Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Which Sara Sets a Goal For Herself That Requires Actual Physical Activity

Even people that do not know me very well can usually pick up on two of my more prominent personality traits. One is that I am goal-oriented. I am able to set my mind to a task and work towards it with the quiet intensity of a jungle cat eyeing its prey. The other is that I am about as athletic as a sack of potatoes. There is no false-modesty in that statement--it is an absolute fact that I came to terms with on the YMCA soccer field at the age of six. It's almost comical, really. Even activities that don't require all that much athleticism confound my abilities. If anyone calls it a sport, I'm probably bad at it. This includes bowling, pool, darts, name it, I am hopeless at it. I may have excellent manual dexterity, but I have no spatial awareness.

That said, I do occasionally go through bouts of trying to whip myself into better physical condition. As a University of Iowa student, I have been fortunate to have access to a fantastic recreation center that has fitness classes I enjoy that don't involve too much hand-eye coordination. The last few months, I have been in one of these fitness bouts, mostly as a stress-reliever while writing my thesis. I was going to 3-4 classes a week trying to burn off nervous energy as my defense loomed large on the horizon.

Then one day I saw a post advertising a student training program for the RiverRun. For those who do not live in the Iowa City area, the RiverRun is an annual 5K/10K event that serves as a fundraiser for Uptown Bill's, which is a local charity that supports people with disabilities. The training program started about one month before the race, and entailed twice-weekly team runs for either the 5K or 10K. I had a moment of self-reflection, in which I thought "Hmm...I'm actually not in terrible shape right now, maybe I could do this". Then I thought "You've never actually set a goal like this for yourself, you should give it a try". Then before I could think about it too much more or talk myself out of it, I signed up. I even roped a couple of friends into the deal to make sure I didn't back out of it partway through.

And just like that, for the first time in my life I had a fitness goal. Instead of eyeing an "A" in a course, a challenging knitting pattern, or a Ph.D., I had my eye on completing a 5K.

Yep, that's me with my eye on the prize.
There were some bumps in the road. I had (and continue to have) pain in my Achille's tendon when I run more than about a mile. I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with it. I bought some new shoes that have extra heel-cushioning, and I've tried doing extra calf stretches, but to no avail. Because of this issue, I was really slowing my training group down, so I actually ended up dropping out of the last week of the training program. Don't worry! I still ran on my own to train for the race, but this way I could slow down when I needed to without stopping others (and not feel pressured to run faster than I should and risk hurting myself).

Anyway, the day of the race arrived, and my friends and I did it! I ran a 5K! We slowed down to a walk for about a tenth of a mile halfway through the race (we had a just run up a hill, and my Achille's needed a short break), but other than that we ran the entire thing. Our pace was pretty slow, but for all of us the goal was just to finish, not to strive for a best time.

Sara poses with her running friends before her first 5k
From left: Emily, Me, and Anna excited to run the race
(you might also recognize my cheerleader behind Emily)

Sara running with her running friends during her first 5k
About 2 1/2 miles in, still going strong!
For someone with a significant lack of athletic prowess, this was a pretty big accomplishment. I'm going to try to keep running, especially since I will be losing access to the university recreation facilities once I graduate. You can run anywhere (even in Dublin!), right? Wish me luck!


  1. I, and the holes in the Clinton Street Social Club wall, will attest to the comment about darts. But at least you still give athletic endeavors a try... and based on round 2 or dart throwing you pick things up fast. :)

    Your jungle cat fortitude also helped me get off my butt and run. I just finished 3 miles today, stopping once to tie my shoes, and let me tell you there were some major hills involved. Thanks for awakening my inner cheetah (even though I'm a total sloth). Haha


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