PARTS OF SPEECH

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN SHELLEY PLETT
“I don’t jog. If I die, I want to be sick. -Abe Lemmons

Motivation was a by-product of my marriage. My in-laws have participated in fun-walks and runs for years. They were the inspiration for both my husband and me to enter our first race (a 2-miler) about 11 years ago. Well, them and the free doughnuts.

It never occurred to me that running two miles might be difficult. As an aerobics fanatic with a full library of high-impact VHS tapes, I felt prepared. I could plie with the best of them and don’t even get me started on step-kicks. Kathy Smith was my Messiah and I, her faithful follower.

It was the early ’90s-what can I say?

Daybreak on race day was ideal and I was pumped. The cobalt sky held a gorgeous morning sun. A modest breeze stirred the air as warbling birds welcomed us to the starting line. I positioned myself toward the front and the starting gun echoed.

Trotting through the first couple of blocks, I felt more confident with each step. Determined not to be shown up at my first race, I extended my stride to dissuade anyone from trying to pass me at the first corner.

About 50 feet into that turn, my legs and brain began to furiously argue about how far two miles really is.

(Now, you marathoners can stop reading right about here. I can sense your eyes rolling. I’m talking to my peers-those of us who wouldn’t skip a beat choosing a root canal over running 26 miles.)

As I was saying, about 50 feet into the first turn, reality and adrenaline came over me. In my state of panic, it seemed reasonable to just run faster, consequently finishing faster.

As I traveled my trail through hell, I had a brand new awareness of the sky hovering over me. You remember the one-so peaceful and blue?

Yes, the brilliant, cloudless one holding that huge inferno ball that was burning a hole into my head.

I caught a glimpse of the singing birds, now soaring peacefully above the course.

I made it through the final half-mile by trying to mentally will the insignificant breeze to propel those chirping tweeties into the next county.

About a week later, I crossed the finish line. In real time, it took exactly 17 minutes and 42 seconds to puree my fitness ego into sweat.

I understood then that step-kicks and knee raises were not adequate road-run training. The aches and nausea passed, but the most persistent token of my first (not so) fun run-a sprained knee-hung around for about three months.

This day of enlightenment slowed me down for awhile. I was leery about volunteering myself again to something that caused so much pain, not to mention the sucker-punch my confidence took.

The actual pain, followed by the memories of the pain, eventually faded, and I could focus on the fact that I had finished a run and that the post-race doughnuts had been a good thing.

I took a chance and signed up for a few more runs. I didn’t pay as much attention to time or distance; I just wanted to find out if I could do it.

At first, I tolerated it, and then actually started to enjoy it a little.

I ran through the first six months of my first pregnancy. A few months after the baby was born (and when night and day once again became two separate time periods), I started up again. My endurance increased and my time and distance improved.

I seemed to find my sweet spot of two to three miles at a time. I just don’t have what it takes to be distance runner. Whether I can’t physically handle it or just don’t want to, I accept my limits.

It’s often said that “half the fun of a journey is getting there.” Well, I can’t say I consider running to be fun. That “journey” can still be difficult for me.

In my case, half the fun is the finish line. The other half is the refreshment table.

Come to think of it, if a single doughnut can be motivation enough to complete a 2-miler, then I say bring on a dozen. Strategically placed pastries may turn me into a distance runner yet.

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