I really do hate running. I've never been able to do it well. You know how all these couch-to-5k training programs tell you to run slowly enough that you can carry on a conversation without getting winded? I can't fathom how that's even possible, because I get winded in the first five footsteps of every run. I'm not sure what the difference is between running and jogging. As a homeschooler never subject to gym class requirements, I never even ran a mile until my first road race.
Despite my ongoing aversion to and ignorance of running, this past week I registered for the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon.
Running a marathon is a bucket list goal of mine, one I lit upon ever since finishing a half-marathon in college and realizing what I thought was impossible was actually, maybe in the realm of possibility. This year I turn 26 and it only seemed fitting that I commemorate this nondescript birthday with a corresponding mile marker. Because let's face it, my body and its youth are literally decaying with each passing day. With feats of athleticism, now is better than later, no matter what Tom Brady says.
I've also been finding myself maybe, floundering a little? The new school year is upon us, and instead of preparing to go back to school like I have for the past 21 years of my life, I'm stuck in employment limbo, commuting seventy miles to a job I don't much care for, waiting to hear if I can start my legal career or have to turn back to my study aids to retake my licensing exam. The pervasive feeling of treading water demands the creation of new or even artificial benchmarks. I need new goals in my life, something to work towards, to keep me from going crazy from the grind of a job where I just can't find my stride.
Plus, running releases endorphins in your brain that makes you feel good, allegedly.
So why does a person who hates running force herself to shell out the $200 registration fee (to say nothing of the flight and lodging) for a marathon?
1) Hello, it's Disney! For my fellow Disney nerds, this statement is self-evident, but for the uninitiated, never underestimate the siren call of an entertainment empire's magic production capacity. The atmosphere that accompanies a road race is the greatest thing. Spectators cheering, volunteers passing water, the sights and sounds of the course, the addictively triumphant feeling at the finish line that you just don't get from finishing a run around your neighborhood. Make that atmosphere Disney-ified and I have that much more to smile about as I slog through the course.
2) The other real allure of a Disney race is that it's not about PR. I'm not trying to develop a competitive pace or qualify for the Boston Marathon. I just want to finish. I want to get the medal and put it in a frame just to say I did it. This is a race anyone can do, even if it means walking for the lion's share of the course. And that's not something you're going to get judged for, because no one's there for a PR; everyone's there to run in their Disney-themed costumes, grab those rare character photo-ops, and see the empty parks at the crack of down. Because the Disney races are less competitive, they are automatically more accessible. Automatically less fear.
3) I tend to believe that cardio is a dumb way to get healthy, but conditioning my body to do something hard is nothing but healthy for my gym prodigal lifestyle. I love weight training, but I gave up my gym membership to save money, delusionally believing I'd keep up with my kettlebell in my living room. It's not that marathon training will make me "healthier", but I am intrigued by my own power to alter my body through repetitive activity, and am hopeful the running routines I am setting now from necessity can be translated to a more consistent at-home weight training routine, since cross-training is an integral part of marathon training.
The real test in the coming months is how religiously I stick to my training plan, especially as the days get darker and the weather gets chillier, but knowing I have a weekend at the Happiest Place on Earth at the end of it is actually the dose of motivation I need to get busy on this life goal.
In asking, how do I be an adult? How do I live a good life? How do I deny myself now for the future pay off? How do I be a better Jesus-follower? These little, silly, arbitrary goals are part of the puzzle for me of the excruciatingly slow process of redemption, faithfulness, and sanctification.