In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, the Queen recommends believing in impossible things. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” she says. I love this famous quote so much that it hangs on my refrigerator and I read it often. I cannot match the queen’s record. Six impossible things before breakfast is an awful lot. But I do believe in at least one impossible thing three times a week–and often before my morning meal. I believe that I am a runner.
In elementary school, I was the girl least likely to get picked first for the team. I was slow and heavy. (Still am, in fact.) The Presidential Fitness Test was as close to a nemesis as I will ever have. I could never get close to ringing that damned bell at the top of the rope. I’ll go ahead and blame nearsightedness for my uselessness at tennis and similar activities. But whether myopia is the reason or not, I can’t hit a moving ball for shit. As a natural introvert, I disdain team activities of all kinds. And while I was active as a child, playing outside all day in the summer, as I grew older, I was more content to stay inside reading a book or trying to catch the latest Duran Duran video.
Something happened in my 40th year, though. I began thinking more seriously about the legacy of high blood pressure and diabetes in my family. And I began to take more seriously the care of my now *cough* middle-aged *cough* body. I needed to take a break from reading and writing and computer surfing, and incorporate exercise into my life.
Even from my natural habitat, curled in a chair with a book, I had always secretly envied runners. There is something about slicing through the air, alone in your thoughts, legs pumping, that looks like freedom. And I would watch joggers wind through my neighborhood in rain, sleet, snow and blistering heat and wonder what could feel good enough to make someone endure such miserable weather.
So, I started to run. Well, jog. Actually, what I do is more like a slow jog–a slog. I discovered the nine-week Couch-to-5k program, downloaded an app to guide me, and hit the trail. Some days felt like dying. But even those days felt good in the end, because as much as my legs hurt, as drenched as I became in the heat, as wrung out as I was post-run, I was doing it! After nine weeks, I was slogging 30 minutes and more than two miles three times a week. At the end of the summer, I completed a 5k. ME. I am a (sorta) athlete. A runner.
Of course, there are other reasons people may find my new hobby an impossibility. I am, after all, a black woman. And if you’ve been reading news reports of late, you know what they say: That we disdain healthy living. That we want to be fat. That our body images are warped. That we are more concerned with our hair than our health. Black women and running would seem an odd combination.