A client mentioned she was starting the Couch to 5 K program (known as C25K). I downloaded the free podcast from a link she sent and scouted out the elementary school up the street from my house. They don't have a real track but there is a grassy area that seemed suitable.
Wearing my old sneakers and carrying my MP3 player, I arrived at the field already warm from walking up the hill. I put my earbuds in and turned on the podcast. A calm, encouraging voice told me exactly what to do and I started the training run, following the simple instructions as well as I could.
What followed felt like a disaster. Although I managed to finish, it was a decidedly unpleasant experience. About half-way into the 30 minute program of running and walking intervals I felt a sharp stinging pain in my left ankle. Bending over to bring my face close to the spot, I could see a tiny stinger sticking out of my skin. I pulled it out and hopped around for a few seconds as the pain flared and then subsided. Meanwhile, my chest and stomach were inching and burning, a sensation I still remember from those long ago middle school runs, and I had sweat running into my eyes. As I forced myself to finish the remaining intervals I kept thinking, "I never have to do this again. I never have to do this again. I never have to do this again." That silent chant is what got my through.
My ankle swelled up and the skin around the bite blistered and wept. I slathered the spot with Benadryl cream and popped antihistimines, but it was itchy and painful for days.
That would have been the end of my running if my niece hadn't come for a visit. Rachel is an avid runner. She's completed marathons and seems to run for the sheer joy of it. I was looking for some of that joy, so I told her about my unhappy debut. She offered to take me out for a training run.
Under Rachel's watchful eye I had a much more successful experience. Wearing one of her sport bras, she had me run on the gravel path around Lake Merritt, where I was less likely to encounter any wasps. She bumped up my running intervals to 90 seconds, but kept reminding me to take it easy. I completed about 21 minutes of intervals and felt I'd had enough, so I walked the rest of the way around the lake while Rachel took off like a gazelle.
This time I had fun. Rachel cheerfully distracted me the whole way and the bra helped too. The greatly minimized bounce resulted in a lot less itching and burning.
After running with Rachel I was ready to recommit myself to the C25K program. That meant I'd be doing some shopping.