Coronavirus Days--Week 30

Structure and accountability. These might be mantras, perhaps even my own, lately. I haven't always welcomed structure. Sure, I have a job that prior to the pandemic had set hours for showing up on campus, a fairly typical schedule, but one I designed, one that always welcomed flexibility. During mornings, I might linger for a couple of hours in bed, drinking coffee, reading, pretending I didn't have to be anywhere for awhile.

But with the arrival of the pandemic, I needed a bit more structure. I needed plans. Days felt too endless. Working from home allowed my hours to morph even more than they typically did with teaching. I now only had to be somewhere (aka online) at a predictable time for a couple of hours each week. This meant even more hours unstructured, since I could do my work most any time now, any hour, any day. Time could be frittered, productive, idle, energetic. My kite might flap a bit too much in the wind and catch itself in the wires. I needed some type of plan. In all honesty, I needed to feel a bit of control, and structure could give me that.

I also felt physically restless, and I found that walking miles and miles, with Whitman and just alone, helped. That, though, wasn't enough. I needed a challenge. A goal. About three or so months ago, I decided I would run a 10k before I turned 61. Yeah, I would train and be a real runner.

Running has always felt elusive. When younger, I never felt like I could go very far; my wheezing from exercise induced asthma would set in whenever I ran too long on a basketball court or tried to jog for even a minute. One year in college, I tried so hard to be a runner because I crushed on a runner girl, and if I ran, I could use that excuse to have her company. 

My first consistent running happened probably seven years or so when I used the couch to 5k app, steadily moving beyond a minute, running a full lap around Wash Park, able to run. I would rejoice and then stop running until the next year, when sometimes I'd run most weeks. And then there were years when perhaps I might run only twice. 

Fast forward to several months ago when I set a needed goal to help me get through the tedium of predictable pandemic weeks. A training schedule set in place. Instead of lingering for a couple of hours in bed in the morning on running days, I'd allow myself an hour, grab my running shoes, and set out with my Nike app and guided runs to talk me through the 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 4.5 miles, 5 miles. Three times a week--my commitment--along with some steady walking and an occasional long hike. My body felt strong. I ran longer, farther. I told people I'd be running a 10k. A good friend became my virtual race partner, even if we ran separately. I needed accountability.

Yesterday morning, after enough coffee and waking up, I set out in my neighborhood, my running grounds, turned on the 10k guided run on my app, and set off. It wasn't too hot, just the right amount of cool to feel comfortable and alert. The sky hadn't become smoke filled yet, so I knew that would only be a slight challenge and not prevent my run. About 2/3 through I wanted to quit. Tired. Doubting. Even though I'd run six miles several weeks prior, I didn't believe I could finish, in that moment. I muttered lots of fucks. Remembered my promise to do this. Be strong. Run this distance before turning 61. One mile to the finish felt miles too far. But I wouldn't quit; I wanted to send celebratory texts. To say I did it.

Tonight, on the cusp of Monday, a typical running day, I am committed to run tomorrow, without a training plan, without an external goal. Just because I can. And it feels good.


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