Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Surrounded by Spandex, My First 5K Run

© 2011 Leighann Lord
I’m a comedian, a writer and an actress. I am no stranger to weird. But when I showed up for my very first ever 5K run it was clear that the Running Community has completely out-weirded all of us. There was a young lady who showed up to run wearing a neon pink tutu. I felt undressed. I wanted to ask her, “Hey, what’s with the tutu?” But I was afraid she’d give me a perfectly plausible answer that would push me way closer to weird than I wanted to be.

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A casual observation revealed that being A Very Serious Runner involves wearing a lot of spandex. I wasn’t sure if I’d shown up for a run or a casting call for “Flash Dance.” I’m no spandex zoning expert but I’m reasonably sure these folks were way over the legal limit. Clearly, I am not A Serious Runner.

No tutu? No Spandex? What the hell was I doing at a 5K run? 
To be honest, what I do is less than running but more than walking. On a good day you can call it jogging. On a bad day it’s agitated shuffling.

The main reason I began running is because of my Husband. Last year he had a heart attack scare. It turned out just to be a torn rib cage muscle from epic amounts of snow shoveling, but apparently staring a casket in the face was the impetus he needed to finally get in shape. Under the guidance of a personal trainer he’s been swimming, golfing, lifting and toning. He’s lost a significant amount of weight and I am more proud of him than words can say. 

Then one day he texted me and said he wanted to start running. “Great” I texted back. Then he said, “Do you want run with me?” 

“Hell no!” I thought. I hate running. I got an “F” in my high school track and field gym class. Running is not an activity one does for fun.  It’s what you do when you need to employ the latter half of the Fight or Flight response.

For the past three years my preferred work out has been mixed martial arts. For six, sometimes eight hours a week I was taking classes in kick boxing and submission grappling. I loved it. There’s nothing like knowing how to kick a little ass or how to defend your own should flight not be an option. However, this past year, a heavy comedy tour schedule has made regular training impossible. And truth be told as fun as it was, after three years, I was tired of hitting people. I was also tired of getting hit. 

If I wanted to stay in shape though, I needed a workout I could do anywhere. And although I was loathed to admit it, running seemed to fit the bill. So, to my Husband’s amazement and mine, I texted back, “Yes, I’ll run with you.” Six months later, we were at our first Run, thanks to the Couch to 5K program, which incidentally didn’t mention anything about spandex or pink tutus.

My training consisted of running on a local track, and on the treadmill at the gym when the weather got too cold. This did not prepare me for running in Prospect Park with uneven ground and Hills. If I’d known about The Hills ahead of time, I might not have signed up. Now, the treadmill at the gym has a handy, dandy incline button. I used it once, by accident I’m sure. I didn’t like it. I turned it off and never used it again. But you can’t turn off nature.

The thing is I didn't even see the hill coming. I was jogging along, enjoying the scenery and then gradually became aware that my calves were on fire. I looked and saw a hill sloping upward to infinity. “Where are those damn petty cabs when you need one?” I’m not A Serious Runner. Pride is not an issue. I would have jumped in the cab and said, “To the top my good man!" 

I thought going downhill would be easier. And in a way it was. Instead of praying for death, I prayed for a medically induced coma. Going downhill engages a slightly different set of muscles that from the feel of it would rather have remained anonymous. Those muscles weren’t interested in doing a 5K. They wanted to get back on the couch. Perhaps then it was no coincidence that this 5K was for the benefit of NYU’s Physical Therapy Research. Thanks to The Hill, I might need to avail myself of their services.

So no one was more shocked than me when I looked up and saw two young ladies holding a “3 Mile” sign, yelling, “You’re almost there!” I am? I crossed the finish line at 42 minutes and 43 seconds! I felt exhilarated. I felt like I could do anything. Well almost anything. Now, I have to do my taxes. I'd rather run. And if I don't do my taxes, I'll have to.

The only thing more exciting than finishing my first 5K was the unexpected, post-run bagel buffet, T-shirt and goody bag. I didn’t know we got food and parting gifts. Sweet! The pain in my hips, calves and feet notwithstanding, I can’t wait for the next run. Maybe that goody bag with have a tutu in it. 

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

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