No matter how old, young, skilled, the shape, running history, natural talent or ability, all runners struggle with the same one distance. From zero to 5km. New runners, experienced runners coming back from injury all share the same 'symptoms'.
The first symptom is lethargy. The initial few steps are fine but after 100 steps the 'tharge' kicks in. By this time the chest has started a small wail which builds up to a crescendo of burning wheeze almost forcing a stop. The legs start to ache and burn while side stitches make an appearance. These symptoms eventually go away and disappear without the 'arrival fanfare' but can easily return after a long absence of running.
I made my re-acquaintance tonight with all of them as each cell, fibre and molecule squealed, rattled, shook, wobbled, groaned, moaned and cursed at me but there was a deep quietness of knowing that it will be fine (just not right now Anita!). Usually on completion my head says 'see, it wasn't that bad'. But while my gentle jigging looked calm on the surface, inside my debate team were arguing. Luckily I have a bank of running history and I know I can indeed get through this, just don't rush it! This means - don't try and run as fast I think I should, don't try and impress the coaches at the side of the track (hahaha), don't try and 'dice' the lithe schoolkids and don't try and race the excited doberman all along his long running area fence. Just listen.
I am a 'feeling' runner in that I don't really time myself and go into stats etc, primarily because I can't quite figure out my watch and I have enough to think about while running. So I listen.. to my body, my feelings and my mind. Tonight I could hear a flapping noise, a very loud heartbeat and my inner couch yelling at me to return home immediately. After five months of 'forced' non-running I finally realised 'I NEED to run'. To diffuse, detach, engage, confuse, withdraw, breathe, stop, walk, laugh, moan and sweat. Oh wait, I am a lady - perspire. Something that I had forgotten about was mucus. Yup. My recent asthmatic chest flare up has resulted from not running, and I need to stretch my lungs, but my lungs don't like stretching either. As a teen running Cross Country I was very skilled in controlled spitting and my aim was very good -then! Now I am a lady AND a lady with mucus. This proved a distraction for a while and I won't gross you out even more, but my skill did improve.
Oh, the glamour!
To add to the pressure on my chest the sky had gathered every winter cloud together and the air was heavy and warm. I thought it was all my angels gathering together to watch this pink, slow moving spectacle return to the tar. The nearby veldfire or two also made my chest tighten. Then I realised it was my head trying to prevent me from running because I was afraid. I was scared of 5km! Scared of foot pain, body pain and all sorts. When I realised that, I relaxed. Did all my old tricks of connecting my ring finger to my thumb for my lung meridian and then looked around my surroundings. Apart from one lampole (ok, maybe 2) on the mountain turn around point (ok, maybe a small incline), I managed to keep at it all the way. The freewheel back into the stadium almost had me speed, but I held back and listened. The flapping sound was louder and I remembered that it was not any invisible runner trying to catch me but a now heavily sweat-drenched clump of hair clattering on my hat! I laughed but then there were more flapping noises that didn't match my pace. Three young school kids glided past me cutting the last corner as they headed back to their proud coaches. One of them even had the audacity to run barefoot!
With a huge delight I found the 'stop' button on my watch with 38minutes logged! Three track laps, four road kays. Red faced cheeks, burnt out chest, sweaty head but very proud heart!