Archive for June 21st, 2013

Pounding the pavement

When I was feverishly writing my thesis in the winter/spring of last year, I felt very cramped and stressed spending day after day crouched over a keyboard staring at a computer monitor. I obviously had a lot to do, but I decided I had to get out from behind my desk or I would go bonkers. For some strange reason, I decided that running was the thing I just had to be doing.

Now, I’m not a runner, I tell myself and everyone else. I tried it before but I didn’t stick with it very long. But for whatever reason I had in my brain, it seemed like the thing to do. I started something like a couch-to-5k program and hit the streets. A few days later, my good friend Mary-Hall said she had also started running and was planning to run the infamous Bolder Boulder 10k on Memorial Day. I scoffed at the idea of me running 6 miles, but I needed an outlet, and I had a goal and accountability, so I started Hal Higdon’s 10k for beginners program with just enough weeks to spare to start training.

And you know what? I did it! I didn’t have an amazing time, nor did I manage to run the entire race without walking a bit, but I did it. I was almost as proud of myself for that accomplishment as I was for my PhD, which I had earned a few weeks before. Almost.

I kept running some that summer, but without a goal and with the time crunch of moving, it fell by the wayside. I didn’t pick up my shoes again until a few weeks ago when I began running during the day from work around DC.

We have a great program at work where you can get a couple of hours each week for exercise, so after the dreary winter gave way to warmer days, I thought it might be time to give running a try again.

Ironic statement: running in DC northwest is hillier than running in Boulder. Or at least it’s the case where I’m located. You see, I work at an observatory, and those are, well, always built on a hill. So no matter which direction I go, I face some serious elevation climb either coming or going. That’s certainly made it a challenge to gain back both my speed and distance, but I think I’m making progress.

Today, I finally broke 5k/3 miles for the first time here. All my routes have me stuck at 2.75, but I ran just a little further today and backtracked to make it the full distance. Also, except for a few stoplights and tourists, I only stopped to walk one time. I’m always bad about wanting to rest, so prolonged periods of continuous running are always triumphs for me. 😉

Running here is quite a different experience than running in my neighborhood back in Colorado. First, there are definitely more trees. That makes it shadier and more verdant, which I like. But then this also happens, which I’m not all that excited about. Thank the good Lord I haven’t encountered that yet.

Running here is also a jarring combination of bustling streets, quiet neighborhoods, wildlife refuge, and tourist attraction, all within a couple of blocks of each other. One day I’m dodging tourists near the cathedral, the next I’m dodging foxes in Rock Creek Park.

My favorite route is one that takes me around the National Cathedral, which is just a couple of blocks north of the observatory. I run uphill first, somewhat gradually, and after I round the cathedral, I head back down Mass Ave, and it’s downhill all the way. I pace myself carefully going up, but my split times are much better on the second half, obviously. 😉

This route also takes me by a school that kind of looks like Hogwarts.

I will never be the world’s greatest runner, and that’s okay. I’m just so thankful I am healthy enough to get out on my own two feet and be mobile. One day that won’t be the case, so I try very much to appreciate the gift while I have it. Hopefully I can keep it up and get stronger and faster. But no matter how slow I go, it’s nice to just get out a bit and pound it out.

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