I’ve been keeping up with the 5K training program I mentioned back in March, despite a three week blip where my travel schedule made things a little difficult. I know, I know, I can run anywhere, but it gets hard when I’m rising at 5 am to catch a train to New York or DC and then I’m not getting back until 10 or 11 pm. I can get in a workout much more easily when I’m doing long distance travel that’s not a day trip.
Yesterday, I hit my latest personal record by running 2.75 miles without stopping. As I get closer to my 5K goal, I’ve also been trying to improve my time as well. So for yesterday’s run, I did 1 minute sprints every 5 minutes. It was hard and I wanted to quit a bunch of times, but I didn’t. I pushed through and as the treadmill’s distance display rolled over to that 2.75 mile mark, I actually did a fist pump.
And then I heard the applause. When I work out, I usually lose track of the world around me. I didn’t notice the woman get on to the treadmill next to me and start running. But when I pumped my fist, she clapped. She congratulated me on a great run. Told me I looked like I was really working for it and encouraged me to keep going. She said all of this while still running, herself, and her distance meter read 5.5 miles! I pointed to it and told her that I have a long road to go to get to her skill level. She kept up her jog, gave me a big smile and said:
“It took me two long years and 80 lbs to get here, but I did it. So can you!”
80 lbs. The exact weight loss goal I have. (I’m half way there.) Two years from start to where she is now. I’m a year in, so I’m halfway done with that part, too.
I wished her a good day and she replied, “You, too. You deserve it after that run!”
While I strongly believe in the “runner’s high,” I think it was that woman’s words that made me feel euphoric that morning. I love working out, but I have yet to find a gym that doesn’t seem to be filled to the brim with judgmental workout-aholics who like to make jokes at the expense of those of us who don’t look like we belong on the pages of a fitness mag. (And I go to the famously “judgment free” Planet Fitness, for goodness sake. Lunk alarm, my ass.) This lady was a breath of fresh air. It’s amazing to see someone who is further down the same path that I am on.
Weight loss is of course a big part of why I’m training so hard lately, but there’s more to it than that and I think my conversation with that fellow runner embodies all of the reasons why many women work so diligently at the gym. My favorite part of a workout is the walk out the door but not because it means that my workout is over. It’s a 30 second slow stroll full of sweat dripping, breath catching…and feeling like a total and utter badass. For me, the runner’s high is the point where I feel strong. Pushed to my limit but still willing to keep going. Invincible. Exercise is an activity where I can expel some of my competitive energy, but while competing only against myself.
I’m digging running because there is a supportive connection among runners, but it’s also a huge challenge that never really ends. There are always greater distances, better times, and tougher terrains. The woman in the gym is not the first person to cheer me on. I have a whole group of friends, mostly from college, who are doing the same 5K training program and rallying for each other on Facebook nearly every morning. Being a mentally strong and tough woman has always been a source of pride for me, but I’m enjoying the process of making the outside match the inside.