Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day 38 - "Going for a Jog"

I have never gone jogging. To clarify, I do not mean the physical action of running at a moderate speed. Rather, I mean I have never engaged in the outdoor activity of running at a leisurely pace down city streets for the sake of fun or physical fitness. Sure, there were plenty of times growing up I was forced to run for physical education or sports programs, but I consistently avoided long-distance running at all costs. Even in middle school track and field I opted for field events, only choosing the shortest sprint possible when my coaches obligated me to partake in a running competition. For whatever reason, running just never appealed to me.

In case it isn't already obvious at this point, I am not, and never have been, a runner. Although I know and support many runners in their chosen hobby, the whole idea of running for long periods simply for the sake of doing it has never made sense to me. In fact, I have always given my friends and family members a skeptical look after they complete a run and insist they "feel so good..." between gasping breaths as they lie in a sweaty heap on the ground. In response to such remarks I have only been able to conclude runners are either lying about their experience or they have a screw loose. Despite that dominant perspective, there has always been a part of me that also realizes I wouldn't have the opportunity to understand "the runner's perspective" unless I tried jogging myself. As a result, I decided I would make "going for a jog" a part of my "I have never..." journey. Tonight, the perfect evening weather and a last minute change to my "I have never..." schedule provided the perfect opportunity to experience jogging for the first time. In turn, I put on some semi-appropriate running gear and hit the streets.

My route
My jogging journey began after work this evening when I decided to plot a running route through a website I had seen friends use in the past, After loading my address into the site, I dragged the small target on the website across the map of my neighborhood for some time, attempting to determine the best path to take. I knew I wanted to get the full experience, so I found various avenues that would give me a sufficient challenge for my run. Acknowledging a scenic route would likely help me get through the run a little easier, I started focusing on roads and bike paths in and around a nice green space near my house, Tenney Park. At first, I plotted a course through the park and back to my house, but at a little more than a mile I was unsatisfied with the results. In turn, I began expanding my route until I settled on a loop that worked its way through two neighborhoods over a total of 2.32 miles. With knowledge running a 5k is also on my "I have never..." list, I figured such a distance would give me a rough idea of what a 5k might feel like and would help me gain a full experience from my first attempt at jogging. I took one last look at the map in front of me before committing to the route I had created. "If you're going to do it, do it full on," I said as I clicked save and rose from my couch. I was ready for a run, whether my body was or not was a question left to be answered.

My route determined, I geared up and exited my front door a little after 7:00 pm tonight. The summer sun had already started its slow descent toward the horizon, which presented decreasing temperatures I knew would help me make it through my jogging trip. I walked through my front lawn and down to the sidewalk, turning to face the direction of my route's first leg. "This is going to suck," I said staring at the long stretch of grey concrete before me. I paused for a brief moment before taking a deep breath and setting my legs into motion. I steeled myself knowing there was no turning back. I started this thing, and nothing was going to stop me from finishing it.

The first quarter of a mile I focused intently on my breathing. My chest rose and fell as I forced air deep into my lungs between the sounds of my feet hitting the pavement. Still feeling relatively relaxed and energized, I was astounded I had not yet broken into a heavy sweat and labored breathing. Of course, I knew that would change with time, but I the fact I was not already winded gave me inspiration to press on. Rounding the first big curve in my run, I looked up from the pavement and took in the scenes of the city around me. Cars rushed up and down the street beside me as I pushed on, dodging between the people and kids dotting the sidewalk.

Closing in on a half of a mile, I reminded myself each step I took put me that much closer to my objective. Although still maintaining relatively high spirits, I felt my body starting to fight my constant state of motion. Over a course of a few minutes my breathing became more intense and my shins starting to develop a slight aching in their sides. The pain was setting in, and I had yet to reach anywhere near the half way point of my trip. Continuing on, each step I took seemed to amplify my state of fatigue. With the first mile of my jog in reach my breathing started to become difficult and my legs started burning. I knew I had to keep going, but my body was telling me to quit.

I believe it's jogging or yogging... It might be a soft "j." 

Undeterred by the signals my body was throwing off, I kept my feet moving as fast as I could. I felt my pace slowing, but I was still jogging and that was all that mattered to me. Finally crossing my first mile, I slowed down to a walk to catch my breath. Sweat rolled down my face as I moved my hand to put pressure on the stabbing pain starting to creep into my ribs. Panting like a dog in the throws of August, I rounded the next corner on my route and tilted my head toward the sky. A slight grunt escaped my mouth before I forced my legs back into a jogging motion. I immediately noticed my body felt more unsynchronized than it did before as I accelerated back to my jogging speed. Entering the longest leg of my run, I wondered if I would be able to make it the full length of the planned route.

I kept focused and pressed on knowing I was the only one responsible for setting my sights so high. My feet feeling heavy with each new step, I refocused and let my stubborn side force out any thoughts of quitting. I was going to complete the task I intended to complete. After all, I was after the real experience, not some modified, half-hearted attempt at jogging. With resolve to fulfill my objective, I started trying to find ways to distract myself from the discomfort I felt in my legs, throat, and chest. For a brief period I was able to align my thoughts and center on the beautiful lakeside foliage appearing on my right. Then, suddenly, the pain in my ribs intensified, creating a sharp pain with each breath I took. I once again slowed to a walk as my body seemed incapable of obtaining the air it needed.

Falling apart with a few blocks left
My walking pace continued for a few minutes before I once again kicked my legs into a jogging motion. Determined to complete the last three quarters of a mile before me, I focused intently on my pace to make sure I did not tire myself too quickly. I climbed a small hill in front of me before the lakeside view of Tenney Park came into full focus. The sights and sounds of the people making use of the lush green space resounded over the summer air, providing a diversion from my still deteriorating condition. I forced myself to continue as the familiar labored breathing patterns and unpleasant pains returned to my body. Now past the park, massive lakeside homes accompanied me as I did everything in my power to continue jogging. With four blocks left in my trip, I again found myself struggling for air, which forced me back into a walk.

I knew I was too close to my destination to stay at my slowed pace for long. Waiting for some cars to pass so I could cross the road, I committed to making the rest of my journey at a running pace. I could see the finish. I just needed to get myself there. Exhaustion now gripping me, I quickened my pace and focused on my objective. The passing time seemed to blur into a moment as I worked through my pain and continued moving my feet. I crossed the last street before my block uninterrupted and climbed the small hill at the start of my block. Rounding the last corner of my jog, I saw my house come into view just as the pain in my chest once again became unbearable. I knew I couldn't slow down again, so I forced my way through the pain and climbed my front lawn.

Relieved, I threw open the front door and slumped onto the nearest flat surface. Immediately taking stock of my emotions, I realized my earlier perspectives on running seemed to fit my current state of mind. I didn't "feel good." I didn't feel revitalized or free of the day's stress. I was tired, sweaty, and sore, and I desired none of them. Sure, there was a slight sense of accomplishment that came with completing my task, but I looked at the event from a cost-benefit point of view. Were the physical effects of my jogging worth its apparent health benefits? Considering my condition after the journey, my answer was an easy "no."

Done... Just. Done.

Now, I realize I can't get the most out of jogging from one experience. I realize that with time and effort  "going for a jog" can become an easier and much more enjoyable affair. That stated, my first experience with jogging has only provided me one major takeaway... leave the running to the runners. I don't know if or when I will ever "go for a jog" again. While I still intend to make a 5k a part of my "I have never..." journey, I just can't see myself hitting the streets again without a reason to run. That stated, I'm open to anyone providing me a way to make the experience more enjoyable, but until then I will stick with my perspective that I am not, and never have been, a runner.

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