The treadmills are going whirr, whirr, whirr. All around I hear the cadence of pounding footfalls thump, thump, thump of dozens of disciplined runners. I quietly move over to the row of treadmills. I look to the left. I look to the right. I find an open treadmill. I get on the treadmill. I place my water bottle on the right, a towel next to me on the left—although I'm not sure why I have a towel, since I don’t sweat. I take out my book, set it up on the book shelf in front of me, and turn the treadmill to 3.5 miles per hour; because I’m not a runner.
I am a lot of things, but I am not a runner. Everyone knows that runners:
- Don’t read books while running, and
- Actually run
And since none of those things apply to me, I know, for a fact, that I am not a runner. Well, at least, that was the case over four years ago. Until that fateful day. The day I became a runner.
I’m at the gym, minding my own business, leisurely strolling at 3.5 miles per hour, reading my book, all bundled up with a jacket and sweat pants (Because it's so cold in here!), and not sweating; when the runner to my right looks over to me and says, “Hi! I’m Lucy*. I met you last month at the pool.” I look at her and don’t recognize her. “Yes, we met during the kids’ swimming lessons, remember?” I look at her again more closely, and remember. She does look a bit familiar. At the pool, she had looked a lot different. She had looked like a normal person then. She did not look anything like the runner next to me.
Over the next few months, I get to know her.
“O my gosh!” says Lucy, “I’m completely drenched. I look like I just got out of the pool.”
I look at her and agree. “Yikes! You are. I guess I’m lucky that way. I’m always cold, and you see,” I lean in closer to her and whisper, “I don’t sweat. Not even in 100 degree weather.”
She is speechless at first, but then she adds. “That just means that you’re not exercising hard enough.”
The following day, we are on the treadmills again. Lucy, sweating profusely. Me, hardly perspiring. When Lucy looks over to me and says, “You know, if you’re not sweating that means that you’re probably not working hard enough. Why don’t you try raising the speed to 4.0 miles per hour?”
So I do. To humor her. I set the speed to 4.0.
Days go by and now I’m walking at 4.0 miles per hour. Reading my book. Again, Lucy is sweating buckets and buckets of sweat. Me, I’m as dry as the leaves in winter, and proud of it. Lucy is not impressed. “You’re still not working hard enough,” she says. “Try setting the speed to 4.2.”
To humor her, I do it. I set the speed to 4.2. This goes on for weeks. Lucy, sweating like a pig. Me, not close to breaking a sweat.
Fast forward a few months. I’m briskly moving along at 4.5 miles an hour. When Lucy announces, “If you can walk 4.5 miles per hour, you can easily jog at 5.0 miles per hour.”
I stop in my tracks and almost fall off the back of the treadmill. I'm incredulous. I’m outraged. “But I’m not a runner!” I insist. “I have bad hips. I have weak ankles. I have high arches. I have asthma. I can’t run. I really wish I could, but I just can’t. It’s medically impossible.”
Lucy, just smiles and says, “Trust me. If you can do 4.5 miles per hour, you can handle 5.0 miles per hour.”
Just to prove her wrong, I try it. I crank that treadmill all the way to 5.0. I'm slowly jogging for a few minutes when I start to feel a bit warm, so I pause the treadmill and take off my jacket. I turn the treadmill back on and keep jogging for another ten minutes. At this point I notice that I can no longer read my book because my head is bobbing up and down and it's making me dizzy to try to read. I keep jogging. I feel perspiration rolling down my face. I’m not completely drenched, but I’m actually sweating. “Yuck!” I exclaim. “I’m sweating.”
Lucy smiles at me with an “I told you so smile.”
At that point I realize that like a runner:
- I am sweating
- I can't read my book on the treadmill, and
- The treadmill is set to 5.0 miles per hour and I am no longer walking.
And I think to myself “How is that possible? I’m NOT a runner!”
But that is because I had been wrong about myself. I am not, not a runner. On that day, I became a runner. A bona fide runner. A crazy mother runner.
Over four years later, after countless 5Ks, a bunch of half marathons, and five full marathons, I am convinced that everyone needs a Lucy in her life. Everyone needs someone that will challenge her to step outside her comfort zone; to quickly move to uncharted territory; to do what she always thought was impossible.