T he third time Mel huffed “I hate this,” I chuckled and replied:
“It doesn’t matter. Because you’re going to finish this run anyway.”
We were about two-thirds of the way into the Mud Hen 5K around Longmont’s Lake MacIntosh. For Mel, this was her April 5K — she’s pledged to run one in every month of 2012 to keep herself running consistently throughout the year.
It was my second 5K ever. My first was Mel’s February 5K, the Frozen Foot at the University of Colorado.
I’m an on-and-off runner, and those are the only two times I’ve run since Christmas. For Mel’s 5Ks, I showed up determined to make it fun, because I had the sense that these runs were weighing on her.
However, this means I’m running her race off the couch, and I’m joking along the way to cheer her up, doing stupid things like singing and acting out “be banana, be, be, banana!” And then, when she was hurting at the end of her April 5K, I informed her that her feelings didn’t matter.
Running with me — in a tutu, singing — should be one of Dante’s levels of hell.
When you have a goal, it’s not always going to be fun along the way. That’s OK, and it’s why I told Mel it didn’t matter that she was hating it — she has a goal to achieve.
But I was worried. Would she be OK for her remaining eight 5Ks?
Then I remembered that I used to hate running, too.
Before, I ran with an I-hate-running narrative playing in my head. The fact that it always hurt, fed the narrative. And I had conditions: I don’t run when it’s hot, I don’t run on pavement, I only run to get in cardio when I’m not climbing.
Whine, whine, only this, never that and never, ever fun.
But one day early in the winter, I had a breakthrough run. It was a cool day, and I felt good and just ran.
The switch flipped from “I hate running” to “WOOHOO FUN.”
I only stopped running over the winter because I got so into skate skiing. When spring sprung, I started riding my bike a lot. Fortunately, those sports kept me fit enough to punch out a 5K with my friend once in a while, which is nice, but what was I learning from the experience?
That I’m a bad banana.
After Mel’s April 5K, I realized I can’t flip her switch to “WOOHOO,” but she can and will herself. Plus, I was bringing too much goof and not respecting that crucial balance in which joy and growth both occur, the balance between fun and effort toward a goal.
Also, I should make a running goal — even a small one. My folks are coming to Boulder at the end of the month to run the Bolder Boulder. I’ve never run it — or any other 10K. I decided to do it.
Meanwhile, as Mel headed off this weekend for her first half marathon — another 2012 goal of hers — I brought up her two self-imposed rules for new adventures, which are:
Have fun and don’t die.
Mel called me a wise banana and still, somehow, failed to call me a jerk.
With my goal in mind, I headed out for a run on the Mesa Trail in the heat of the day. It was not fun. I hurt. A narrative crept into my head: You’re not a runner.
It doesn’t matter.
On Sunday, Mel finished her half marathon. She reported afterward that she had fun and didn’t die.
I was delighted and did the banana dance.