This is how I know I love my children: I hate running.
Stay with me here.
I don’t mind working out hard. I love “spin” class, which is done for an hour on a stationary bike in a climate-controlled, slightly darkened gym. Typically to really good music, depending on the instructor. I simply refuse to do serious team bike-riding on the street, as I prefer to keep my collarbone and life intact.
I also really like weightlifting. Recently, I added Zumba to my arsenal; it’s sort of a cross between aerobics and salsa dancing. Occasionally I’ll even have something of a conversation with a treadmill, but that’s about it.
Ahh, but running on the street? I hate it with every fiber of my being. The physicality of it, difficult in its own way, isn’t what makes me so miserable. Nor is it the lack of a climate-controlled environment and a cheery instructor — or even the thought of what it’s doing to my knees.
My objection is that it’s so very public.
When you run in the wild, as I call it — meaning anywhere outside — it’s just you out there against the world. Those judging you aren’t your sweaty peers from the gym who are there for the same reasons you are. They are civilians out on the street, or in their cars, or on their bikes, probably laughing at you because you look a little funny. OK, I admit it: I do that when I drive past some geeky runner. (Oh, I’m sorry — did I just write that out loud?)
Worse, if you decide you have to suddenly slow to a walk — or just stop – inevitably, I’m sure, someone catches you and thinks: “Ha! Not in such good shape after all, are you?”
The odds in the wild just aren’t even. It’s not fair.
At least if you want some exercise and are out doing a fast walk you can pretend you are just trying to get somewhere. But public running? It’s clear you have nowhere to go.
Here’s how this all means I love my kids: I just started running in the wild for my youngest. Olivia, age 10, is taking part in a “Girls on the Run” club 5K event in Chicago in a few weeks. She’s been training with her group for months. She wanted to do it, I signed her up — end of discussion, right?
Well, not exactly. A few weeks ago, she came home explaining that she needed a “running buddy,” and she wanted me.
“We each have to have someone run the race with us, Mom,” she said. “And I want you.”
I tried to talk her out of it. I told her that if she decided she wanted a “spinning” buddy instead, I would be all in. She didn’t go for it. She was adamant.
So, there I am. Outside, in the wild, getting ready for my little 5K. Dreading the pounding of every footstep, hating the heat or the cold, as the case may be, sure that my pathetic effort is being judged by the faces behind every window. And knowing that when Olivia walks in the door at the end of the day, she’ll ask if I trained — and, if so, how far and what was my time.
I don’t dare lie. That would be wrong. And, well, I wouldn’t get away with it anyway.
We are only a few weeks away from race day. I haven’t yet completed the route in an acceptable time. But I will.
Yes, I hate running in the wild with every fiber of every nerve in my body. So please, if you see me out there pathetically jogging along, don’t honk. Just keep driving, pretending you don’t see me. Just know I’m doing it solely for the love of Olivia.
Betsy Hart is the author of the new ebook, “From The Hart: A Collection of Favorite Columns on Love, Loss, Marriage (and Other Extreme Sports).” Reach her through firstname.lastname@example.org. For more stories, visit scrippsnews.com.