|Although, maybe they were working off a cheese binge as well. I know Mr. Bean was.|
On the other hand, runs where I started with ostensibly nothing wrong with me have unfolded badly. Leg-shaking, ragged breathing, blurred vision badly.
Let's revisit one of those runs.
It was a hot and humid Chicago Saturday morning, about 9 o'clock. At this point, I was probably running about 2-2.5 miles a day.
I felt good. The track/soccer field near the trail head was buzzing with adolescent soccer players. The sun was bright, deepening the very unnatural green of the field's springy AstroTurf. I remembered falling on some AstroTurf when I was a kid and feeling like I was being stuck with a million nails all at once. I didn't envy the kids.
|Pictured: pain incarnate|
I started running.
I can't really remember anything distinct about the first part of the run, which isn't surprising. I felt good, and I imagine everything went well at the beginning. Maybe I ran too hard to start. Maybe I underestimated the lateness of the hour contributing to the day's heat. But whatever the reason, somewhere near the end of the first mile, I was feeling something.
It was indistinct to start. My run felt off, like a T-shirt you accidentally put on inside out. Everything technically fits, but there's pulling and tightness in the wrong places.
My calves hurt. What? Why do my calves hurt? They haven't hurt since I started. I'm also breathing really heavily. I sound like a pack-a-day smoker after their first flight of stairs. Ugh, my shoulder now? I have this tight pain in my shoulder. Oh good, my neck is getting in on the action. HOW IS MY NECK HURTING TOO?!
System failure happened everywhere. It was like since my running muscles were shutting down, everything else in my body was shutting down out of sympathy.
I was not happy, but since I now resembled the QWOP runner, I didn't really have the agency to protest.
|People were staring.|
Then I did something I had literally not allowed myself to do since starting my running journey 3 months earlier: I stopped. I ran off the trail and into the waiting arms of the nearest patch of shaded dirt. I sat for a while, pondering how my breathing still wasn't slowing down, and how I wasn't 100% sure I could move my legs.
But then that lovably indomitable runner's spirit piped up, and its squeaky, earnest voice told me to "Just get up and keep running! Every thing will be A-OK if you just try!"
In the background, a defeated-sounding common sense voice told me that maybe, when the vision is starting to go, you need to STOP and address the problem.
I stood up and shuffled forward into my final half mile, which included a lap around the track/soccer field where I started. Turtles passed me. Thinking I was a statue, birds perched from my barely-moving limbs. Gentle breezes threatened to push me over.
As I circled the track at a glacial pace, many players and parents thought I was a performance piece. Cameras clicked, the game stopped, and I watched my progress from somewhere outside of my body, thinking, This idiot could just start pretending to be a living statue and get some tips out of all this.
|Fun fact: this could be a .gif, and you wouldn't even know.|
I finished, though it was with the dignity of a drunk dancing for nickels. In fact, the short walk home did resemble the kind of stumble-blurred drunkenness reserved for those nights where whole bottles of things just disappear from your shelves.
That was my worst run ever, and I don't really have a lesson from it. Well, maybe this: it is admirable to continue on through hardship on your runs, but when bodily functions unrelated to running begin to fail, consider calling it a day. Tired leg muscles? Run through it. Out of body experience? Stop.