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2004-08-17 - 1:49 p.m.

I've started running again, and started out by running twice as long as the last time I ran. Before L&M's wedding, I was running for 30-40 minutes. Saturday I did a fairly punishing 70 minute run, taking 2 minute walking breaks every 10 minutes or so. That's when it hit me: to be a runner, you don't need skill, you don't need speed, you don't even need muscle. What you need, in spades, is grit. There were moments on that run when I wasn't sure I'd be able to lift my legs and take the next step. I was shuffling along at a speed barely faster than walking towards the end. I ran through whatever I could remember of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, then went on to a couple Handel songs. Finally, at the end, I was reciting a mental litany of "one step, one step, one step, one step..." The only thing getting me through that run was my desire to get through it. The other things, skill, muscle, speed--they're important, don't get me wrong. I'm still working on developing them, and you can't really do a distance run without them. But eventually, they will fail someplace during the run and all you'll be left with is your will.

I remember watching some sort of military reality show, and they had to run a mile. I remember thinking "I'd be dead, because I could never do that. I could never run a mile straight." Now, looking back, I find myself thinking, "A mile? That's just enough to warm up!" Granted, I can't do much more than 3 miles without walking a little at this point, but I'm working on getting there.

Today I'll head out of work, get home, change into my running clothes, do some stretches, and head out. R and I found a gorgeous trail through a park not far from our house. It's maybe a forty-minute loop if we can keep a good pace, which right now means consistent 11-minute miles for me. I'll take it easy for the first mile, let my body adjust to the change of using it fully. I'll remind myself that this is what the human body was designed for, not sitting hunched over at a desk. At mile two I'll start doing some speed work, trying to shave a minute off my mile splits. By the end of October, I want to be running consistent ten-minute miles for ten miles.

I'll never be fast, but I think I have the grit to be a distance runner. There will always be days and maybe weeks where I don't want to do this, where I have to train my will as I train my body. But somehow over the last few months, I've dug deep inside, peeled back the self-doubt and the self-pity and the fear, and have discovered I am a runner.


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