Several months ago after reading Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book, Born to Run, I decided I hadn’t given running a fair shot. I read the book and McDougall made me a believer. Not only was I born to run, but I was born to run with almost no cushioning between my foot and the brutal terrain. I begged running for forgiveness and cloaked my apology in minimalist shoes and new breathable running tops. I refocused, I recommitted, and I researched the very act of running that I’ve always struggled so much with. Many months, hundreds of blisters, and 38 grueling runs later I can confidently say I WAS NOT BORN TO RUN. I tried to believe. I tried so hard that I even started chanting the mantra that McDougall learns in the book’s story line. “Easy. Light. Smooth.” “Easy. Light.Smooth.” Over and over again until subconsciously my mind glitched and without noticing my mantra had shifted into “Easy. Light. STUPID“, with an unequivocal emphasis on the last one.
The best part to come out of this barefoot running experiment came as the result of my tireless dedication to avoid going on runs. Last October I bought a bike in the hopes that I could commute to the grocery store, someday ride alongside my children, and impress the cute biker boy I was convincing to date me. After I bought it I realized it was the perfect excuse to get out of running. I would call it “cross training“. Several hundred dollars later I found out my theory was slightly flawed when I realized I was actually terrified of my bike. I’ve rode bikes my entire life and when I first moved to Boise the only way I had to commute was a bike. But this was different. It was a road bike. It had funny looking loopy handles, with brakes in all the places except where I actually wanted them to be. The gears were located somewhere in the middle of this mess of loops and it required math calculations to be able to change them. I defiantly laced my running shoes back up.
But the bike kept looking at me and the shoes kept failing me. Every time I’d pass through the garage I would think “maybe today is the day we become friends”. I would wobble on it to the end of my street, hesitantly produce a shaking arm signal, and then lose faith and walk it back home. Slowly I worked my way up to where I could go one street away, then two, and finally I could travel up to a few blocks away as long as I never had to stop or start again. I was five years old all over trying to learn how to defy gravity and balance on spinning wheels. Then it happened. As it usually has to happen for me to do anything I don’t want to do. I got mad. Really angry at this bike for being so confusing. So one night I just decided that I would ride it all the way to my boyfriend’s house (formerly known as the cute biker), 5 miles away in the dark. And I did.
Not even half way there and I started laughing at myself for struggling so much with this. Because I realized that McDougall had it all wrong, or at least in my case he did. I wasn’t born to run. I’m 6 ft. tall with flat feet, bad knees, negative lung capacity and very little coordination. Nothing about me was born to pound my joints into the pavement and no matter how much I chant the stupid mantra I will never en-capture “easy, light, or smooth”. The chances are I will keep running. But it’s certainly not because was born to do it. I think my new motivation for running will be to call it “cross training”.
There are certainly moments when I’m not quite as in love with biking as I sound to be. Undoubtedly if you ask the biker who surprisingly passed me on what felt like the 18th hill in a row on mile 50 out of 66 last weekend, he would probably mention some audible noises coming out of me that sounded like wailing, stifled tears, and the F word had collided. And possibly while going up those hills I created stories in my head about each unique piece of road kill I spun by and how they had actually died of exhaustion trying to make it up the hill and were later flattened into pavement pancakes, or how some of them actually ended their own lives willingly just to avoid having to walk one step further up that hill. There were a few moments where I wanted to give in and concede that the only endurance anything I’ve ever been good at is napping. Yet I kept pedaling away.
And then I got to the top of those 18 hills and came to what should be known as biker’s paradise, and I think is in fact called something almost as uppity like “Pleasant Valley Road” or some such pleasantry. From here you have the reward of those grueling hills all packaged up in a long stretch of downhill slope. The kind where you forget how to pedal because you can go so long without doing so. All you have to do is hold still and keep your eyes open wide to life. Whooshing by while you don’t move a muscle. It must be the closest feeling we have to flying. To really flying. To rushing through wind head first while everything else lays motionless in awe. When your motion does finally slow at the bottom of the hill, Boise lies in front of you. It’s tucked in warm and cozy between sheets of satin blue sky and covers of snow topped mountains. It’s waiting for you as if you never left. Even though you just watched the entire world pass by. Then I know once again, that this is what I was born to do.