Editor's Note: This week's edition of the Adair County Community Voice includes a commentary from contributing writer Debbie Cowan entitled, "I Just Felt Like Running." The last five words are the article were accidentally omitted during production. We wanted readers to enjoy the article in its fullness so we are posting it here. Enjoy.
By Debbie Cowan
Adair County Community Voice
Have you ever had a Forrest Gump moment and “just felt like running”?
Me neither, until suddenly, one day three years ago, when fueled by a desire to lose weight and motivated by the running success of a friend, I embarked upon a journey into the world of running.
I had noticed that lots of people were running. Every time I drove on the Columbia bypass I saw someone running.
When I went to the Jim Blair Center, someone was running. They were running even though no one was chasing them. They were not running to or from a fire or any other apparent emergency. They were just running. Why was everyone running?
I supposed I might as well run too. After all, I walked for exercise just about every day and thought I was fairly fit, so I thought running just might be the way to help me finally get into better shape.
The first time I attempted to run is still vividly etched in my mind. I was walking on the half mile track at the Jim Blair Center and I just started to run, well, I really was kind of jogging slowly but I thought that should count. I set my sites on a park bench about a hundred yards down the track and decided to jog to the bench. I chose the bench because I concluded that when I reached the bench, I could sit down or pass out. If I passed out, I was hopeful that another walker would happen upon my lifeless body draped across the bench and would be able to resuscitate me or at least call 911.
I made it safely to the bench, huffing and puffing and thinking that all runners must be void of sound judgement and that walking was certainly the best option for me. I mean, really, why would anyone want to run? I walked the rest of the track and went home.
The next day, for some reason still unknown, I tried running again. This time I pushed myself a little harder and went a bit farther around the track to another bench. Thankfully, this one was in the shade. My lungs burned, my face was crimson and my calf muscles cried out in protest. My fellow track users, all walking, sent concerned looks my way as I lumbered around them. I think they were afraid that I would die on the track and ruin their afternoon walk.
I kept trying to run. To motivate myself, I placed a chart on my fridge at home and began to track how many miles I walked and ran. I looked for motivational quotes on the Internet. I found things like “do something today that your future self will thank you for” or “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” I also uncovered the old Nike slogan, “Just do it,” but I found myself thinking “can’t someone else just do it?”
I also found an apt description of my “running.” It states: “I run, I’m slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, but I run. “ I could relate to that. I thought about getting a running T-shirt made with that slogan. It would be a shirt of bright orange so that I would be easy to spot if I passed out on the track or side of the highway.
Believe it or not, I kept running. It got a bit easier each time and it wasn’t long until I could actually run a half mile. The first time I ran a full mile without having to stop, I was so proud. Maybe I could actually do this?
After about three months of “training” I decided to register for a 5K which is a distance of 3.1 miles. I chose the Green River Lake “Dam Run.” This is the annual fundraiser race across the Green River Dam. Not one to back down from a challenge, but extremely nervous and intimidated by the thought of trying to run a 5K, I told several friends and family members what I planned to do so I couldn’t back out.
I completed the “Dam Run” and was so pleased that I had actually been able to run the entire race with just a few steps of walking. I finished near the back, just ahead of those that walk the route. But that was ok. The challenge for me was willing myself to finish the race and not giving in to the little voice in my head telling me that I was crazy. As I crossed the finish line, I felt an incredible sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment. I also felt like I was going to pass out. The next day my legs were so sore, I could barely walk.
I participated in two more 5K runs that year. I have the runner ID bibs and T-shirts to prove it. Each time, I was always near the back of the pack of other runners, just ahead of the walkers. The serious runners, the ones with fancy running shoes and long, lean physiques, were so far ahead of me that I never saw them. But, I found that other runners and walkers were so supportive and encouraging; they cheer for you and genuinely want to see you succeed. I can easily see how some become addicted to the feeling or “runners high” that comes after the run.
Now, I wish I could say that I am still a runner. But it is just not true. I don’t subscribe to Runner’s World magazine and I don’t have a 13.1 mile decal on the window of my SUV. In fact I never considered myself to be a runner and actually tried to downplay the fact that I was running in addition to walking for exercise. I have no report of great weight loss or superior stamina as a result of running.
Now, when I am out for my usual walk, I will sometimes run a mile just to see if I still can. I’m currently contemplating a return to 5K’s. I applaud anyone that is dedicated to running and honestly feel that just about anyone could run if they set their mind to it and really want to. If I can “just do it,” anyone can.
I would encourage anyone to give it a try. There are some good downloadable options such as the Couch to 5K program to help you with a training plan. Another popular method of alternating running with walking every few minutes is a great option as well. Check with your health care provider to make sure that you are healthy enough for running, buy some reasonably good athletic shoes and go down to the Jim Blair Center and jog a little on the track.
If you get tired, there are several benches around the track, even one in the shade. If you sit there long enough someone will likely happen by and, if needed, they can help you to your car.