If I stuck to my running schedule and ran every other day
for all eight weeks of my fancy, nerdtastic Couch to 5K program, I was going to
buy myself an iPod Shuffle. A pink Shuffle.
One of those little clip-on ones that are so freaking precious you want to
snorgle it and cuddle it and name it Pipsy and say aboo-boo boo-boo and dress
it in tiny little bitty hats and okay maybe that’s just me. It’s always just

But that was my reward for being awesome. As rewards go, it
was also pretty awesome. Especially the way I was going to fill up my iPod with
all my embarrassing, silly, rocking running music of mortification –your
Britney Spears, your Fergie(licious), your Justin "Sexy Back" Timberlake.
It would have been the Shuffle of Shame, and I would have loved every bouncing,
weighing-less-than-an-ounce, hip-rocking second of it. Not that I don’t love my
current giant iPod of doom. It’s just–not cute, okay? Also, it makes my sports
bra all lumpy when I tuck it in there and a Shuffle, it just clips on and it is
so cool oh my God.

So that was my reward. I continue to write about it in the
past tense, and it continues to make me sad, because I really, really wanted
that little thing. So bad. I have spent all these weeks, steadily running even
when I hated it and didn’t want to and hated everything and everyone and wanted
to die. I have spent all this time knowing that I would win, because I always
win, and considering the color carefully and imagining it in my hand and
knowing it would be mine. Except now, I can’t have it. Because I haven’t been

I got back from my trip late on Sunday night, and knew I’d
have to run the next morning. I groaned, and whined, and packed my gym bag,
because I am Ford Tough. On Monday morning, however, I woke up with every
muscle in my body aching, and my throat sore, and I was exhausted. I looked at
that bag, and I turned my back on it. I plodded down the street to the bus feeling
like I was carrying the bag, except that it was filled with bricks. Solid gold
bricks. Solid gold bricks made of pure guilt and self-hate, each of which weigh
a ton and a half. I got to the bus stop, and I leaned my head against the lamp
post, ignoring the germs! That’s how sick I was–and then I plodded back home
and went back to bed.

I swore, though, that I was just going to switch to Tuesday,
Thursday, Saturday this week, and then next week, a quick hop back to
Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and it would be like nothing ever happened! See how
clever I am? I am so clever, and I remain fit and active in the face of
adversity! After a long, hard day of sleeping, I went to bed early that night
(7:30 p.m. is early, right?) and when I woke up on Tuesday, I couldn’t swallow, or
even breathe, really, and I was burning up. Hello, sickness my old friend.

When I was a kid, I used to get strep throat every other
week. I remembered clearly that burning sensation in my throat, the aching in
the notch behind my jaw, the way my mother would bring me tea. This time, I was
sprawled across my bed, hurting everywhere, and my mother was not going to be
bringing me anything. But maybe I was being a big baby! Maybe it was not a big
deal, and I should just suck it up. Maybe it just hurts to live because living
is so painful and we’re all going to die alone, oh God. I called the doctor. I
got swabbed. I got strep, complete with fever. My doctor felt so sorry for me
and how much everything hurt, he even prescribed some Vicodin. I love my

I went home, and I crawled on the couch, and I died a
little. I have been recovering, ever since, but I am still feeling kind of
lousy, a little sorry for myself (we will not talk about the growth on my face. No, we will not. Fucking staph
on my face. Jesus
Christ.) and a little restless. I haven’t run at all. Instead, I have laid on
my couch and enjoyed the dulcet tones of Home & Garden Television. I love
you, Home & Garden Television, especially when I have a fever and cannot move
at all because life is so hard. How could I possibly run when my bones hurt? See, you can’t, am I right?
I’m so right.

Okay. I think what I’m trying to do here is convince myself,
and maybe convince you, too, that it’s not my fault, that I have an excuse and
it’s a very good excuse! And of course, it’s a pretty damn good excuse. It’s
documented and everything. I have got a doctor and a bottle of penicillin to
back me up. But what’s so interesting to me, here, is that it doesn’t matter.
And I don’t want it to matter–I want to know how important this is, my running.
I want it to be indispensable to my life, I want to miss it when it’s gone, I
want to be itching to get back to it when I can’t do it, or haven’t done it,
and it is amazing that that is how I am feeling. I want to start again, and sweat and hurt and
feel so amazingly good when I finally slam my hand down on that Cool Down

The penicillin is kicking in, and I am feeling better, and I
think I will be able to start running again, soon. Maybe Monday. Maybe sooner.
I’m scared that I’ll go right back to the beginning, have lost all my
endurance, what little speed I managed to build up; that I’ll be back to
limping along at one minute running, one minute walking. But that’s fine. I did
it once, and can do it again. And I’m looking forward to it, for fuck’s sake.
And I’m going to earn that goddamn Shuffle. Pink.

12 Replies to “rewards”

  1. Ok, lady, you need to listen up. And trust everything I tell you, for I run, therefore I know.

    First, you won’t have lost all your progress from one week off. First run back may be a bit tough, but it bounces right back. It’s amazing.

    Second, you didn’t have the sniffles. You had a strep infection. A fever. If you’d run, I would tell you that you are foolish. Because I am tough that way. I’ll tell it like it is.

    You did the right thing. You didn’t punk out, you weren’t lazy, you didn’t decide you weren’t in the mood or something. You had a genuine, bona fide, legitimate, health reason.

    So stop being foolish (see, tough). This week off doesn’t count as you not fulfilling your goal. Get right back to it as soon as you feel 100% and then buy yourself that iPod. Because it will make your running that much more enjoyable and fun and something you’re eager to do, and that’s the best choice of a reward I can think of.

    And the fact that you’re missing it? That you want to get back to running? Awesome. You know what this means, don’t you? You’re not just a runner anymore, you are now A Runner. Congratuations. Enjoy your iPod.

    And feel better. Make Guy bring you tea, just like mom.

  2. What anon said, plus this bit: Staph infections are usually penicillin resistant so pretty please go tell your doctor to give you some sulfa drugs (if you aren’t allergic) if penicillin’s all you’re taking. There is even a specific ointment you can use (says the girl who ahs the staph infection that showed up secondarily on her face).

    And secondly….I’m thinking you, me, and our Shuffles in the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon next fall. It will be our Run of Triumph! And also craziness. You in?

  3. Anon said everything I wanted to say, only better and cooler than I would’ve said it. And I run, therefore I know as well, and running when you are sick is a terrible idea. You did the absolutely right thing. Take care of yourself, and welcome to the Runner’s club. ;-)

  4. What anon said….strep is not wussing out. Taking care of yourself is important. If you push it now, you will regret it when you are sick for three weeks instead of one. I think strep earns you a mulligan. Get better, get moving and get your bitty baby iPod!

  5. I will totally second Anon’s post. This isn’t being lazy or lacking willpower or whatever crap excuse we’re able to find to explain why we haven’t been running. If you had been hit by a car and in hospital for one week, I sure wouldn’t call that an ‘excuse’ for not running. So. Yep. You are actually entitled to tell yourself “it wasn’t my fault”, because illness strikes regardless of our committment and dedication to running.

    And one week is far from being enough to let all your progress go to waste, so no worries. The only thing you might notice, if you start running again a little too soon, is weakness related to streps, but that would probably be a matter of 1-2 more days of rest, then.

    I hope you feel better quickly. And go get that iPod, indeed. :)

  6. I also run, and I also agree with Anon. Not only did you not “wus out,” but you should not have been running while sick. It’s one thing to push yourself when you just plain don’t wanna run, but you shouldn’t be pushing yourself when you are ill. That can make things even worse.

    Also, you might find that after this week off, your running is actually BETTER. I’m always amazed at what a little break can do.

    I started with C25K, and now I’m training for a marathon, so stick with it, because it really does work. When I started running, I couldn’t even run one minute. Not joking.

    You are an amazing writer. I cry every time I read what you write. It really is that good.

  7. Like everyone else, I agree with Anon. You didn’t wuss out — you’re taking care of yourself and there ain’t no shame in that. I’m doing the same program (on week 5) and after my second run the first week, I came down with a horrible, gross sinus infection and had to start over. I felt pretty much the same way you do right now. You’ll get back and you’ll buy that iPod and then maybe you can post about the best cheesiest running playlists. :-)

  8. What everyone else said, plus, can you find another reward for finishing C25K? You really should get the pink iPod now. It will make running so much easier. And the farther along you get in the C25K program, the longer you’re running and the more you’ll love that little precious puppy fastened to your waistband.

    BTW, I started running last summer on C25K, stopped in the winter, picked back up this March, and am running faster and longer than ever. Running is the bomb. I wish I’d known this when I was younger, but hell, better late than never.

    Love reading your blog. Take care.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *