Last week I mentioned that I haven’t been doing as much hiking since moving to Seattle. In truth, I haven’t been doing as much hiking in general since Lorie and I closed up our apartment in Bozeman just over two years ago, although I have climbed a mountain or two since then, and done a little bit of fishing when I’ve had the opportunity.
I haven’t been physically inactive since then, however: I’ve been doing plenty of walking all over the place, hither, tither and yon, and there’s definitely some weeks here in Seattle where I log way more feet-miles than car-miles. Since last spring, though, my principle "getting out into the world" activity has been running, of all things.
If you’ve been following the Tyranny of Pants side of the website, you’ve probably noticed it’s been a subject of a comic every now and then, but generally I haven’t made much mention of it since it’s not quite as "destination focused" as my hikes were. Perhaps it’s because the running outings produce substantially less interesting imagery than summertime treks past waterfalls and mountain meadows of wildflowers. Still, it seemed like it might be worth musing about as I sit down to post an update today, mostly because it’s what I was thinking about as I was jogging around the lake this afternoon when trying to think of something to write that wasn’t just another progress report on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
If you had asked me after the first time I’d run a mile if I ever thought I would one day think of myself as "a runner", I’d probably have given you an emphatic NO. Of course, I was in third grade at the time, and the entire notion of running for an entire mile seemed like a crazy feat that only a Marine would perform. To expect someone like myself, who was not showing any particular talent for sports, to perform the task with any sort of aptitude, let alone aplomb, was ridiculous. If I recall correctly, I finished that first mile with a time well over 12 minutes, and I know I walked for a bit somewhere in the there. I remember I wasn’t the last of my classmates to cross the finish line, but I sure felt like I was close. I was not the fast kid.
Time passed, I considered myself a solid non-runner bookish kid, and then sometime between my junior and senior years, I crossed some sort of invisible threshold. Running started to feel like something I could do. I don’t even know why I started– summer restlessness perhaps? For some reason lost to me now, I took it upon myself to take to the road outside of our house and head to the stop sign and back, a distance of just a little over a mile, or two miles round trip. And I did it again a day or two later. And again, and again, plodding along the route, hoping to do it just a little quicker than the previous day.
The habit never really persisted much past the onset of the cold weather, or my return to Bozeman for school, but I always seemed to return to it sooner or later. And that pattern was pretty much the standard until the spring of last year.
What happened to make it "stick" this time? Well, I agreed to run in a half-marathon with my family. Thirteen miles was quite a bit more distance than I had ever run before, although I had been on hikes of similar length, so I knew I could at least walk the distance. I hit the road at the end of March, and have been at it since. Seattle’s comparatively mild climate certainly helped me keep the habit through winter, but I’ve been finding it to be a very satisfying activity, and am sure I’ll stick with it for a while yet, even if this winter ends up being colder. In the grand scheme of things, I’m still not “the fast kid”– I’m no prodigy, that’s for sure, and am pretty much average for someone of my age, but I’m having a good time.
So what’s the point of this long-winded update? I suppose it’s just the notion of sticking to something, and never really knowing where the future may take you. My eight-year-old self would’ve never thought I’d be running four-miles as a "short" run. And now, at the age of thirty-one, I take a great deal of satisfaction in being able to accomplish a physical task that would’ve been a challenge for my eighteen-year-old self. I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of re-invention over the last couple of years, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the best way to start doing something is to just start doing it. I know that’s silly, circular logic, but it’s true: no one is going to come by with a magic wand, tap you on the head and imbue you with the power to run a 5K. You have to get started on your own, and do the hard work to get to where you want to be, whether it’s running a marathon, playing a violin, or eating way, way too many hotdogs. Don’t be afraid to get started– no matter how many starts you might have.

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