Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Running Story (Pt I)

Currently, I'm typing this post while sitting on the floor of my living room because I'm too sweaty and smelly to even THINK of touching any furniture. I just got back home after a morning of working out: I ran 5.86 miles from home up to UNL campus, where I met my girlfriend Kelsey for a couple hours at the Rec Center. We then got coffee and split a pumpkin bagel at Panera (holy god, those bagels are INCREDIBLLLLLE). As I was sitting here, realizing that I really need to wash my iPod armband because eeewwwww, it smells worse than I do, I thought: Why don't I share my running story with my (scant) readership? Which leads us to this post.

Um, the armband is supposed to be black. You see all those
white smudges? Yeah, that'd be sweat. Eurgh.
Krieg is all like "omfg it smells so bad, lemme sit here and
lick it, nommmmm salt."
Where to begin? I guess with my dad. My dad is a runner. He has been a runner since (slightly) before I was born. When he and my mom were newly married, they lived in southern California, where they had a lot of friends who were also DINKs (Dual Income No Kids), a lot of good beer, and a lot of good food. Many fun partytimes were had. (One of the best stories about said partytimes involved a long weekend of boozery, followed by a friend realizing she was pregnant, prompting the unforgettable line: "Oh my god, I've pickled my baby!" Weird thing is, the "pickled" baby turned out to be the most normal of their three children.)  

"One day," as Dad always tells the story, "I looked down at the scale and realized, 'I'm gonna either have to start running, or give up beer,'...and I've been running ever since."

How much has he been running ever since? Try a minimum of 1,000 miles per year, every year for the last TWENTY-TWO YEARS. Yep, that's my entire lifetime.

With that in my genes, it definitely makes sense that I'm a runner. However, the story of how I got there is definitely not that simple. I never ever ever ran--like, ever--for the vast majority of my life. During a brief stint in high school when I actually was in some semblance of physical shape, I could walk fairly quickly, but the second I picked up both of my feet at the same time, I was gasping and panting and wheezing all over the place. I very clearly remember telling my mom when I was in 11th grade or so, "I can walk fast, but I'll never be able to run."

Fast-forward two years. I'd just finished my year as an exchange student in Germany and returned to the US thirty pounds heavier (for that whole story, check out this post), with about six weeks to go until I began Air Force ROTC on a full-ride scholarship: depending, that is, on my ability to pass the PFT (Physical Fitness Test). The week or so after I touched back down stateside, my family took a trip to Red River, NM, to meet up with some longtime friends. The Slanes, who are [one of] my adoptive families (a military upbringing means that friends are friends FOR LIFE, and after all, "Friends are the family you choose for yourself"), include Jeanne, my "Colorado Mommy," (for whom I serve as a surrogate daughter, since she was cursed with three [very handsome] boys) and Fred...the devil incarnate. Or at least that's the way I felt at the time. 

The PFT at the time involved push-ups, sit-ups, a measurement of waist circumference, and a 1.5 mile run. Remember above, where I said "I never ever ever ran"? Uh-huh. That 1.5 mile run was the thorn in my paw; the ants in my sandwich; the skunk in my living room. I did my best to just forget that it was a thing. Classic head-in-the-sand approach (coincidentally, did you know that the whole ostrich-burying-their-heads-in-the-sand thing in a myth?), and of course it didn't work. I needed to improve my running ability, and FAST. Enter Fred. Fred is a ninja and a solid mass of muscle, basically. Fred decided that he was going to be my personal trainer. Fred pushed me and yelled at me and told me that "it doesn't matter if you cry as long as you keep going." Therefore, Fred made me run while I cried on the side of the road (true story). Let's just leave it at that. Running was, for me, a form of torture. Of course, his help was invaluable, but it felt pretty miserable then.

When I started ROTC, ....ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I won't say it's a boys' club, but I definitely got looked down on and ignored because I couldn't keep up with everyone else during PT (physical training) sessions. Even in the classroom or during group activities, I'd be ignored even though (shameless self-brag) I was one of the smartest, most confident cadets--all because the assumption was made that "She can't run, so obviously she's mentally inferior too."  It didn't help that my superiors' version of "encouragement" was to simply yell at me, while I was walking along the track, gasping and wheezing, with my hands over my head (can't say as though I believe it helps you catch your breath much, but at least then I was forced to stretch out my torso, instead of collapsing over on myself and further squooshing the breath out of me), "CADET CLOWER! If you stop running, it's just that much harder to start again!" 
Cadet Clower [lightheaded, spots in her vision, lungs feeling like they're about the size of your average hummingbird egg]: "HEEE-HUHNNN, HEE-HUHHHHN, sir, HEE-HUHHHH, I--can't--breathe--HEEEEEEEEE-HUHHHHHHNNN--" [stagger, trip]
Angry upperclassman: "You won't get any better at running by WALKING, Cadet!!!"
Clower: [falls over like Liz Lemon, barfs, passes out, suffocates, makes everyone regret being so unfair to her]

I did end up passing the PFT (by a hair), not that it mattered much, since I quit ROTC at the end of my first semester. Let's keep that story short: suffice to say, I'm way too stubborn to tolerate hardly any level of bullshit (pardon my French), and that detachment could've easily been a stockyard. The stubbornness is something I also inherited from Dad, along with a very finely developed sense of right vs. wrong. Those two traits rarely result in any kind of productivity, and I'm sometimes terrified that I'm going to turn into Lois from "Malcolm in the Middle"--if I am in the right, it's like taking candy from a baby (in the REAL sense): you ain't ever gonna pry my fingers from my stance, and I WILL bite you.


You know what? I think I'm going to pause here, and finish up my story in another post. (I still really need to shower, and I'm honestly kind of nauseating myself with the smell right now. TMI.) Tune in next time for the stunning conclusion of The Tory Clower Story: The True Story of One Girl's Journey from Lazy and Kinda Out-of-Shape to Slightly Less Lazy and Marginally More In-Shape (subtitle: CLOWER POWER, or Running (wo)Man). 

See ya next time!


  1. I posted a comment, or so I thought, and it isn't here????

  2. If even washing your armband after every run no longer keeps the funk at bay, you can always turn to the miracle liquid: bleach. Just be sure to rinse afterwards, else a mile or so into your next run you may start to wonder why your arm feels as though it's been dipped in acid. Oh yeah, because it's been dipped in a base, which can be every bit as uncomfortable as acid, but sounds much less dramatic.