I finished my first marathon. *cough, cough- a virtual marathon that I had an entire month to complete- cough cough* For as long as I can remember I’ve hated running. It hurts. It’s dumb. I’m slow, and a lifetime of competitive martial arts makes me associate it with dropping weight for tournaments, hangry and anxious. When I was growing up, I had the annual opportunity to watch the fittest humans on the planet pushing beyond limits of capability in oh so glorious glistening sweat, 8-pack abs, and legs as chiseled as Mt. Rushmore when I volunteered to hand out water and vaseline at the official Ironman competition in Kailua Kona, Hawaii.
Did it inspire me? No. But it did make me wonder why anyone would do something so miserable that it requires them to grab handfuls of vaseline to aggressively rub in their armpits and crotch while panting and sweating in front of elementary school volunteers in 85-degree weather. Crazies.
Even in 2020 as gyms closed and people got into running, I refused it. Covid life is hard enough- why make it worse by running? I preferred roller skates with headphones, bike rides with snacks, and hikes with comfy boots and more snacks. But then winter came. I was going home to the islands from Boston, and my entire family had signed up for the Honolulu Virtual Marathon. Crazies.
I grew up in a family of runners. They ran in clubs, they ran in races, they ran for fun. They signed me up for a few runs as a kid which I only attended for the free sugar drinks and energy bars at the end. Even that was ruined by the lean adult bodies conversing with runner’s high enthusiasm as they towered over my child-sized body. That height difference by the way, is the perfect one to truly embrace the runner’s spirit if you know what I mean (that’s a reference to stinky armpits). Once I was old enough to speak up, it became clear that no matter what my family did or said I would not join in the joy of the jog.
But then, this marathon. The Honolulu Marathon. While this was an obvious ’no thanks’ for me, my Covid approximately 19-pound weight gain (for the record about 10 pounds of that was the weight of the world) urged me to consider it for the oh so noble cause of vanity. Screw watching Ironman, if you wanna be inspired to push beyond your physical limits, just take a photo of your new gut and thigh dimples in bad lighting.
“Fine, I’ll do it”.
On December 1st, I ran one mile. It took me over 12 minutes, yes, I said ran. I found the only satisfaction of running was in the overcoming of misery. Every mile I ran, I felt a little tougher, a little more resilient, and yes-still miserable because running hurts my body and my soul.
But I kept running.
Two weeks in I was down to an average time of 11:40/mile and was able to do 20–30 minute sessions. But my feet hurt. My legs were too tight to do the splits (for reference I’m an ex-contortionist so splits are normally as easy as a hair flick). I didn’t notice much change in my quaran-tummy or dimply thighs, and most days I felt like a slow fat fart bag or crazy lady in the middle of an empty street and existential crisis. To top it all off my shoes smelled like a monkey’s butt and left a permanent stink on my feet that permeated not just my socks, but the very essence of my being. I had become one of those gross stinky runners from my childhood without the perks of runners high, a lean body, or the free cookies you get after races.
But, I kept running.
On December 31, I had run a cumulative 29 miles. That’s 29 more miles than I’ve run in at least the last 5 years and 3 more than I needed to. I was finally done.
But then on January 2nd, I ran again. I ran a few times a week. Had I lost the weight? Not even close. Was I getting a runner’s high? Meh. Did I like running now? Maybe.
I can’t say I love running, but I can say that today, January 22nd I couldn’t wait to get up from my work, lace up my shoes and go for a run despite the cold wet weather.
I put in my headphones, start my run tracker, and I say the same words that got me through each run in December: “all you have to do is go. No matter how slow, no matter how stupid you look, just go”.
I ran a mile at 10:23, then another at 8:56, and the only thing that stopped me from doing a third (no matter how slow) was knowing the way to win the race is slow, steady, and smooth.
My entire life, I’ve pushed hard. I’ve sprinted through obstacles on bushwhacked trails despite the perfectly paved paths nearby. I’ve been a full-time solo-performing artist, toured over 20 countries alone with a one-woman-comedy circus show, I’ve been a student at a Chinese circus school, I’ve tackled PTSD head-on, and most recently I’ve been an entrepreneur who demands and facilitates social change through her work with sexual assault survivors. I’ve always had some part of me trying to prove I was fast enough, strong enough, creative enough, smart enough. Good enough.
But when I run, showing up is enough.
My feet hitting pavement is enough.
I can finally let myself go slow.
So, I keep running.