Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Alice in Wonderland

Those of you who have been following my blog, or who are familiar with my website , will know that I have been working towards becoming a proper runner. My reasons for doing this are not just fitness oriented, this is also an exercise in banishing some very nasty demons that haunt me. You see, I was not a terribly fit child, and I developed very quickly from child to woman. This led to teasing, bullying and finally anorexia. Despite the fact I am now quite fit and reasonably slim (although I am the kind of woman who will always be on the voluptuous side of slim with lots of curves), I am still uncomfortable with my body. My parent's deaths have made me realise that I need to move forward with my life and embrace the future. I know that one of the things that will help me to do that is to finally get comfortable with my body and blast away the demons from my past.

These demons take the form of several very nasty children in the school I attended, in particular ten girls in my Grade 5 class. Although they are now grown up and, I am sure, much nicer people, their ten year old selves still haunt me whenever I try to exercise in public. I remember them taunting me in PE class as we ran through the village of Elora in southern Ontario, pushing and prodding at me as I struggled to keep up with them, and our very fit PE teacher. When I run outside with Judith I can almost see them out the corner of my eye, lurking in the shadows. I half expect them to jump out at me, laughing and poking at me. In order to banish these demons I decided that I wanted to learn to run - and to run outside in public.

To that end I have hired a wonderful personal trainer named Judith, whose patience and encouragement are inspiring. So far I have been doing pretty well. Not long ago, after several weeks of running on my nice safe treadmill in the garage, Judith managed to coax me outside. We've been doing one run a week outside for the last five weeks and it has been going pretty well. I still struggle though and although I can run for long periods on the treadmill without stopping, I often find myself gasping for breath and having to stop when I run outside. This usually happens just after we have gone past or are about to go past other human beings who have much better things to do than look at me, but who I am convinced are wondering why such a fat and ugly girl would possibly go out running. Judith has spent ages assuring me that I am neither fat nor ugly - and in fact was backed up by a very nice man who wolf whistled at us the other day with not an ounce of sarcasm in his body. I am very grateful to Judith, and to that particular man, but I still feel uncomfortable running in public. Which is why Judith's suggestion that I might want to try running outside on my own - filled me with terror.

Up until today, if Judith was not coming with me, I would run on the treadmill. The closest I got to running in public on my own was on one very hot day when I opened the garage door and shut the gates at the end of our drive so that I could get some air! But today dawned beautiful and sunny and the lure of running down by the Thames was actually beginning to tug at me. With a huge amount of trepidation, I set off, on my own to go for a run.

I ran for fifteen minutes without stopping (except to open the gates on the public footpath - and I admit I opened these gates slowly so as to allow me an extra breath or two!) before I stopped to walk for a few paces at Mapleduram Lock. I then set off into the fields beside the Thames leading to Pangbourne. The air was fresh and clear and the sun was glinting off the water...and the rabbit hole I have always managed to avoid was lurking just outside of my vision. I did not even have the excuse of a white rabbit...I simply fell into the hole. Luckily it was not as deep as Alice's rabbit hole and I only twisted my ankle mildly. I was so embarrassed to be lying spread eagled amongst the buttercups that I got up at lightening speed without even thinking and continued to run. Luckily there were very few people in the field and any that were either did not notice or pretended not to out of politeness.

As I continued to run, I was slightly disappointed about my fall, and wondered why such a thing had to happen just as I was beginning to feel a bit more confident. I mean, for goodness sake, I was really making an effort here. Why had the universe decided to smite me? Then I suddenly realised that practically the most embarrassing thing possible had just happened to me and here I was still running, none the worse for wear, and even actually almost enjoying myself.

I carried on past a couple more gates before turning around and running back the way I came - avoiding the rabbit hole this time! I ran more than I have on any run outside before, even running a bit on some of the very steep hills you have to climb up to get back to our house that I normally always walk. I felt so exhilarated when I got home - and somehow changed - a bit like Alice after her journey in Lewis Carroll's iconic story.

As I shut the door behind me and went to get a well deserved glass of cold water, I felt an incredible sense of relief. I could almost hear the laughter of the demonic little bullies fading into the distance as they vanished into thin air - all thanks to a tiny bit of courage and a strategically placed rabbit hole!

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