Taking Tea in the Kasbah

I have a confession to make:

I am not a runner.

So what, right? Big deal. Who cares?

Typically, that statement wouldn’t be such a thing to confess unless you live where I live, in a city that has been dubbed Track Town USA. Then it can be quite the big deal.

You see, running is the life blood of this city. The numerous running trails are like arteries and veins that sustain its inhabitants. Runners of all ages are seen at all times of day running around town, down the street, and on the running trails and tracks. You can find runners outside pounding out the miles in all kinds of weather. If you gathered up a random handful of citizens here, I guarantee at least half of them will be training for or will have recently finished running a 5K race, 10K race, a marathon or a triathlon.

My city is also known for being the place where the first Nike running shoe was created in the 1960’s by then University of Oregon track coach, Bill Bowerman. He created the now famous waffle iron tread pattern – the same pattern that’s still seen on shoes today – with an actual waffle iron.

The first Nike running shoe

Nike CEO Phil Knight has donated tons of money into the University of Oregon’s athletic programs, more than any other donor I’m aware of. He’s been integral in the building of the new baseball stadium (PK Park), the new basketball stadium (Matthew Knight Arena – named for his son), and the Knight Library (the main library on campus). The U of O football team has a different Nike uniform for every game. (A bit excessive? Yes, but when your biggest donor gives them to you, what are you gonna do?)

In case you thought I was exaggerating, this is an actual billboard here. Source: google.com via Ashley on Pinterest

It’s like the whole city is part of some big running club and I’m left out.

Now here’s the pathetic thing about all of this:

I want to be runner. 

And not just a person who occasionally runs or someone who jogs a bit then walks the rest of the way. I want to run like the runners I see all around me: smooth as glass, heads held high, breathing calm and controlled as they go into their second and third miles. I want to be in the club. I want to give a knowing nod at the other runners when they glide past me on the running trail.

And in order to do that I have to, you know, start running. Small detail, I know, but a seemingly pertinent one at that.

In the years since I’ve been a resident of Track Town USA, I’ve tried to become a runner numerous times. I’ve bought the shoes and the clothes. I’ve gone to the running trails and the tracks. I’ve read a little on technique and breathing. And during each attempt at becoming a true runner, I feel like someone has stabbed me in the side with a blunt object as I gasp to get enough air into my burning lungs. I end up leaving the trail feeling dejected and worried that one of the other runners will trip over the part of my lung I hacked up somewhere back by the 800 meter marker.

So why I am bringing up all of this now? Because running mania is coming to my city.

From June 21st through July 1st, my city will host the US Olympic Track and Field Trials. Running and all things track-related will reach fever pitch here during those ten days.

Hayward Field 2008 US Olympic Track and Field Trials

In all fairness, the Olympic trials are quite fascinating to watch. When my city hosted it four years ago, I went down to Hayward Field and braved the crowds to catch some of the action. You haven’t seen running until you witness the Olympic hopefuls gliding around the track like they are out for a Sunday stroll. Truly amazing.

With the Olympic trials starting, I’ve been inspired to try the running thing again. I vowed this time to take it slowly (I’m an impatient wannabe runner), building up to a respectable distance in so that I can own the title of ‘runner’. I want to keep my lungs inside my body where they belong. I want to get the metaphorical knife out of my rib cage. I want to glide alongside the other runners.

Last week I gave it another go. I gave up going to the gym one evening even though my primary motivator for going five nights a week (besides feeling good and getting in shape, of course) is the fact that I get to watch Vampire Diaries via Netflix while working out. I’ll shamelessly admit that whenever I feel a bit lazy about exercising, all I have to do is remind myself I that I can watch sexy, shirtless vampires for the next 45 minutes and I’m dressed and out the door before you can say Damon Salvatore.

Yep, still motivating. Image credit ~ CW

I came to terms with a vampire-less workout and laced up my big girl shoes. I walked over to the running trail paved with the forgiving bark-o-mulch and the handy meter markers to show you how far you still have to go have gone.

Such a long stretch ahead…

After a brief warm up, I worked up to what I thought was a respectable running pace. That is, until the real runners flew past me in a blur. But I ignored the twinge of doubt in my head telling me this wasn’t such a good idea. I’ll call that voice Skeptical Tami (ST). The other voice (you all have more than one in your head, right?), Positive Encouraging Tami (PET), chimed in with her own two cents:

PET: Don’t listen to that tart. You can do this. Keep up the pace. Don’t you mind the other runners. You’re a beginner right now.

ST: Whatever. (Her usual reply.)

I swiftly ran past the 100 meter and 200 meter markers and felt pretty good. Breathing was steady and all of the workouts at the gym seemed to have prepared my legs for this. No blunt objects stuck in my side yet. No burning in my lungs.

300 meters, 400 meters

I congratulated myself for essentially for running what would have been one full lap around a track, a whole 1/4 mile for you metric system phobics out there.

And then the pain in my side started. A dull ache at first and easy enough to ignore. But then my lungs began their fiery revolt. The peanut gallery in my head had some thoughts to share on the subject:

ST: I don’t want to be catty, but I have to just say it: Told ya so. You could be in the air-conditioned gym watching sexy, shirtless vampires instead of running around this dusty trail.

PET: Ignore her. Keep your breathing even and steady. You can do this.

ST: *cough* Sexy, shirtless vampires. *cough*

Still, I pressed on.

500 meters, 600 meters.

The cramp in my side persisted and my breathing became more like that of the wheezing variety seen in chain-smoking asthmatics.

But I kept running.

700 meters, 800 meters

Tread lightly here. Thank you.

I gave myself a mental high-five for running without stopping for a half mile even though I wanted to stop and look for the piece of my lung I left there the last time I tried this.

900 meters

My side felt as though a shiv had been driven through several internal organs by now. My memory is hazy, but I think the voices in my head were saying this:

ST: The Salvatore brothers would not want you to suffer this way.

PET: The Salvatore brothers are fictitious characters.

ST: And your point is?

PET: They’re not real.

ST: I can see those sculpted pecs and abs clear as day on the screen when we’re at the gym. Trust me. They’re real.

PET: *sigh* Why do I bother?

ST: My thoughts exactly.

I cursed the stupid sexy, shirtless vampires for not preparing me better for this. I think this was kept in my head, but I can’t be sure due to lack of oxygen.

And while I was lambasting the vampires and their sexy, shirtless ways, something miraculous happened: the 1000 meter marker appeared up ahead, totally within reach of my winded, red-faced, sweaty grasp.

I had done it: one full lap around the trail without stopping.

Then I slowed to a walk while I still had possession of all internal organs.

Once I could breathe without feeling like my lungs were on fire, I could hear PET’s tiny voice coming through: Hey, not too shabby for your first time out on the trail.

Good advice for pretty much everything in life, don’t you think? Source: google.com via Dana on Pinterest

Since then I’ve gone running four more times and have pushed myself up to a full mile. My goal by the end of summer? A respectable three miles.

I’ll take these small, one-mile victories for now and continue to reward myself with an episode of sexy, shirtless vampires when I get home from the running trail. I know I won’t ever get to the gazelle-like swiftness of the Olympians who fly around the track at Hayward Field. But perhaps someday I will be able to go to the running trail, give a knowing nod to the other runners and proclaim, “Yeah, I’m a runner, too.”


How about you, fabulous readers? Do you have any fitness goals? How are you doing in your quest to reach them? What motivates you? Any words of advice for me? Any plans to watch the Olympic trials or the Olympics? If you’re going to London to watch them in person, can I stow away in your suitcase? Am I crazy for wanting to be a runner? (Wait, don’t answer that last one…)

30 thoughts on “Sexy, Shirtless Vampires Will Not Prepare You for the Olympics

  1. First, congrats on tying up the sneakers and hitting the pavement (or wood chips, whatever!). I’m trying to get back into shape, but it’s tough. I’ll be honest – I want the legs of a runner without running. I’ve always hated running, all my life, but a few years back I took up running. At my best, I could only run for 30 minutes at a time, but that was huge. Now, I can go about a quarter of the track. Needless to say, I’ve been walking.

    • Running has been one of those elusive things that I’ve had a mental block over for years. I’m hoping to push past that this time around. 30 minutes of running is a great accomplishment! Good for you! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. We can always do more than we “think” we can. I learned that through long-distance bicycle riding. That said, one thing I discovered in an anatomy for artists class is that some women have problems running because of their anatomical build. It’s true! Women with narrower hips make better runners because their leg bones (femers) don’t slant inward to the knee. I had a friend who set a world marathon record and I felt deficient in my running abilities until I learned that fact. She was built like Barbie and I’m … well … not. Plus, she had the lung capacity for two people. I am not kidding! We should only be competing with ourselves, not judging ourselves against others.

    • I hadn’t considered how my anatomy would play into the ease with which I could run. My biggest obstacle (besides my own self-defeating thoughts) is my lung capacity. I’ve heard from other runners that it’s something that builds on itself, improving each time you run. We’ll see.

      Thanks for the reminder about only competing with ourselves. It’s a hard one to avoid when the gazelles go sprinting by on the running trail. 🙂

  3. When I go up north to be with my hubby when he is at work, I don’t have my elliptical, parked neatly as it is smack and dab-arooski in front of the TV, with Simon Baker or Shemar Moore saved on PVR. So last year, I resorted to jogging.

    Those who know me may SNORT here.

    I can’t remember what the loop measured, and certainly not a mile, but my hope the first time out was that I’c make it to the first corner, a quarter of the way. I’d be content, and walk the rest, and perhaps make it around the entire loop by the end of summer.

    I passed the first corner, then the second. After the third, I had to keep going, had to try for the whole loop.

    I made it!

    When I went out the next day, my elation turned to depression. No way could I do only part of the loop ever again, not even if I broke both my legs. I made it try one, I had to make it every time moving forward, into eternity, forever.


    I don’t run anymore.

    • Thanks for the cheers, Sherry! And a return WOOT to you on getting around that loop! I’m bracing myself for set backs – those days when I’m only able to do a portion of what I could do the day before. When that happens at the gym I tell myself that at least I made it there and was doing more for myself than if I didn’t exercise at all. At least that’s what the vampires tell me. If we lived near each other I would be there at the loop with you cheering you on. 🙂

  4. Congratulations on setting a fitness goal for yourself and going for it. They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but often that first step is the hardest. Good job 🙂

    I need to do something similar because I’m no longer the spry, young lad I was when I was a spry, young lad. But I need to decide on a cool fitness thing to do.

    • It’s funny that you wrote that quote because I was thinking about it when I wrote the post. It’s a good one.

      Thanks for the encouragement! I hope you find a cool fitness thing to do. Have you considered buying one of those flying squirrel suits you are so fond of and doing something with that? 😉

      • Haha…no, but I’ve flirted with the idea of taking some Shaolin Kung Fu. It appears that are a couple of places that teach it in Houston.

        • You should give it a try! Then blog about it so I can read about what that exactly is. 🙂

          • I just might do that. I’ll have to see if I can work that into my schedule at some point. Summer school is moving really fast and I don’t have enough time for all the stuff I’m trying to do now 🙁

  5. Go you! Well, you probably know I adore running. And. And. (Why is there always and And?) I haven’t been able to sustain any motivation. Last fall I signed up to run a marathon, that is tomorrow. And I ran a handful of times way back in January. Needless to say I’m not going to be running tomorrow.
    Thanks for the motivation to get back out there!

    • Thanks, Meg! I hope to be able to sustain the motivation out on the trails. I know you’ve run quite a few marathons so I don’t think you’re lacking in the motivation dept. 🙂

  6. So, just about three years ago I decided to get in shape by running. I took it slow and over the course of the summer worked up to two miles. Then my back said “enough of that”. Surgery was involved. Not pretty.
    I’m actually insanely jealous of you! Keep going…

    • Ouch and yuck on the surgery. Sorry to hear that. I hope it resolved things for you. Good for you for working up to two miles, though. I hope to get up to that distance in the next few weeks. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. Last year I decided to take up running, because I figured it was a more efficient workout than walking. So I tried the Couch-to-5km (C25K) program (which I think is about 3 miles), which takes you in increments… there are even podcasts you can download that tell you when to start and stop running. Anyway, I persevered for a few weeks (the program takes about 10-12 weeks, with 3 walk/runs a week) but I absolutely HATED it. I worked out I didn’t like running in public, didn’t like lumbering all hot and sweaty and red-faced in the park where people could see me and how hard I was struggling! So I gave up in week 5.

    More recently, I’ve bought myself an elliptical cross-trainer, so I can workout in the privacy of my own home in front of whatever I want on the TV 🙂 (I definitely get the lure of Damon Salvatore!)

    • I’ve heard of the C25K program but didn’t know much about it. I, too, hate struggling like a big sweaty blob out on the trail or in the gym but I figure I’ll never get in shape if I let that hold me back. One thing I really appreciate about my gym is that it’s very unpretentious – everyone seems to be there to exercise and not hit on each other or scope each other out. The same at the trail. I just feel like the big loser because I can’t run at their pace… yet.

      Good for you on getting the elliptical. Watching t.v. or a movie is my favorite way to make the time pass when I’m on the machines.

  8. on ,
    Anonymous said:

    My intense aversion to running began on the first day of PT in the Police Academy. We had to do 7 miles. I’ve never known such pain. *applauding your true grit & determination*

      • on ,
        Anonymous said:

        I didn’t mean to post incognito as ‘anonymous’. Just so tired I forgot to sign in to WP first. LOL 😛

  9. Waya to go, girl! I’m impressed…and inspired. Right now I am trying to do a minimum of one hour of water aerobics at a time, three or four times a week. I have done up to two hours. People think I am loony for running in the water and bobbing…but who cares. I enjoy it, and it doesn’t bother my knees.

    • Good for you, Janice! I’ve heard water aerobics is great exercise. Don’t let the negative Nellies out there get to you. If I were at all buoyant in the water, I’d give it a try. For some odd reason I tend to sink like a lead weight.

  10. on ,
    jodileastewart said:

    Tami, your tenacity and drive are certainly commendable! Additionally, your writing is always a thrill to read!

    I have a little different take on the running thing. I agree with Elizabeth Fais that certain body types are built for running; other body types are not. Running can be highly detrimental to the knees, back and feet regardless of the running surface (though concrete is the worst). From all that I’ve read and witnessed over the years, it’s my humble opinion that running is best for the thirty and under crowd with slim builds, narrow hips, small bust, and for those who are within 10 pounds of their perfect weight. If those criteria are not present, the “runner” compensates in ways that can be, and usually are, painful and/or dangerous.

    Walking, swimming, bicycling (if not done in excess because of the select muscle groups doing a single repetitive action), water aerobics and similar exercises are all better after age 30, or if a person has weakness in any part of his/her hips, back, or legs…or if the person is overweight. From personal experience, I will add that being big busted is a hindrance to running no matter how tightly you bind yourself.

    I hope nobody throws tomatoes at my head! This is just my personal take on the subject.

    • Tomatoes don’t get thrown in the kasbah. Gently tossed in a salad or delicately sliced with some mozzarella and fresh basil, sure. But no throwing. 😉

      I agree, running can be hard on the body which is why I’m only doing it on the soft trails. While I’m not under 30, I do meet a few of the criteria you mentioned (I’ll leave it at that) so I’m hoping it proves beneficial and not detrimental to getting in better shape. I do a lot of walking (I walked a whole marathon a few years ago) and would like to do more swimming but an old shoulder injury (and the fact I sink like an torpedoed battleship when in the water) keeps me from progressing with that. We’ll see if I’ll be able to keep up with the running thing. I ran a full mile last night and was surprised when I completed it because the time (and meter markers) flew by.

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