This is the eleventh of a 19 part list of my favorite things about 2019. There are books and movies and artists and albums and places and experiences. Making the list has been a helpful way of looking back and taking stock of my year. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important items. No doubt in 20 years I’ll look back at several things on the list and ask, “Huh?” But this is an attempt at this moment in time to remember…
I’ve heard runners tell this joke: Have you actually run a race if you haven’t posted it on social media yet? If the answer is “yes,” then I’m about to complete 9 of them between now and when I hit “publish” on this post.
I am not a “runner” per se. I’ve only had two nicknames in my life. The first, “Skip,” was given to me by my dad and only really ever used regularly by him, when he was alive, and my friend Robert. I don’t know the reason or origin of this nickname, only that my dad never addressed me directly by anything else. (It was actually a little jarring to hear him talk about me to others and use my real name.) The second, given by my football coaches, was “Bull.” I do know the origin of this one. It’s not because I was big. I was big, but not the biggest. And it wasn’t because I was physically strong, because I was anything but strong. Instead, it was because of the way I run. Or rather, the way I “run.” And not like the bulls that crazy people run with who will puncture your lungs and kill you. More like my uncle Johnny’s old Angus bull.
If I had a cowbell around my neck, there would be a lot of space between the dings.
Here’s the thing about running: I don’t like it. But as far as exercise goes, it’s the thing I don’t like the least. It’s hard and a painful, but I don’t have to think like I do with weight training or in classes of some kind. Or, rather, I get a lot of time to think, just not about what I’m actually doing. A little like how I like my life, good running is often slow and steady.
In March, because of how much I love my friend Jackson, I signed up to run in the Heart of Texas Autism Network’s 5K run. I started training at the beginning of the year. Many years ago, I trained for and ran a half marathon. I assumed this would be similar. It wasn’t. Training for a half marathon was much more difficult than training for a 5k. But I found that actually running a 5K is much more difficult. If you are trying to continually improve, or at least, for people like me, to not come in last place, there is little room for error. Plus, you don’t get the runners high you do for longer distances. 5K training is simple. You really just have to have access to a road or a track or an elliptical machine, and show up to them most days of the week. I’m good at a few things in life, but really the only thing I’m great at is showing up.
I finished that race in 34 minutes and 50 seconds. At 58th place, I came just on the inside of the top 50% of the 122 runners. I was proud of myself and thought that a great goal to keep me motivated would be to try to run in one a month. I wanted to do at least a little bit better in each next one than the one before it, but not SO much better that the next one would be a pain in the ass to train for. So I did, and here are my results and times…
April 27, 2019. Heart of Texas Autism 5k. 34:50.
May 26, 2019. Badass Texas: Waco. 33:23.
June 22, 2019. Hero Hustle: Austin. 31:04.
July 20, 2019. Howl at the Moon: Waco. 30:41.
August 17, 2019. Tuff Enuff Trail Run. Waco. 47:51. Because I have access to enneagram 3 energy, I feel the need to give some context to this. I saw “Trail Run” and thought, “Oh, trails. I’ve been on trails. This must be like all the other races, just through the woods. Roughly the same elevation, just with trees and leaves and squirrels.” It was not that, and I thought I was going to die.
September 1, 2019. West Fest Kolache Run. West. 30:09.
October 6, 2019. H.O.T. Fair Running With the Bulls: Waco. 29:04.
November 23, 2019. Central Texas Turkey Trot: Waco. 28:48.
December 7, 2019. Waco Wonderland 5K: Waco. 30:19. Again, because I lost ground on this one, some context. Two week before this race, I worked in children’s church, and the little monsters with their coughing and snotty noses gave me a cold that I had been fighting for several days. I thought I was better, but once I started running, I realized I wasn’t and left about a lung and a half on the course that I had to go back and get when I was finished.
In addition to feeling proud of myself for completing all these, I learned that there is a wholly unique community of people in Waco that I had never seen before, which is unusual. They all know each other, run together, talk about things I don’t understand like “pacing” and “splits” and “drafting.” I’m sure they are wonderful people and that I would love them each individually, but as a group I pretty much loathe them. I’m planning on continuing to see them once a month in 2020, but I want no part in their world. I’ve got my headphones and thoughts to tend to.