Friday 20 April 2018

First person: The Shorts story

She got over thinking running was for young ones, but Sarah Caden is still not sure she can wear shorts

Sarah Caden stopped worrying about who saw her running. Stock photo
Sarah Caden stopped worrying about who saw her running. Stock photo
Sarah Caden

I bought some shorts recently. Sports shorts. If memory serves, I've never owned a pair before. I have tried the new pair on a few times, but I have not removed the tags. They may be going back. And then again, maybe not. My cousin in Kerry, who has been running for longer than I have, says I'll need them as the weather gets warmer. She says I'm not too old. She assures me they will be liberating.

It's the last point that makes me think I'll hang on to the shorts. Even if, a beat after I've thought that my legs look OK in them, the mirror whispers, "You're too old." A year ago, after all, I thought I was too old to run and now, I'm doing it.

It all started on a treadmill. In bone-shaking terms, in my early 40s, it was the more sensible option than taking to the road, but it was boring. Once the Couch to 5k app brought me to 20 non-stop minutes of running, the challenge crashed. And then school holidays came along, as well as summer-holiday destinations that did not include a treadmill, and I lost the habit. And my hard-won running confidence.

I had never believed that I could run. I was able to in my early teens, but then, like all those mid-teen girls we hear about statistically, I lost touch with exercise.

All those new, unaccustomed bits jiggling when you run about, all that awkward ungainliness. And, for me, it took more than 25 years to pass. I did yoga, because it came easily to me, but running, of all forms of exercise, I regarded as fit for others. Or that only others were fit for it.

When I took to the treadmill, it was in the spirit of trying something scary as I stared down my 40s. My cousin was doing it in Kerry. A friend had become a bona fide runner after her move to Melbourne.

Neither, they won't mind me saying, had been obvious adopters of pavement pounding.

But my beginnings spoke of grabbing the challenge with only one hand. It wasn't really for the sake of my skeleton that I began on the treadmill. It was because I believed that fewer people would see me making a fool of myself there. Particularly at the quare, quiet times I chose to visit the gym.

I was thrilled with myself when I notched up 3km on the treadmill, but then, funnily, a tiny bit relieved when I fell out of the habit. I had been right all along, I thought, running wasn't for me.

And then, autumn came, and, oddly, I missed it. Not the sense of feeling fit, not the tiniest thigh gap that I had attained, but the running itself. Weird.

So, ever cautious, I set Couch to 5k back to zero and started again. This time, however, I hit the road. I went out my front door and I walked and ran and did that for weeks, building up slowly to just running. I discovered that I loved being outdoors, even in the worst winter cold, even in the dark. I felt like I had discovered a secret that had been kept from me for decades. I'm 43, and I can run. Who knew?

With my 43 years in mind, though, I held on to my good sense. I read about improving my gait. I learned about breathing from Tina Murphy and her Run With Tina classes. I found some yoga stretches online for before and after a run.

I remained myself, but the more I ran, the more I detached from a certain part of myself, too. I stopped worrying about who saw me and what they would think. I lifted my gaze from the footpath and looked up and ahead of me. I bought some shorts, for crying out loud.

Bought them. Haven't worn them. The little, 'don't do it' voice says I'm too old, that people will laugh. But, you know, they probably won't. If they look at me, they'll see just another runner. They'll think I've been at it forever. And maybe I should have been. But better late than never, right? Even for your first pair of shorts.

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