So yesterday I signed up for my first ever 5k. But...there's a catch. I will be WALKING this 5k, not running it.
The fact that I even feel the need to clarify that for all of you should show you something about my mentality. The truth is, Spark has been a wonderful tool, but it has also brought me to moments of jealousy for all the things I cannot do. I have been so inspired by people who are so far along in their journey I'm suprised they can still see me on the path behind them...WAY far back...behind that tree....around the corner...behind that ugly looking dog. Yeah...back there! So while I signed up and paid for my first "race," I'm having trouble getting past the fact that I cannot yet run a 5k race.
What's the point of 'racing' then, if you can't run?
The point is simple. I cannot run...so I walk. Because of years of damage from weight and just being a woman (raise your hand if you're a chick with bad knees!), and a surgery at the age of about 16 disconnecting my ligament from my patella to the outside leg muscle, and years of osteoarthritis...my knee is, well, pretty shot. I have tried previously to run on it (because I just *love* that feeling of running...I don't know why), but every time I do I feel fine during the "run" but afterwards I find myself on the injured list. Trips me up each and every time. The last time I attempted to jog was probably in May, maybe early June... It felt great! I did little intervals of really, really slow jogging on a walk with my son to my mother-in-law's house. On the way back home, while climbing out of the car (Hubs was already at his mom's so we visited for a while and then he drove us all home) -- POP! -- out went my knee.
I blamed it on a million things. You should hear the garbage that comes out of my mouth when this happens to me! You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but there is still this huge amount of frustration, especially when I've been working SO HARD to build up strength and lose the fat...those extra pounds that every doctor says are my knee's demise. I hit the wall and I almost always lose my momentum. "Why should I try so hard if I'm just going to get hurt? How am I supposed to do this when I try to do this and something like THIS happens?" (I'm whiney when I don't get what I want exactly the way I want it.) Still, one thing that Spark brought me is body awareness. I realized that day that I still cannot safely jog without risking a serious injury. It's too much too soon. I had two choices - risk injury after injury for the thrill of the achievement, or stick to the safe activities that I could continue again and again without hardly any risk. This time, and this time only, I backed off.
So when I think of this race day and I hear myself troll through the list of negative comments about how I'm not a "real" competitor or how silly I'll look with a race bib for a walk... As many times as I tell myself that I still can't even WALK that quickly, I have remember one thing. I walk because I can. And there are people who can't. And I used to be one of those people.
My youngest son is now 8 years old, but when he was bored I was reaching for the stars as far as my weight was concerned. I was topping the scale and avoiding the world. I couldn't move or do much of anything. I got a hernia from getting frisky with the Hubs one night. Even THAT was too much exertion for me! I didn't sleep in the same bed with my husband anymore, I had my own bed. I was depressed (I had *bad* PPD on top of other things) and wanted nothing more than to eat my way into my grave. Life meant absolutely nothing to me. Walking through the grocery store wore me out so much I'd have to sit down several times (the bags of dog food were my favorite comfy spot to sit). I asked my husband to do almost everything for me. I wouldn't get off my butt to cross the room if I didn't have to, because it hurt. I hurt ALL THE TIME.
And while I was much better off in April of this year, I found myself feeling those same pains. I felt myself out of breath and in pain just trying to lap the track once. When I started this journey I couldn't even walk a mile without feeling like my legs were going to fall out from under me. I did it. I pushed through it. It usually took me longer than 30 minutes to do a mile...closer to 35 or so, at least. But I did it one step at a time.
April 18th was just a little over 100 days ago, and in those 100 days I have taught myself to walk a comfortable 20-21 minute mile pace. If I push, I can get a brisk 16-18 minute walk out. The first time I tried to walk 3.1 miles with my kids it took me ...I don't even remember. Well over an hour. I *think* it was an hour and fourty-five minutes. I had to stop at least 4 times. I got bloated and swollen at mile 2. I felt like I was going to pop by mile three and I collapsed on the porch when I finally made it home. My husband was so concerned he asked me not to try it again for a while. That was May 23rd. Now, on August 2nd, the mere idea of walking 3.1 miles on Saturday - I have no doubts that I can do it. In fact my only concern is making good time (I want that "under an hour" victory!). I told my husband and my mother-in-law my plan and neither one of them doubted me.
So what's the moral to this story? That's easy.
On Saturday I will COMPETE in my first ever 5k. I will get a RACE bib and a time chip thingy for my shoe, and I will have every bit of pride in my heart as I would if I were running a marathon. Because for me, this is a major achievement. And not only that, this is a major stepping stone for the future. After this 5k I can look forward to walking a 10k, and then maybe even a half marathon! I can look forward to doing things I could not have done 8 years ago.
I AM an athlete, and Saturday I will compete for the first time ever. An athlete, you say? Well, yes...of course! I have trained in my disciplined. I followed training schedules. I worked on increasing my speed and stamina. I have increased my distance and focused on increasing my speed. I have pushed myself in cross training on off days to ensure I'm building healthy, lean muscle. I have focused on carb loading before long walks and high-protein recoveries. I have concentrated on refueling my body with the right things, with things that will improve my training. In 100 days I went from a girl who couldn't walk a 30 minute mile to a girl who can do 3 miles at an easy 21 minute mile pace. I've learned about the right shoes, about pacing and breathing techniques, about stretching, about warm-ups and cool downs and recovery. Where in there do you see a non-athlete?
So this Saturday, this athlete will compete in her discipline -- WALKING.
I will pin on that bib (and take a picture) and secure my time chip (and take a picture). I will do my stretches (and take a picture), and then I will step up to that starting line and wait for the gun or whistle or bell or whatever tells us to begin. I will set my pace. I will encourage those around me. I will pump my arms and call upon the muscles I can now see in my calves to propel me forward. I will keep my eyes focused on the forward and will listen to my body to ensure I get the most out of it. I will demand the utmost from my training without pushing myself beyond my physical limit. I will keep an eye on my time but remember to pace myself for the finish. I will pass at least one person, and then chuckle as someone else passes me. I will try to get some of the water they give us at our stops into my mouth. And then I will cross the finish line and I will get to know that feeling I read about in a million running and racing blogs...that feeling of accomplishing something. And the fact that I walked instead of running won't matter, because I will have done it. And I will have joined an elite group of athletes who can say that they have.
Don't know about you, but that sounds okay to me.