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Patch Pledge February: The First Week

Share the tiny trials and small triumphs of running a 5K. Our February Patch Pledge kicks off its first week.

With the threat of rain hovering overhead, brushing the sky a darker shade of charcoal and weighing the air with moisture, I motored up Marin Avenue towards Tilden Park and readied myself for a long run along the Inspiration Point trail.

To kick off my Patch Pledge — a personal promise inspired — I’ve committed to running a 5K once a week (or more) for the entire month of February. Now, for all you hardcore runners out there, I know this seems likes child’s play, hardly a challenge worthy of your attention. But for those, like myself, who struggle with the idea of distance running, let alone its execution, three-and-a-half miles is a daunting enterprise.

I’ve duly prepared, however, donning the specialized attire of the sport, charging up my iPod, and eating a hearty breakfast. Okay, I’ll confess, I’m in pretty good shape. I’m dedicated to my exercise routine and have been for many years. I hike regularly, go to the gym, and even run. But distance running has always frustrated me and stymied my fitness aspirations. Anything over a couple of miles starts to feel impossibly taxing and eventually unendurable. It’s time to break my fitness barrier.

Arriving in the horseshoe parking lot of Inspiration Point, I pull in and ready myself. Having searched the internet for useful training tips, I know to stretch before my run, go slowly at first, and walk whenever the strain is too much. The wind is blowing up off the bay, pushing against my body in a cold sheet and icing my fingertips. I steel myself against it and head out.

Starting off slowly, I chug along the asphalt path at a snail’s pace, intentionally holding myself to a measured tempo. I’m too aware of the process and can’t seem to get out of my head. Climbing a small hill, my heart rate rises with the terrain, and soon I’m laboring harder, my breathing heavy. I slow the pace even more. Despite my slogging pace — and my private embarrassment — my heart rate slows and my energy kicks back in. I’m good to go again.

I let my senses take over, riding the rhythm of my effort and losing myself to the scenery. Crows watch my progress from high overhead, perched along a power line in a quiet display. The trees and brush are still wet from last night’s dew and an occasional drop hits my face as I pass beneath a long stand of eucalyptus. The miles pass under my feet, and soon I’m turning around at the half-way point. I take a break before heading back, gulping down the mentholated air and standing for a minute in the stillness.

Turning back towards home, I reflect on my efforts and allow a speck of smugness to be my small reward. Not bad for my first outing, I think, not bad at all.

Have you started your Patch Pledge? What are you doing? Share your ideas, efforts, and plans on the site:

  • Tell us about it in the comments below.
  • Become a Berkeley Patch blogger and share your triumphs and challenges along the way. Blog any time you like!
  • Join us on Twitter and Facebook for support from the Berkeley Patch community.
Jenny Strauss February 07, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I'm running at least three times a week (25-30 minute runs, plus warm up and cool down) and doing yoga twice a week. Today was my first yoga class. Yowza! Good and hard, but not impossible and I feel invigorated. I am strong and fit and fat woman.
Emily Henry February 07, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Well done, Jenny! What kind of yoga are you doing? Have you tried Bikram? I've always wondered what it would be like to do yoga in 105 degree heat!
Lyra King February 07, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Jenny, do you have a favorite place to run? What's your biggest challenge when you're training?
Jenny Strauss February 07, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I love to run on the Berkeley Marina and around the local park. I suppose one challenge is that I've trained my body to do pretty good on flat surfaces, god forbid I should come across an incline! I used to like to run up Sacramento to Cedar, up Cedar to Shattuck, down Shattuck to Allston, and back to Sacramento, stopping at the Y to life weights. A real challenge I face as a fat woman is bracing myself for bizarre/inappropriate/rude comments about me/my body, or what I "should" be doing, like a woman who stopped me at the end of my run the other day, when I had two minutes left and was in the zone, to yell at me from the car to run on the grass. Or the time a man stopped me in the morning to tell me how he "just lost a tremendous amount of weight." To be in my body as a fat woman and enjoy it as it is now, for the sake of being fit is wonderful. To have constant intervention/comments/weird looks/etc. is difficult. On the other hand, once those endorphins kick in, I feel macho and less likely to take crap.

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