On June 29, 2013, I ran, ok jogged; alright already, jogged and walked a 5K – the 6th Annual Atlanta HBCU Alumni Alliance 5K Run/Walk. This wasn’t my first 5k, but what made this one unique was that this was the first time I actually trained for it. In the past, I thought I would just willpower and muscle-memory my way through it – as if I could call up the athleticism from my childhood and bring that to the surface when I needed it. That didn’t work so well.
How did I train? So, glad you asked. A couple of months ago, I was chatting with two friends from work about getting back in shape. At that time, I had just started a full body workout class that my church was freely offering. One friend suggested that I join Black Girls RUN! (BGR). In my typical somewhat sarcastic fashion, I responded, “Girl, I’m not ready for running just yet.” She said, “No, you don’t have to be ready, but they’ll work with you and encourage you to get there.” The difference this time was that I didn’t have my usual paralysis by analysis. In the next day or so, I joined and immediately requested to join the BGR – South Atlanta.
Why didn’t I do my usual paralysis by analysis? Excellent question. Nothing like having health issues to make you feel the urgency. My cholesterol had been up and down. I’ve been getting tested every few months and on one of the last visits, the doctor suggested that it may be time to get on medication. In my typical competitive nature, I said, “Oh, I don’t think so. I can beat this.”
The other health issue started years ago. I was born with a leg length discrepancy – my left leg has always been a little shorter than my right. Not a big deal since it never bothered me and didn’t require corrective measures. But after giving birth to my daughter, I slowly felt a shift in my balance. If you’ve been pregnant, some of you may remember when your pelvic shifted as a result of the pregnancy. Initially, I thought that maybe my pelvic never got back in place. But, my OB/Gyn confirmed that that wasn’t the case. So, I kept it moving since it would only bother me periodically. A couple of years passed and I started feeling like my shorter left leg was getting shorter. Crazy, I know. I went to a chiropractor who confirmed the discrepancy. I went weekly to get my leg lengthened for a few months, then once a month for a year or so. This year I finally decided that I needed a more permanent solution since the pain was becoming more severe. So, I went to my primary physician. X-rays showed that I have lumbar radiculopathy – mild arthritic changes to the lumbar spine. Getting old is a pain, ain’t it? Will see an a doctor of orthopedics next week.
Lesson #1 – Do not delay going to see your doctor.
The sciatic nerve in my back shoots pain down my left leg and when my back tightens, it causes my left hip bone to pull up leg, making it shorter. So, most of my weight is carried on my left side.
So, by the time I received this last bit of news, I had already begun with BGR’s – Riverdale Road Runners. We are doing the Walk Before You Run (WB4YR) program. Although I’ve only been training for about a month, I wanted to do this 5K to sort of gage where I am. When I mentioned that I was with BGR, on three different occasions, it was suggested that I go and get fitted properly for sneakers. When the first person mentioned it, I thought there’s no need. I have almost 20 pair of sneakers, I don’t need another one. But, after the third person mentioned it and then someone on BGR’s Facebook page, mentioned it, I said, “ok, ok, universe – you don’t have to hit me over the head.” So, the day before the 5K, I went to Big Peach Running Co. to get fitted. After they had me run on the treadmill to see my gait and pronation, it was determined that I have a normal pronation and don’t need a “corrective” shoe. As it turns out, running is the one exercise that isn’t hampered by my leg length discrepancy. Exercises that require two feet on the floor like what I was doing in my full body workouts, are problematic. The salesperson brought out several pairs for me to try on. Some of those were less than cute, so I started asking about other colors. I had to ask the salesperson to give me a minute to mentally process this as I had never bought sneakers solely for the feel – especially an expensive sneaker. After I got over that, I decided on Brooks Pure Flow 2 – the most comfortable sneaker I’ve ever had.
Lesson # 2 – Get the proper equipment for your physical activities.
Because of vanity, I was going to go and get some gear to match my new sneakers. But, when I was on my way to the store, it suddenly started raining like cats and dogs and looked like a tornado was coming. I took that as a sign to let go of my vanity, so I turned around and went home.
So, race day arrives and I’m up and at ’em early; arriving at Grant Park at 6:30am to ensure I get a place to park that doesn’t require parallel parking. As a graduate of an HBCU, it was great to be around that comradery of spirit. It’s especially significant that this was a gathering of African Americans exercising, a symbol of trying to reverse many health issues that we unfortunately lead in the nation. BGR is also great in that in many of those categories, black women lead the statistics, and this gives us solidarity in trying to reverse this trend.
During the race in the moments when I was running, ok jogging, as I would pass by people, the girl in me would do like I did when I was a girl. In my head, I was coming from behind to win Olympic Gold in Flo Jo, Brisco-Hooks, Jackie Joyner fashion. (Am I the only one who does that?). After the race, it dawned on me that during the race, I didn’t think about money and bills, the chaos at work, or anything. My mind was clear. Running may be my form of meditation. When I mentioned to someone that I was doing this 5K, she mentioned the phrase, “Run Like a Child.” Remember when you would run with a smile on your face. Easy to do as a child when you don’t have any real responsibilities. But, even as adults, Run Like a Child, is a good phrase to implement. Running may not be your thing, but there is probably something that you can do in childlike fashion.
Lesson #3 – Find a physical activity that channels your inner child, a Run Like a Child moment even if it’s not running.