I cracked 25 minutes of straight running yesterday. It's still tough for me, but two months ago I would never have said that was possible.
I also worked out my run time. It's somewhere between 6.1 and 6.6 minutes to a kilometre. I'm told this is on the slow side of perfectly respectable, though it doesn't really matter in the end. My goal is not to come first, second, or in the top percentiles of the race. It's simply to finish. I said that I would run five kilometres. That's it. No stopping, no walking. I'll run slowly if I have to, and however long it takes me I will keep running.
I didn't start this project to lose weight, or even to get in shape (though I've undeniably been feeling the benefits). In fact, looking back I don't think I did it for bodily exercise at all. It's more of an exercise for the will.
All my life I've avoided physically tough things. The handful of times someone got me to try running in the past, I've always stopped too early. Say I'd be running along the sidewalk, trying to get to the next corner before slowing to walk. Almost every time I'd give up before getting to the corner, right about when my lungs started to burn.
The problem was, I had more in me but I wasn't used to pushing myself. It was easier to walk away. Oh sure, I could push myself academically, but not physically. I wasn't an athlete, never even played sports at school. I simply didn't know how to dig deep, how to "just do it." It never occurred to me until now that physical courage and grit can be cultivated. I just thought there are some people who are naturals at this stuff and some people who aren't.
Some of my friends (rock climbers, marathon runners, triathletes) have the ability to push themselves too hard. They'll force on until they vomit or collapse or cut their hands open on sharp rock. That isn't good, but there's certainly nothing wrong with their force of will. Given enough exercise, mine might measure up someday.