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Remember when I said I don’t like to run? I mean, there’s a whole chapter in Garden in the East on exercise in which I make it super clear that I don’t like to run and that I am NOT going to run. I do other things. I enjoy Pilates and weight training. I’ll even sign up for Flamenco classes if the mood strikes, but I don’t like to run.

Oh. Um. I signed up for a 5k.

I can’t explain it. I turned 50, and I was seated at my computer, and I thought, “Hey, I should do a 5k.” So I signed up. “How tough could it be?” I wondered as I hit the “enter” key.

For someone who doesn’t like to run? Tough. Turns out I’m not as fit as I kind of thought I was. Go figure. The first few runs were not running at all. They were not even jogging. They were just quick walking followed by maybe three run-like movements, followed by lots more walking.

I almost gave up on the whole idea.

Every time I laced up shoes I thought of three thousand things I’d rather be doing with that time. I began to feel greedy for that time I’d spend outside. How many words could I put on the page? How many loads of laundry? How many Facebook posts or funny memes posted? But I laced up those shoes, and I went on that “run.”

When it got too cold or snowy outside, I trained inside on my elliptical. I knew it would roughly translate, like trying to speak German to native German speakers after three years of High School German classes with Fr. Richter. Almost, but not quite.

But I did train, sometimes for strength, sometimes for distance, sometimes for endurance. I noticed with practice, I stopped hating every single minute of it. The change happened slowly, nearly imperceptible at times.  I began, then to see I was now becoming greedy for my workout time. Guarding it, justifying the time spent, that mere 40 minutes four times a week.

And then two weeks ago I ran outside again for the first time. I went down to the Bloomingdale Trail here in Chicago and got my running music cued up, and I ran. I mean, like, I RAN the whole time and then some. I was no longer paying attention to the next chance I could stop and rest, nor to how much more time was left on the run. I just ran, slow and steady, with no goal in mind except to go from one point to another in as even a pace as I was able.

About halfway through the run I recognized that I was halfway through my 40-minute song list and I was still running, and I was not too tired yet, and I was, <gasp> enjoying myself.

I laughed out loud, and I punched the air like Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club.

That day I ran almost 5 miles, pushing myself to see just how far I could go and still be able to walk home to cool down.

I am a running beast, people.

(And I could barely walk the next day.)

I know more things now about myself and about how the body feels and moves and needs. I know more things, too, about the life of faith. We take it slow, building up. We are strengthened without realizing it if we are consistent. And while goals are good things, they are not everything. I know that I would not have put my feet on the road if it were not for the goal of the race. In fact, I cannot say with any certainty that I will continue to run after this weekend when I’m meant to run 3.1 miles all in a row without quitting, but I have some inner strength now knowing I can do this thing.

And my quads are also rad right now.

Take heart, my friends, if you are putting your feet on a new road. Run and walk and walk and walk for a long time, as long as you need to do so. One day you’ll begin to run and forget that you ever doubted it was possible.