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January 20, 2009

The Runner in Me

1 I started running in college. I was nineteen. I took a PE course on jogging because it was the only one I could find with openings and I had yet to work up the courage to take ballet. Somehow the idea of a shapeless t-shirt and baggy shorts was less intimidating than pink tights and a skin tight black leotard.

Despite the fact that I was not fast and was so flat-footed I took to running on the balls of my feet like a sprinter, I took to running like a gazelle on the open veldt. The freedom of limb and the sensation of time melding with movement was addictive.

Coming up on the end of my third decade as a runner, I recently had to admit to myself that I am old. Perhaps too old to continue to put foot to pavement in the pounding manner I so love. Long gone are the days when I would shed work clothes for tattered running garb and hit the suburban sidewalks like a Kenyan marathoner. My daily mileage back in the day easily outstripped what I limpingly manage in a week or more now. And I miss those days terribly.

To compensate for the call of the open road I have taken up yoga, an acceptable old lady physical pastime in the small Canadian community where I now live. I don't know many women my age, or older, who do not indulge in yoga. It was through one of them that I began one of my most recent attempts to soothe my thwarted inner runner with  spin, a sweat inducing torture that taunts me with the illusion of momentum.

But this last week I had to admit that I need to run like I need to write. It's a compulsion. And so I purchased a treadmill. Only a slight step up from a bike that goes nowhere, it does at least feel as though I am moving despite the lack of air caressing my face and bare arms and the sameness of the surroundings.

When my make-believe road was ready fate intervened as is its wont in the form of a sinus infection.

"I think I will run a bit after skating this afternoon," I told my husband.

"Didn't you tell me your ears were plugged and you were feeling slightly light-headed?"

And though he didn't go on to call me an idiot, the implication was clear. I am a runner and little short of being physically unable to stand will keep me from donning a perfectly broken in pair of runners and racking up miles. It's crazy and incomprehensible to anyone without the necessary hard-wiring, but it's undeniable.

Someday I hope to be one of those very old women who laps the walkers at the local fitness center with a slow but steady jog, and people will wonder just how old I am. An odd aspiration. But I can't think of many better ones.

Ann Bibby writes here at 50 something Moms and at her own site, anniegirl1138.

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