I went for a morning jog by myself yesterday and it was really nice. I moved at a surprising pace, for me. When it comes to running, decades of experience indicate that my spirit guide is the tortoise, not the hare.
Anthony and I used to run quite a lot in our 20’s. He’s a foot taller and a whole lot more athletic than me, so it was always an easier row for him to hoe. There was a time when we probably averaged about 25 to 30 miles a week, plus extra stuff when we were training up for something. We ran 10K’s with friends, the Army 10-miler, the cherry blossom half-marathon. We lived near DuPont Circle in DC, so our normal routes were quite nice, encompassing paved and dirt trails in Rock Creek park and a variety of pretty neighborhoods, depending on distance and mood.
When we were first starting to run together, a common route rambled along the creek, through the national zoo, and then up a street called Adams Mill Road, about 4 miles into the run. Adams Mill was San Francisco-steep for a span of a couple blocks. It was a tough patch that I really struggled with, always failing and having to stop and walk up.
One day I made up my mind I would just power it up and keep running. With Anthony by my side, I started the arduous trip up Adams Mill Road, mightily shoving one foot ahead of the other up that blasted hillock. I stared firmly at the ground in front of my feet, sweat pouring into my eyes, sucking air in anaerobic exhaustion. I was focused. I was determined. About halfway up, I heard Anthony’s calm voice beside me. “Carla, stop.”
I stayed in my zone. Eyes focused on ground. Running. I panted through the pain, “no no, I’m good, I’m gonna make it.”
“Carla, just stop.”
“Shut up, I’m fine, I can make it.”
He became insistent. “Carla. Stop.”
I finally looked over at him as I kept moving, ready to do some cussing, because c’mon, he was messing with my hardcore runner mojo. I observed Anthony walking patiently beside me.
No, that’s not right. He was ambling.
It was humiliating. I stopped. Anthony is awesome because he respected my effort and didn’t exactly make fun of me, even though he made fun of me. He mostly felt bad for me. So that’s when he finally taught me how to run hills, and I eventually conquered the very short stretch of Adams Mill hill.
But I also know I’ll always suck at hills.
Yesterday, on my very first jog of the spring, I remembered those days. I carefully selected a short route with no hills to surmount, however diminutive they might be. It felt good.