Paul Shipper starts his dream the way anyone dreaming of running a four minute mile does—one step at a time.
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For me, that step was taken at 12:44 pm on Thursday, September 10, 2015. I had packed a towel, t-shirt, shorts and pair of sport socks into my backpack the day before, planning on going to run my first mile during lunch, but when I went to leave at lunch-time, it was raining really hard. Torrential downpour hard, and I didn’t want to get my work clothes and sneakers all wet, so I delayed my first run.
Thursday, however, was a gorgeous day, and when I went out at lunch, it was nothing but blue skies above. So naturally, I went to run inside. I got to the gym, changed, locked my stuff in a locker and remembered that the old dudes in the locker-room had an unusual level of comfort with being completely naked. I guess old age does that to you.
Now, the track at my gym is less than optimal for this type of running: it’s small and sits above the basketball courts, though on this day, there were three courts of people playing doubles pickleball (Google it). A mile is 16 laps around and, inevitably, there are people walking around the inside of the track. I’ve never liked running on this track, but I felt it was a more viable choice at that moment than running outside and not having a clearly marked mile.
I opened Spotify and set my music so that I could start it right after I started the stopwatch with my first steps. As I began running, the opening notes of “Seek and Destroy” off of Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All gave me life. I was running, not jogging, and I felt good. However, as I passed my starting point, and began my second lap, my lungs started to burn and I immediately began to second guess myself. I mean, seriously, a 4 minute mile? What the fuck was I thinking? I’ll be lucky if I don’t drop dead during THIS mile, let alone a very fast mile months or years down the road that may or may not ever happen. However, I settled into a rhythm and two laps became three, and so on. The pace that I had at the beginning slowed, but I never slowed down to a jog (though I recognize that that is a completely subjective statement because real runners probably considered my entire pace a jog, but for me it was running).
Seek and Destroy ended and Enter Sandman began. I finished my run less than halfway through the song and was very pleasantly surprised at my time: 8:45:36. Now, that time comes with a caveat/asterisk, which is this: there is a good chance that I either ran one or two laps MORE than a mile or one or two laps LESS than a mile. As I was rounding the track, I kept forgetting which lap I was on. I would ask myself whether I was running lap 9 or if I had just run lap 9. So I might have repeated a lap or two in there or skipped a lap or two. But considering I hadn’t run a mile in well over two years, I think 8:45 was a very respectable time. I walked two laps as a cool down, but it was nowhere near enough.
I showered at the gym, making a mental note to myself that next time, I needed to remember to bring my own soap/shampoo, deodorant and a change of underwear. My legs burned for days afterward. Maybe burned is the wrong word. They hurt like hell, from my Achilles tendons all the way up to my thighs. Stairs were particularly hard to maneuver. But eventually, the pain eased, though a 12 mile bike ride the following Sunday did NOT feel good and delayed the healing by a day.
As I write this, I feel good again and look forward to running another mile tomorrow afternoon. This time I think I’ll use a treadmill.
Photo: DieselDemon / flickr