute class period, or missed it for some other reason, you were supposed to go before school started for a “make-up” mile.
I’m going to let you guess whether or not I ever told my mom that I was supposed to report for running duty at 6:30 am, 5th through 7th grades. Strangely, I somehow managed to pass gym anyway. In 8th grade, I debuted my shiny new doctor’s note (“Please excuse Nicole from all physical activity. Also, she should be allowed to drink Gatorade and eat pretzels and take frequent bathroom breaks.”) and it didn’t matter any more.
High school gym class was much more tame, and we only ran one or two laps around the tiny auditorium. Then, one day, we had a sub, one of the coaches for a sports team, who made us run a mile. She also happened to teach us how to take our heart rates before and after. Afterwards, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I had counted my heart rate to be over 200, long after we finished. I didn’t have a POTSie diagnosis then, and had no idea what this meant. When I told the coach, she told me I must have counted wrong.
Yeah, so there was that.
In general, I used to think that I didn’t like running because running was awful. Period. It just was, everyone thought so, and if you didn’t, then what kind of weirdo were you? I’m quite sure I have mean-girled quite a number of runners, before I saw the light and converted.
So, you know, sorry about that.
Now that I know that my heart rate can indeed reach the 200s and that this is NOT A GOOD THING, and I’ve read my books and done my research and figured out how to be a kind-of active POTSie person, I have chosen to willingly run.
I can see my 12-year-old self sticking out her tongue in disgust at me.
Whatever, 12-year-old self. Seriously. Gosh.
To come around full circle, after I put on my magical new running shoes, the transformation was complete. All of my previous running experience melted away into the great depths of The Past.
I’m not just a person who runs, not any more. Nope, now I am, officially, a runner.
And I would just love to tell you about it…