Well, I'm here to report that it's past the beginning, I'm no longer just starting out, and it's still not better, even with time.
Yes, I think you know what I'm talking about. I officially suck at running. And my dog officially sucks at (or, wait, maybe he is good at it?) pulling. And so together, five mornings out of seven, he pulls like crazy and my calves pound in agony as we attempt to run around the gravel path of Duke's East Campus.
But let me break the two suckinesses down:
Before last year, I had lived with a certain amount of pride in not exercising on a regular basis and eating what I wanted. Although everyone in my immediate family ran, I was pretty sure that I hated running and that I wasn't missing anything.
And then I bought a car and started commuting to the suburbs. And as the year went on, whether it was real or imagined, I felt like crap -- slow and stationary and pent up with hatred of certain privileged teenagers.
So, as soon as the temperature got above 20 degrees -- you know, spring time in Chicago, the second half of May -- I made a running mix for my ipod and started my career as a non-runner. I began with the run a block / walk a block strategy, and I was surprised at how quickly I was able to shift the balance to more running. Sure, I tried to catch the stoplights, and yes, sometimes I just had to stop and walk. But I was on my way, dammit.
And then, by July, I wasn't. In fact, I felt like I was getting worse. How could it feel harder to do the exact same run? Although, as it turns out, I actually did like getting exercise on a regular basis, I never felt that runner's high, and I always always dreaded the run. "All I have to do to win is suffer," I'd tell myself -- a Muhammad Ali line that I learned from my old boxing teacher. But, although I had the suffering part down, there appeared to be no winning in my future.
Fast forward to a new state and a bunch of months later, and I'm still trudging along five out of seven days a week. When I first got Fonzie, I was so distracted by him, that I almost didn't notice the actual running. (True, there was not as much running going on, what with stopping and checking and picking up poop.) But that only lasted a couple of weeks before my focus returned to each insufferable block, insufferable until Fonzie went poop and the run came to a grinding heaven-sent halt.
Although Fonzie gave me a brilliant excuse to stop for a minute, he also gave me hell on the leash. And although I thought everything would be better when I got that genius, head collar, gentle leader, muzzle-looking thing, it hasn't stopped the pulling. Fonzie stills dashes from one side of the sidewalk to the other as if peeing on that particular bush was a matter of life and death. He still lags behind and occasionally goes on strike and stops moving all together. At other times, he is out in front pulling, wondering why the hell I'm so slow and why the hell he has this annoying thing on his snout.
Most days, between my lame stamina and his impressive stubbornness, our runs are a mess. He is always almost tripping me (and, yes, I have heard the horror stories involving broken legs and messed up pelvises from running with dogs), and yesterday, I think I actually tripped him. Either that or I kicked his leg. The poor dog let out a yelp and then actually started limping. He started limping! We pulled over to the side, and a man who had been walking behind us was kind enough to ask if the dog was okay. "Oh yeah, he's fine," I said, worrying that I had, in fact, broken some bone in Fonzie's body.
Yesterday was so all-around bad, that I deemed it "the worst run ever." And I'm sure it will be until the next worst run ever. Luckily it didn't happen today, as my calves trumped the pulling as the real unenthusiastic losers.
As much as I know that the perfect storm of a terrible run is and always will be out there, the fact remains that I do like being able to exercise outside and with Fonzie. I can't see myself ever joining a gym, especially in a state where it won't ever really be too cold to run outside (I'll get back to you about the heat next summer).
I guess for now I have a standing date with myself and six uncooperative legs each morning. So bring on the stoplights, crank up the "Footloose," and god bless the poop that interrupts my run.