When Nobody Is Looking

I use to go to the track to do interval work and, inevitably, there would be someone else there walking lap after lap after lap.  “Why?” I wondered.  “That has got to be so boring.  Why wouldn’t you just walk on the road where it is a lot more interesting?”

Fast forward to the summer of 2020, the summer when all races have been cancelled and runners are mostly training on their own.  Wanting a bit of a pick me up, a little extra motivation, and the need to do something different, I registered for Gary Robbins “Summer Scavenger Hunt.”  There are 30 challenges (and 5 hidden challenges) to complete by running or walking, with the prize of a badge for completing each, as well as bragging rights.   I was initially drawn to the Scavenger Hunt because a lot of the challenges were things that I would do anyway like run long, run a 10K, or do core work. There were also tasks that I would never do, such as run for food, run over midnight, or run and pick up trash.  What I have learned in the past 2.5 months is the tougher challenges, the ones that I thought would be harder and annoying to complete, brought me out of my comfort zone and ended up being the the most fun.

I purposely waited until August to complete the “Track Time” challenge as I had just started to add speed work to my road training in June and I wanted to make sure that my hips and hamstrings were strong enough to handle the curvature of the track.  As bad luck had it, something in my left hip (my good hip) twinged during a speed workout at the end of July and, since then, running has been painful.  So I made the decision to take time off running and work through the rest of the Scavenger Hunt by walking (and am hopeful that I will be able to finish it running). However, one of the challenges that I needed to complete was on the track: 20 laps (or 8 kilometres).  Walking, which I estimated would take approximately 80 minutes, around the oval again and again and again sounded insane.  I was dreading it.

On Saturday, I decided to get the Track Time badge out of my way.  Since it was hot and sunny, it was a good day to go for a long walk and work on my tan lines.   I walked to my local high school (500 metres) and was glad to see there were only a few teenagers playing on the field.  I hoped that none of them were former students.  “Let’s do this.”

Knowing that I often lose count of my laps, I decided to break the 20 into groups of 5.  As a runner, that felt strange because 4 laps (equivalent to 1 mile) is the norm, but I liked the thought of walking 4 sets of 5 laps instead of 5 sets of 4 laps.  Mind games.  And to break up the monotony a little bit more (and protect my hips), I planned to change direction after every set.  For me, I knew that this challenge was going to be more of a mental one than physical.

The first lap seemed to take forever and during the second and third, I complained that I didn’t think to bring my ipod.  “Maybe I’ll use my phone without earpods.  No, that’s just dumb.  And those kids probably won’t appreciate my music.”  I breathed a sign of relief when I finished the first set.  By the 7th or 8th lap, boredom started to set in and I thought about walking 1 lap less.  “It’s 500 metres from home to here so that’s more than a lap.  Actually, to here and back home is a kilometre.  Hey, I could probably get away with walking 18 laps.  Who is going to know?  No one is counting.”

But I kept counting…every single lap.  At school, I teach my Grade 7’s that responsibility is doing the right thing – even when nobody is looking.  On Saturday, nobody but the group of teens on the field was watching – if they noticed me at all – and they probably thought I was some crazy lady who would be better off walking on the road.  It would have been easy to drop a lap or two but I didn’t.  Completing each challenge of the Scavenger Hunt is based on an honour system.  I had to walk around the oval 20 times so that was what I was going to do.  I had to do the right thing.

When I finished my tenth lap, there was no way I was going to quit.  “I’m half-way there.  I’m not stopping now only to have to walk those ten again later.”  When I got to fifteen, the end was in sight.  After 16 laps, I started to count backwards: 4, 3, 2, 1!  I was so happy to be done!

Track Time: 20 laps or 8K.  The distance to and from the track gave me a total of 9.42 km or 100 minutes of walking.  Done.  I climbed out of my comfort zone.  I did something that I really didn’t want to do.  And I felt so accomplished by the time I got home.

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