Opinion Columns & Blogs

The foothills are alive, with the sound of panting

Way back in December, I made some New Year’s suggestions to myself.

I can’t make resolutions, of course, because nobody can tell me what to do, not even me. Instead I consider some activities that would make me a better person, but I try to make them sound fun and exciting and then hope I’m foolish enough to take the bait.

Fortunately I’m pretty easy to fool, so I usually end up following a couple of my New Year’s suggestions. Sucker!

Since I had a seriously Paula-shaped divot in my couch cushion I decided that I needed to get out and get more active in 2015. Unfortunately the problem with New Year’s suggestions is the same as the problem with resolutions: It’s just easier to not do them. (Case in point, I’m literally eating a donut as I write this. Maybe I’ll try the “lay off the baked goods” suggestion next year.)

It was clear that if I was going to get more exercise I was going to need proper motivation and not rely on that behavioral unicorn called “self-discipline.” So two months ago I did what so many misguided, out-of-shape people have done before me: I signed up for a 5K race. The Foothills Dash 5K to be precise.

Here’s motivation, “Paula style”: I am way too cheap to waste money. After I paid up front I had to do it. Plus the money went to support Pierce County Parks and Recreation programs, so I did some good for my fellow citizens along the way. Cheap, generous and out of shape; I dare to be just that complex.

Now, I had never entered a race in my life, so I found a six-week wheelchair 5K training program online and vowed to follow it to the letter. I had to be prepared come race day, and since I had no idea what I was doing I figured I had to rely on the training completely. Besides, I found it on the computer.

The computer always knows the right answers, so it had to be good! Just like when that nice Nigerian prince emailed me for help that time. You know I still haven’t received that check …

I did most of my training along the Ruston Way waterfront, where I could admire the Olympic mountains going one way and then Mount Ranier on the way back. Plus I could stalk orcas four days a week. What more could a semi-serious, out-of-shape, nature-loving, first-time racer want?

After six long weeks of dodging double-wide strollers, happy dogs and goose poop in my quest for wheelchair 5K dominance, race day finally arrived. The run was halfway in one direction, then a turnaround and finish back where we started.

During the first half of the race, I was working really hard but going slower than I had in training. I was just starting to get discouraged (was all that training for nothing!?) when I realized that there were no other racers in wheelchairs. Regardless of my speed, I was going to win my class! I was literally in a class by myself!

All I had to do was finish.

But then … the turnaround. The wonderful, wonderful halfway point where I realized not only that I was halfway done but, more importantly, that I had been going uphill the entire first half of the race. Uphill!

That meant that the second half was all downhill! Suddenly I was wheeling way faster than I ever had before, and before I knew it I had finished!

I’m sure there’s some deep metaphor for life in there somewhere, but I was just happy that I completed my first-ever race.

And that the finish line was right across the street from a bakery.

Paula Larson is a freelance writer and retired wildlife biologist. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Her email is larsonpaula383@yahoo.com.

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