BY ERIC DIETERLE
In the few months since I’ve been a member of Team Run Flagstaff, I’ve found myself saying again and again, “I am not a runner.”
I’m just here to run, I tell whomever is listening. It’s part of my weekly workout routine. And maybe I run on some Sunday mornings, too. But I am not a runner.
The conviction is a deep one. Running, like math, found itself on the wrong side of my attitude when I was still just a kid. Over decades of activity, then atrophy, then a renewed commitment to fitness, it has remained there.
When I moved to Flagstaff a year ago, I started walking and biking—even running—a few flat trails. But somehow that wasn’t enough. I saw runners emerging from the trees who clearly had been up there, somewhere, at higher elevations. Maybe it’s my attachment to the natural landscape, but seeing them filled my mind with romanticized visions of loping along twisting trails through the forest.
So I’ve tried. Reality, though, quickly claws my visions back to earth. A few hundred yards and my legs feel like bags of sand. My mind, never having been through—maybe even to—that runner’s wall that I hear about, begins the chant: Give up. Right now. I am not a runner.
I’ve done OK on Tuesday nights with TRF, hiding pretty well (I think) among the sizeable group. But now comes a twist. Run a timed mile. Yes, I get the point. It’ll help me understand and make better use of R pace, I pace, T pace. But I can’t lose myself in the crowd. There will be a time, and it will be attached to me.
And it will be slow.
For the past week, I’ve told myself simply to accept the number, whatever it is. The information can help me. At nearly 54, I need realistic goals. Heck, I need to figure out how I’m even going to set realistic goals.
I could skip the timed run. I could just keep being a guy who shows up to get some exercise. Yet something tells me that I want more. I want to feel that I’m getting somewhere, to make some progress along that tricky trail in my mind that leads upward from failure.
Somewhere out there is a run that isn’t waiting for me to finish—it’s waiting for me to start.
Eric Dieterle is a member of the Team Run Flagstaff communications committee and public affairs coordinator at Northern Arizona University.