just go with it

“Well, I’d better get going with my run,” the beau announced, shortly after waking up on Sunday morning.

Your run?” I asked. Weekend runs were our thing, last time I checked.

“I really have to get serious about this half-marathon next month,” he said. “I gotta figure out my pace.” 

“Right. Of course,” I said. Because I am the model of understanding and support.

Then: a pause. A long, jealous, indignant pause. If he was running by himself, where did that leave me? Huh? Forced to run alone? Made to stagger along on my own personal helltrek? Missing my partner in friendly workout competition? Compelled to push myself up long hills completely of my own accord? Utterly bereft of distraction, of companionship, of encouragement? Slowly army-crawling through a stranger’s front yard, leaves and sticks in my hair, inexplicably speaking in tongues?

Come on. Don’t act like it’s never happened to you.

“What if I just, like, ran behind you?” I brightly suggested. “I’d wear my headphones and I wouldn’t talk to you or bother you or anything. It would be just like you were running by yourself, except a weird person would be silently following you.” 

“Um, I’m not going to make you run behind me,” he said.

I verbally threw myself down on the floor and begged. “Please! Please? I’ll be good! I won’t even look at you! You won’t even know I’m there! I promise!”

That old weary look crossed his face. “You can run with me. You can even talk to me. But just so you know, I’m going to try going a bit faster this time.”

“That’s fine!” I chirped. I enjoy a challenge! Boy, who doesn’t?

So we set out, briskly, merrily, and all was fine except I could have sworn we were running at a dead sprint. Every few feet, my body was like, “That was great! We won! We’re done!” Except we weren’t. We just kept going.

“It sure is clear today, isn’t it?” the beau remarked of the mountains rising to our right over red-tiled rooftops, saturated with every hue of green and set sharply against a sea-blue sky. Only I didn’t see them, because I was busy gazing earnestly at the broken concrete directly in front of my plodding feet, trying to figure out how I was still moving under my own power.

“Enghh!” I replied, in what I imagined was an affable, engaging tone.

14 years later, we had traveled four blocks. I briefly considered stopping right there; delivering a perky two-fingered salute and a chipper Smell you later! before turning heel and trotting back home. But that would mean admitting that I was unable to run at a higher level. It would mean admitting that I was categorically A Failure across the board. You know who would never get anywhere in life? Me, because I couldn’t match my partner’s pace that one horrific, life-defining morning.

Come on. Don’t act like it’s never happened to you.

So onward I slogged. By the fifth block I was audibly panting. Somewhere around block eight a stitch tightened in my right side. Breathe into the pain, I told myself, because I am nothing if not original when it comes to motivational quotes. 

Somehow, one foot kept finding its way in front of the other. Strides slowly accumulated in agonizing miles. We passed house after house and neighborhood after neighborhood until finally we turned onto a small highway through a canyon that would lead us to the foot of a big hill.

By that time the sun had climbed to an unrelenting point in the sky. The only shadows cast were our own. We were solitary figures staggering across an asphalt desert as a white hot orb beat us mercilessly about the head and shoulders. Even when I closed my eyes, I saw light. 

That stitch in my side had become a full-on cramp. No, it had become a gaping wound. An invisible person was swinging an invisible hatchet into my ribcage, cleaving a very real seam of pain through my torso. I tried to breathe deeper but I couldn’t take in any more air.

My internal motivational quote had been replaced with something to the tune of OMFG, OMFG, OMFG.

Even as we finally reached the very bottom of the big hill, part of me still believed I would make it. Call it blind optimism if you will, but I’ll call it for what it was: delusional. For the initial push I dug ever deeper, willing my legs to go.

That lasted all of 20 seconds before I gave in.

I stopped.

For a few seconds I just stood there, hands braced on my thighs, gasping. Then, suddenly, the craziest thing happened: my face crumpled in on itself and I started crying.

I once read a story where, right in the middle of downward dog, some emotional floodgates unexpectedly and inexplicably came crashing open and the author burst out bawling in yoga class. That was this. This was what was happening to me. It had to be, because there was no other explanation for my outburst than the exercise trigger. I didn’t feel sad or hurt. I was disappointed in myself, sure, but more than anything I was simply relieved not to be running anymore

I wasn’t just crying, though. I was uncontrollably sobbing. I don’t know about you, but when I cry, I  usually try to be as silent as possible. Not this time. This time I was openly blubbering. No, blubbering isn’t even it; I was more accurately possessed by a very expressive demon. When I wasn’t snarffling and snorting and hiccuping for air, I was emitting a keening string of vowels not unlike the sound I imagine a distressed walrus would make. 

There we trudged up the hill, me loudly expressing my feelings and dimly wiping strings of snot with the hem of my shirt, and the beau following several steps behind in utter bewilderment.

“Babe?” he asked, tentatively. 

Aaannnggghhhooooooooooeeeeeeeeeaaghhhhh,” I remarked piteously, and frankly I’m surprised the bushes didn’t rustle and part to reveal a concerned walrus searching for his miserable friend. 

Everything was too bright, and it was too hot, and I couldn’t breathe. “I can’t breathe,” I wheezed at the beau, except because I couldn’t breathe it came out more like, “AHGINTBEEETH.”

“What?” he asked, confused. “You can’t breathe? Why don’t you stop, then? Why do you keep walking away?” 

I kept walking away because I had spotted one scrubby tree about 50 yards away that was throwing shade over the sidewalk, and by gum I had my little heart set on standing in that delightful-looking patch.

“It’s too hot,” I told the beau by way of explanation, except because I couldn’t breathe it came out more like, “EHSOOAWT.”

“What?” he asked again. “Stop walking!”

“EHSOOAWT!” I yelped desperately, between ragged breaths. I mean, Jesus, dude.

“Wait!” he said, getting a little frantic now. “Where are you going? Just stop for a minute!”

I tried to motion him on, but he wasn’t having any of that. He continued to trail me up the sidewalk, repeatedly requesting that I kindly fill him in on what was even happening, while I continued to alternately pant, wail, and mumble incoherently over my shoulder in his direction.

Aaaaaaooooooooooonnnnghh,” I declared, and I’d be damned if anyone could convince me otherwise.

/// Cut to film of the local 6:00 news, where the beau is gazing awkwardly at the ground as a reporter holds a microphone in his face:

“I… I still don’t know what happened. One minute my wife was running, and the next she was possessed by a demon. Or a walrus. I couldn’t really tell, and I was afraid to ask.” ///

Over the next few minutes my heart slowed from 1,956,235 beats per minute to something more reasonable, like 827,449. I gradually stopped sobbing. Once I was able to speak English again, I told the beau I was very sorry for having ruined his half-marathon training. I encouraged him to go on without me and he finally agreed. That freed me up to go home and lie down on the couch, instead of right there on the side of the road like I was strongly considering, but home still meant I had to make it up that hill.

And boy, that was interesting. Have you ever walked up a hill before? I know I have. In fact, due to naturally-occurring variances in the elevation of our local terrain, I do it quite frequently. Cramazingly, I’ve even successfully run up them before — but shhh, we’ll not speak of that again.

This time, I couldn’t. I simply could not go anymore. My legs were like flimsy pieces of wood being jerked to and fro on strings by a looming Geppetto in the sky. Even when I was finally on flatter ground, I kept having to take breaks. Breaks! From walking! Leaving me standing there in the middle of the sidewalk with my hands on my hips, trying to act natural, and leaving passing pedestrians to gape and wonder why some creepy sweaty weirdo with snot stains on her shirt was standing there in the middle of the sidewalk, not moving.

It took me forever to get home.

It’s been a few days now, and still don’t even know what happened. My feelings and my legs got all broken all at once. On one innocent Sunday morning, everything changed. Friends, this is why I’m here. I need to share my story. I need to tell you the truth about running:

DON’T DO IT.

The end.

Forever.

34 Responses to “just go with it”

  1. I had a very similar episode before I quit training for the half-marathon, except I couldn’t get my legs to stop so I was blubbering while running.
    We just got pictures of Pete finishing the Half-marathon. By the look on his face, I gather he was feeling much the same way. He doesn’t plan to run again any time soon.

  2. Oh god, this was hilarious. I hope you have recovered!

  3. Trust me, I won’t.

  4. No running for me, thank you. I should print this out to distribute in lieu of an explanation about my total lack of physical fitness routines.

    • If you extend the margins to .25 inches and cut the type down to 6-point it might all fit on one side of one page!

      You can tie a magnifying glass to each sheet.

  5. I’ve had this happen. It’s almost out of body. It’s like standing there yelling at myself emoting all over the place with no reason.

    Too fast, too furious.

  6. “An invisible person was swinging an invisible hatchet into my ribcage, cleaving a very real seam of pain through my torso. I tried to breathe deeper but I couldn’t take in any more air.”

    This happens to me pretty much any time I run for more than about a mile. Couple that with the soul-crushing boredom of smashing one foot after another into the pavement, and the way people stare at the wheezing, lead-footed dweeb sweating all over their sidewalk, and I have come to the conclusion that running sucks. I shall embroider your final words on a pillow.

  7. If it is possible to cry and laugh reading a post at the same time, then that is what I did. Because it’s funny, but it’s also really sad because I have done this with friends and partners before, not running specifically, but that ‘I can keep up!’ before falling apart spectacularly and with crying and incoherent speech.

    Thank you for making me feel less alone in my humiliation. Isn’t that what blogging is meant to do?

  8. This is exactly what would happen to me if I tried to train for a half marathon. Thank you for your story. It has an important message that I will take deeply to heart.

  9. YEP. This is why every time Josh suggests, “Let’s run together!” I smile and nod and settle on the couch with a bag of Doritos.

  10. Oh my god, I just about died laughing. Pretty much the same thing happened to me except I was trying to keep up with my long distance cyclist husband on a bike, and my chain ended up falling off the gears when going uphill, so I was blubbering, weak-legged, barely able to stand, on the side of the road, obscuring traffic with my snot. Why do we do it ourselves I do not know, but you recount it brilliantly!

  11. Oh dear. Yes. Has happened to me. In fact, I often (almost always) cry with husband when I stupidly try to do something athletic beyond my skill level.

    He once convinced me early in our relationship to go cross country skiing. Well, it was icy and hilly and he failed to mention that he had done some olympic training in cross country skiing. I refrained from crying but had a very sore, very wet ass at the end of that escapade.

    • Wait, wait, wait. He conveniently FORGOT TO TELL YOU that he was a trained skier? He is SO, SO lucky you ever went out with him again!

    • Yes. This. Bingo. The husband told me “oh it’s only a little hill, you can ski up it!” End result was a tumble down a more-than-little hill, and sobbing as he helped me disconnect my skis. I’m certain it was like watching a gangly baby Moose trying to fly.

  12. Hahahahahaha! I figured out 35 years ago that running sucked and I haven’t done it since. Remarkably, I have not been cast down to hell.
    I believe you have succeeded in figuring this all out, not failed:).

    • It’s hard not to feel a failure in a California town where I frequently spot joggers in packs, like herds of lean antelope skittering down the beach path. But I’m glad you’ve not been cast down to hell; this gives me hope for my own mortal soul.

  13. Despite the fact that my husband is the one built for running, I was the one stupid enough to sign up for the half marathon… and the full marathon. Being the sweet husband that he is, he would go run 10 miles or so with me (after I could get up to 10 miles at normal speeds after like 8 months of work). Because he can run 10 miles without any training, I cannot tell you how happy it made me when HE got to experience your side of this story. And then guilty because I’m a terrible wife for relishing his pain. And then happy because I FINALLY GET TO WIN THE PHYSICAL CHALLENGE.

    Related: It is possible that finishing a marathon in less than 6 hours will be my life’s greatest accomplishment. Children, work, graduate degrees, whatever. I COMPLETED A MARATHON.

    • I am in utter awe of you. I just don’t know that I could do it! A half-marathon, maybe. But a full one? Never.

      You were on the other side of the coin. You came out on top! *bowing*

  14. New posts from you make my day.

  15. I started trying to run at the beginning of this year. I felt really good about myself because I got up to a whole mile, two even. Then I discovered that there is an actual difference between running on a treadmill and running in real life you know: outside. I tried the outside thing and I think I made it a block? And I was like: WHAT HAPPENED? I WAS SO HARDCORE!!! & NOW I SUCK. Thankfully I got knocked up just in time to prevent me from having to try it again.

    • You were also running outside in SCOTLAND, which has even more going on than in the States. We tried it, we tried the running thing in Scotland, and when we weren’t getting rained on or blown down by the wind, we were turning our ankles on stones. Also getting lost, because apparently medieval peoples knew jack shit about city planning. So trust me, you WERE hardcore. It’s just that Scotland will always be harder.

  16. I hate running. HAAAATE. I will do any other sporty thing you ask… bike, skate, swim, lift weights, jump rope… ANYTHING ELSE. Just sweet baby jesus, don’t ask me to RUN.

  17. I am SO glad you wrote about this. My internal battle with running every day aside… I really connect with the “what? you’re doing something on your own?” moment.

    I’m wildly independent. I know you are too. I’m snarky and I am a believer in reversed fucking gender roles …

    But really.

    There are times where Isaiah is all, “I’m gonna head out and grab dinner” and boom! leaves … and I’m all … Oh…well … I just would have asked (all butt-hurt).

  18. Oh, my hell. I am ashamed at how hard I laughed at this. But you know what they say: If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. (On the sidewalk. Like a walrus.)

  19. I am beyond, obviously, but I just wanted to say this had me laughing so hard I was crying. And making weird high-pitching laughing noises.

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