I’ve tried running for exercise, for the ease of being able to do it anywhere, for the health benefits and mostly in search of the elusive runner’s high. The only problem is the brick wall blocking the running ability in my brain.
I’m not an unfit person. I can walk 20 miles. I can rollerblade many miles. I have stamina and agility but my body has put a kibosh on running. As if an allergy, if I run, I react with inflammation of everything, shin splints, bloody lung taste, and cramps in my side which feel like little daggers. Yet somehow I’m enamored with the idea of it. The pure physical struggle and the resilience and strength of the human body move me, but I still don’t run.
I’ve attempted to take on running at several different times in my life. Every time I hit the beach, for one. I imagine myself breaking out into a Bo Derek-ian jog, braids bouncing behind me. Only after ten yards, my imagined sexy trot is revealed to be a big scam; I am a fake runner, huffing and puffing, clenching the stitch in my side or my holding my chest so it doesn’t collapse. My lungs burn as if I’ve been a pack-a-day smoker (not even one). Everything in front of me gets blurry, I get dizzy, nauseous and think I’m having a heart attack.
I tried running on Queens Boulevard listening to Annie Lenox on a “CD Man.” I tried running in Norwalk, CT with Santana blasting on my first MP3 player which only held 18 songs, which was 17 more than I needed. I tried running in Central Park with my first generation iPod blasting the RENT Soundtrack as inspiration. Five minutes in Central Park gave me a “Return to Sender” message because amateurs need not apply to run around the famous reservoir.
Different friends have tried serving as motivation. One of my best friends is a marathon runner and triathlete. A few months after knowing her I spent two hours grilling her on nothing but the marathon. Do people really pee in their pants? Yes! Marathon runners fascinated me with their endurance, persistence, consistency and discipline in training, and the dream and realization of it.
At once I blamed the lack of proper footwear; surely I can’t get real running done with a pair of New Balance from Marshall’s. I went to a running store, got “fitted,” and bought a pair of sneakers double the price I wanted to spend. When I wore them to run, the arch in the middle of my flat foot kept hurting. The associates at the store insisted it was for support but instead my feet felt black and blue and those sneakers never saw a second wear.
The last time I tried to run was in the (free) gym in my building, which I had avoided for the four years I had lived here. One morning, armed with false courage and Pandora on my iPhone, I went in pursuit of this runner’s high. Wikihow gave me seven simple steps to follow:
- Start out slow.
- Pick up the pace, drastically for just a few minutes.
- Slow your pace as soon as you start to feel fatigue.
- Let your speed find you.
- Now start to run and see how your body responds.
- Once the runner’s high hits you just go with it.
- Finish out your run at a sustainable pace.
I started with a slow walk and thought, “I’m in better shape than this!” I took it up to a light jog and felt fine, distracted by Gogol Bordello blasting their gypsy funk music and also by my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t look so bad running. Hypnotized by my bouncing ponytail and my excellent posture, shin splints came on hard along with the feeling of someone standing on my chest, squeezing drops of blood down my throat. I had every intention of making to a mile, but three-quarters was as far as I got.
When I stepped off the treadmill, the floor felt like cotton, not to be confused with clouds, which would insinuate a sensation of being high. This was more of a feet paralysis kind of thing where I had to imagine where my leg stumps were stepping to balance the body on top of them. The room spun around me as I focused on the glass door to get out. I had to go to the bathroom to throw up but was determined to make it up to my own toilet.
I felt like someone spun me around with my eyes closed and let me go to pin the tail on the donkey, only the door knob was my goal. I got the door open, which felt like it doubled in weight in the last 20 minutes and made it into the elevator, and down the hall to my apartment. I blasted through our front door and seemed to fly head first to the bathroom three feet away where breakfast exploded into the porcelain god. I lay down on the cold bathroom floor.
“Quite a workout,” my husband says from his desk. “So how’s that runner’s high working out for you?”