Running is my religion

Do you see that hunched over figure dragging her sorry ass up the hill? The one in the pink shirt and black shorts? Yeah, that's me. That's how good I am, yo. Those running/athletic wear commercials TOTALLY need to hire me. It's been six months of boot-camp and running is still damnably difficult. Every time I run, I'm convinced I'm dying. I still yell things like: "I CAN'T DO THIS!" and every time I do, someone yells back: "You can TOTALLY do this!"

This is why I run in a pack. Communal suffering is better than solitary suffering. If you fall behind or start dry-heaving into the bushes, someone comes along, whaps your shoulder and says: "You can do this, girlfriend!"

And you know what? I CAN do this.

I CAN run! Today I ran a timed mile while carrying 5 lb. weights in each hand. It's honestly shocking how much harder it is to run while carrying weights. And yet, I did it. I ran that mile in 10 minutes flat--which totally floored me since the very first time I ran a mile it took me 12 minutes (and that was without weights!).

But if you would have told me last year that I could run a 10 minute mile without stopping (while carrying weights), I would have called you crazy. Here's why: I believed I could not run. It's insane how strong a belief is. I literally and fully believed my body could not/would not run. I really thought I'd die of a heart attack or something if I ran.

You know what else hindered me from running? All those glitzy, glamorous running ads featuring gazelle-like human beings who, apparently, don't sweat like stuck pigs or grimace in pain while running. Because me? I sweat like a pig. I turn beet red in the face. I pant like a winded hippopotamus. I sob and scream and blow out my cheeks.

I always thought running was for elitist human beings with long legs or genetically pre-disposed super-lungs. No, I actually believed this. I believed running wasn't for everybody. I had convinced myself that running just wasn't for me.

How did I come to believe that?

I mean, when I was a kid, I ran all over the place. I look at my four year old twins and you know what? Running comes naturally to them. They run everywhere. Going to the bathroom? Run there! Going for a drink of water? Run there! Going outside to play? RUN THERE, baby!

And something about my twins running everywhere reminds me of myself at their age. When I was little, I loved running. I loved the hot, sticky, sweaty, stinky primal feeling of it. There was such freedom in running. I felt real after running.

There is no running elitism when you're a kid. It's just you, pumping your legs and feeling the rush of wind in your heart, feeling the pounding of your heart. Sometimes I think the whole commercialization of running has ruined running. You can't be an Ugly Runner anymore. You can't sweat and pant and scream and sob in your beat-up sweat-pants.

This is why I love my 5:30am bootcamp class. There's no pretending at 5:30am. Everyone has just rolled out of bed. It's dark. And your first experience of the day is going to be: pain. Ain't nothing glitzy 'bout that.

So, you hit the ground running and you sweat, you pant, you scream, you sob. But when it's over, something magical happens. It's really like a religious experience. Your body is flooded with all these feel-good endorphins. It's pain transfigured into glory.

When I'm driving home, I'm absolutely exhausted and absolutely ecstatic. My mind is clear, my body feels so alive and real.

This must be what Heaven feels like.