That thing I love to hate, and hate to love: running

30 Aug

When I was much, much younger, back in those single-digit and pre-teen years I so fondly refer to from time to time, I loved to run.  I kid you not, I was like Forrest Gump.  I ran everywhere.  Walking was just something I didn’t do.  Running, in my young mind, was a much, much better way to travel. 

Things changed, as they often do, when my age climbed into the “teenager” range.  My running experience during those years was limited to the dreaded mandatory one-mile runs in high school gym class.  I was thin, so, in my mind, what was the point of running and hurting myself?

Toward the end of high school, when I was 19, I signed up with the Virginia Army National Guard.  Unfortunately, this didn’t change my work-out habits.  I didn’t run before I left, or even attempt a single push-up.  I figured they’d teach me and force me to do those things once I got to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, so what was the point in doing it sooner?  I knew basic was nine weeks and that, at the time, seemed to be plenty of time to work my ass into shape. 

January 2004 came and I went to Fort Jackson, and sure enough, my kind Drill Sergeants found the time to make me run, and do push-ups, and sit-ups, and all sorts of other fun Army exercises.  It wasn’t a mile here and there, it was three hard miles with plenty of yelling and sounding off and legs hurting.  I got through it, obviously, but by the time I graduated basic my legs were shot.  My knees hurt, I had shin splints and stress fractures and the very first thing I did upon my arrival to Fort Meade, Maryland was visit the doctor.  The doctor decided to limit my running and I was so, so thankful.  I did the physical therapy exercises prescribed to me and eventually I started running again, but even then, I sucked at it.  Running just didn’t seem to be something I was good at anymore. 

Fast forward to this deployment, after two years of being a citizen Soldier and sitting on my ass a lot.  My best friend Andrew and I got to Camp Atterbury, and seeing as we were both out of shape, we made a commitment to running several times a week.  And we did.  We ran as much as we could, but still, we hated it.  It was miserable.  Every day seemed like a bad running day and even though all that running eventually paid off when we had to take our APFT, it still wasn’t something we excelled at or enjoyed. 

My exercise regime has been sporadic since landing in country.  My friends and I have gone through phases of working out six days a week, only to fall into a schedule of not working out at all for a month.  Motivation seems to come in small doses that never seem to last long enough. 

As my time for a APFT grew closer, I knew I had to start pushing myself harder.  And I did.  I passed the PT test with some of my best scores to date.  And, shockingly, I didn’t stop working on it after that.  Oh no, I’ve made a steady commitment to working out regularly this month and amazingly, I’ve succeeded in that commitment, partly because I’ll have to take another APFT next week for an Army school, and partly because exercise really does make me feel better. 

Last week Andrew and I found ourselves talking about running and I mentioned that it was actually starting to be fun.  It was a moment of revelation, I suppose, to realize that, at this point, I’ve come full circle.  I loved running in my youth, hated it during my teenage years and through my earlier 20s, and now, at 23, I’ve finally started to embrace the concept again. 

The true test will come once the deployment is over and there isn’t a gym within a two minute walk…

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