Just to refresh your memory, I’m training for this half-marathon using an mp3 training program that is based on time. It’s made for you to run 3 days a week- the first day you run six minutes and then walk 3 minutes (and you do that multiple times), the second day you do a __ minute “tempo run”, the third day is a long ___ minute run. I guess real runners actually pace themselves on the 2nd and 3rd day but I just try to survive them. This bizarre techno music plays the whole time and when it’s time for an announcement, the music will dim and trainer guy will cut in and say something like, “Okay, day 1, time for a 3 minute walk or jog.”
What follows are the 5 stages of grief that I experience during one session of running.
Denial (Minutes 0-5)
Every run begins with a 5-minute warm-up walk. It’s beautiful. The music is something that you might hear in a yoga studio. I enjoy the weather, feel the cool breeze on my face, I examine my neighbor’s landscaping. It’s very calm. It’s like I have no idea what’s about to happen to my body…
Then the music gets more tense, faster beat, minor key and I know it’s almost time to begin running.
Anger (Minutes 5-30)
The anger sets in when I start because my knees feel stiff. In this stage, I find plenty of things to be annoyed by- my Camelbak is making a sloshing noise that is drowning out my music, my headphones keep falling out of my ears, my left tennis shoe is tied tighter than my right, this techno music doesn’t make any sense, there’s chaffing. I’m mad at Dallas for being so hot. I’m mad at my city for not being flat. I’m mad at the sun for sapping my energy. I’m mad at Alex because he’s already run in 2 circles around me like Sonic the Hedgehog.
Bargaining (Minutes 30-45)
At this point, I discover along this route that there is, what seems to be, an abandoned port-o-potty. It is comforting to me to know that this exists, should I ever need it. This unexpected gift breaks through my anger and I enter the bargaining phase. Most of the time, this is trying to convince myself that it will be okay- I can continue to run and I will live. Heck! I might even get to treat myself to some ice cream or some of my chocolate trail mix. All I have to do is keep running and I’ll get something out of this. I think, “Okay, Beth, if you keep running, you’ll get a huge sense of accomplishment…and maybe a Sonic drink.”
Depression (Minutes 45-75)
The depression phase is usually brought on by false hopes that I’m halfway through. I’ve reached, what seems to me like Siberia, and still, trainer guy has not announced those magical words, “Okay, day 2, you’re halfway through”. In my despair, I wail, “How could I not be half-way through?!? Haven’t I been running for 3 days?” From here, you sink into a greater depression- one where you realize that the topology of the land has flip-flopped so that you actually are running uphill both ways. You think that you will never make it home.
The depression phase is not just emotional. My body also experiences a slight depression at about minute 45- this is where I can almost guarantee you that I will slow down into the patented-Wise-micro-run where it would appear to an outsider that time has stopped, although I am still continuing to move my feet.
You pass a man who’s trying not to make eye contact with you and narrowly avoids biting it on the sidewalk, like you did last week, but that doesn’t do much to lift your spirits. If trainer guy doesn’t tell you soon that you’re halfway done, then you might just lay down on someone’s lawn and take a nap.
Acceptance (Minute 75+)
After sinking into a half-hour of depression, my body and I begin to accept that this horrible thing called running is happening and I begrudgingly continue to move my feet in a forward direction, albeit ever so slowly. During this phase, I’ll experience bouts of “speed” and then I might go slow again, but I’ve settled into a rhythm and everything, including my grief, is numb.
When I get home, I usually
run walk quickly to the computer to map what I just did and see how long it was, only to be disappointed and experience a whole new bout of grief.
Although I pass through these stages on every run, I’ve continued to push towards training for this thing. I repeat these 3 times a week.
On a run this week, a little Asian girl ran out onto her driveway with her backpack and lunchbox. She was about the age of the kiddo that we want to adopt. I almost burst into tears right then and there, but then I decided that it might be a little traumatizing to have a crazy running woman crying in your driveway before school. It gave me a little burst of adrenaline because it was a reminder that someday, at the end of this actual and metaphorical race, we’ll have a little girl who will run out onto our driveway with her backpack and her lunchbox. Someday…