My trainer Barbara has me on the horns of a dilemma. (A most uncomfortable position!)

She returned to an old chestnut that I’d foolishly hoped had died long months past – that I was ready to run a 5K.

She seems to think there’s something so joyous about running in a group that I, like so many others, would suddenly discover I was having a good time. This seems unlikely to me; I’m not much of a joiner; I’m not much motivated by shared experiences.

Anyway, I feel that, were I to join with others in a 5K, it would be more likely that any runner in my immediate vicinity would end up walking and then stopping completely, bitching vigorously about how much faster this would be if we could all just get in our cars and drive the stupid course. I would have a net negative effect on the race as a whole.

But that’s beside the point. I ventured my primary objection to Barbara.

“I can barely make a mile, and you want me to go 3.1 miles? That’s insane.”

And Barbara – with the implacable logic of a mother – ignored me completely. “You just don’t THINK you can do it, so you can’t. If you made up your mind that you were going to do it, you could do it. You’re ready.”

This filled me with a rising tide of smoky, swirling frustration. Like, your hands are full but there’s one single hair tickling your face and you’re not going to be able to get it frustration. Overwhelming.

Barbara thinks my problem is attitude. She thinks my limitations are mental.

I KNOW my problem is physical. I think I’ve demonstrated a pretty impressive positive attitude throughout this entire process, and to suddenly claim I was defeating myself – well, that’s just a slap in the face of all that I’ve accomplished.

I believe in the power of a positive mental attitude. I believe in the mind-body connection.

And I stupidly thought that Barbara, jogging slowly beside me for all these months, correcting my foot placement and rib cage angle and use of butt muscles while no doubt plotting her fleet-footed streak across the landscape at the Boston Marathon, was seeing my desperation.

I thought she realized that I was saying to myself, “Okay – I’ll get to that corner before I walk. Okay – I can make it to that bush. That fire hydrant. That crack in the sidewalk…. No, no I can’t. I’m walking now.”

I thought she could feel the rawness in my lungs as the mission to suck in oxygen became critical.

I thought she understood that my entire body turns to lead and moving ahead at any speed requires every ounce of strength I have.

She must have thought I was kidding when confronted with that last fatal hill and I would grit my teeth with an audible crunching sound. She must not have noticed that I put my head down and refused to look up to see how far away the top was. She should have been able to feel my desperation and determination and longing to drop dead of a massive heart attack so I didn’t have to take a single step further – but she didn’t.

She thinks my problem is MENTAL.

It is SO not mental. Mental is what gets me to the end of the mile, far beyond the bounds my body would accept without the slave driver in my brain viciously using the long whip to get those damned mules moving through the mud.

But here’s my problem: Barbara is ALWAYS RIGHT. She’s earned my deepest respect over the last three years. She can see inside my shoes and inside my ponderous belly. She knows which butt muscles I’m using when I don’t even know.

So how can she be wrong about this?

So how can she be RIGHT about this??

This conundrum has so stymied me that I’ve stopped blogging while trying to figure it out. And I still haven’t. So I’m blogging, instead, about not knowing the answer.

I’m sorry. No words of wisdom today. Just me – all undecided.


This is potentially the least-flattering photo of me in the history of mankind, but it does sort of typify my confusion on the subject – and CLEARLY this blog is not about me being particularly attractive. So… truth in advertising!

9 thoughts on “Undecided

  1. Quite the conundrum, though it seems to me that you could put the whole thing to the test by working up to longer mileage out of curiosity and without the pressure of a race. I know lots of people do respond to that kind of outside stimulus/ support/ competitive motivation. Many will only run if they are signed up for a marathon, or only ‘train’ if there is some kind of competition ahead. I’ve often been assured that I’d love such and such “it’s not really a race, more a community event..” But golly, I’ve managed to keep running for the last 25 years with great (and increasing) pleasure without any of that nonsense. Large gatherings of people are not fun for everyone. (Nor, indeed, are reunions!) And look at you — faithfully going to the gym, pushing yourself time and again, going up and down stairs — all without a race. I totally believe you could do it, if and when you want to. But till then… why? You’re doing wonderfully. You ARE wonderful.


  2. I second Sarah’s comments. Crowds give me the heebie-jeebies, not energize me. I think some people just aren’t team-type people, AND THAT’S OK, Pru. Do what feels right for you (I originally typed “feels good” but we both know that running that far just cannot feel good right now). Juli


  3. Are you at a place in your life where you need a “win?” Where you need to push yourself past a barrier just to be able to say “I really can do anything if I put my mind to it?” I’m kind of guessing that running in a 5K “Fun Run” is never going to be your thing. But that may not be the point. Sometimes it’s good for the soul to do something really hard that’s measurable, that has a finish line. You’ve been doing really hard things for the last several years–grieving, changing the way you eat, changing the way you move, changing the way you think about your body and how it exists in the world. None of these things is a “I did it, it’s over, I can be proud of myself for accomplishing it,” kind of thing. They are more the, “I’m putting in all of this work and I’m better for it, but it’s never-ending” kinds of things. Which is good to recognize and accept and even embrace, but man, finish lines create their own kind of satisfaction. Maybe Barbara is thinking it would be really nice for you to be able cross one, to unequivocally finish a physical feat that would have seemed laughably impossible two years ago.


    1. Wow, Donna – that is hugely provocative and makes me think! Now I’m going to add your thought into my assessment of the situation. Have you made this better? Or worse?? I don’t know – but I love your reasoning. Thank you!


      1. One thing I’ve learned. Self-discovery rarely takes us in a straight line, and (kind of regrettably some days) never seems to end. You have a wonderfully revealing ah-ha revelation and you barely have time to appreciate it before some other damn thing pops up demanding its own examination/mastery. Ultimately fulfilling, I’ll admit, but kind of exhausting as well.


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