catheroominations

August 2, 2008

I am a tortoise

There once was a speedy hare who bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, Slow and Steady, the tortoise, challenged him to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch.

Hare ran down the road for a while and then and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”

Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, “There is plenty of time to relax.”

Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line.

The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare.

Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. Tortoise was over the line.

After that, Hare always reminded himself, “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”

The word slow is not in the Team In Training vocabulary. No one is a slow runner, they are strong and steady. And let me tell you, I am just about the strongest and steadiest runner on the team of 200. And today, I was a bit discouraged by that. I met some of my teammates for an On Your Own run (OYO), which just means it is not a coach-led run, like last week’s 12-miler. OYO runs are training runs, but are much shorter distances than those led by the coaches. Today it was my turn to “lead” an OYO run, but I did all but that. Seven of us (6 gals and 1 guy) set off together to do 6 to 8 miles today. I had my Garmin set for my new run/walk ratio of 3:2 so I could see if it would help speed me up a bit. Before I could even find out if there was a time benefit to my new ratio, the five other gals sped off. SO FAST. Basically, I was left in their 8-minute mile dust, and was truly doing an On Your Own run, all On My Own. I worried at first, because without someone to keep me company, I tend to take longer walk breaks, slow down, and get bored. But this time I remained loyal to what the Garmin told me to do, and consistently ran for 3 minutes at a time, with 2-minute walk breaks in between.

So I ran alone, with just my thoughts. And I found I am pretty good company. I could focus on my form, breathing, and the scenery with no distractions. Eventually I stopped feeling like a slowpoke and just ran, saying “Good Morning” to people passing from the other direction, walking their dogs, pushing babies in strollers, running, walking with Starbucks cups, or riding their bikes. People you see on trails are so friendly. It’s kind of like a cult or something. They’re out getting some exercise. You’re out getting some exercise. When I greet them, I don’t just mean “Good Morning.” Sometimes I mean “You are as insane as I am for being out here at the crack of dawn, so Hello There, Insane Person!” Sometimes I mean, “Oh my god, you old couple. You are too cute for words, shuffling along and holding hands on your walk. I want to be like you in 40 years.” Other times, “Good Morning” means “Damn, woman. Did running get you that body, because holy hell, I would kill for it.” Or “Hey! Cute boy! Are you single, because my friend Liza is really cute and single!” Today it meant “Look at me, running alone for the first time ever! But I’m doing it! I’m not cheating! I’m not quitting, or turning around after just a mile. I might be slow strong and steady, but I’m DOING IT!”

The speed racers were going 8 miles today, but I knew if I went all 8, they’d have to wait a long time for me to return to the start, so I made my turnaround at 3.5 miles. Eventually I heard them come up behind me, and as TNTers are wont to do, they clapped for me, and one said I was looking “very strong and steady.” And the pessimist in me thought “that means slow. But yeah, I am.” But I turned it around in my head and started feeling strong. And steady. And I continued on. I’ll never win a race, but I get out there, damnit, and I am a runner.

Much to my surprise, while running solo, with this new ratio, I improved my 5K race time from earlier this season, and had my fastest overall pace since the season started in early June. 8-minute mile will never be in my running vocabulary. Fortunately, neither will slow.