On Monday of this week (April 23, 2012), I accomplished a huge goal. I ran 5K. Now granted, it was on a treadmill in the gym, but still! This is something I’ve been trying to do for over a year now. That’s not an exaggeration. Last March, as in March 2011, I started the Couch-to-5K running plan. This program turns you from a couch potato into a 5K runner in just 9 weeks! When I started, I was running outside in DC during the spring and loving it. It starts off so easily – on the first day you alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. I stuck with it pretty diligently until out of nowhere, I started having knee problems. Long story short, I took a few weeks off and learned some great knee stretches before giving it another try. Then I got a fever. Then I’d be out of town. Things kept getting in my way. And every time I’d get back into it, I’d back up a week or so. This summer, I was running 1.5 miles every other day. People kept telling me I was so close! I even ran 2.5 miles once, but I just couldn’t push myself to 3.1!
Now, I should say that I am embarrassed to even be sharing this story. Everyone else, it seems, is posting on facebook about how they’re training for a marathon, or that they have lost 50 pounds in the past year and are running for hours at a time. People look at me, think I look in shape, and don’t understand why a 5K is such a big deal. And they’re right…it’s not. But in spite of my inherited small size, I’ve never been great at physical activity. I dreaded the fitness test every year in school. My V-sit-and-reach was always in the negative range, I could do one pull up every other year, and running (or walking) The Mile was a huge embarrassment. There was one particular year (8th grade, I think) where one of the popular basketball players took me under her wing and made me run the whole mile with her. It was the only time I had ever run the whole thing. Afterwards, I thought I might die.
What I’ve learned in this process of becoming a runner is that it is a giant mental game. And unfortunately, I don’t have much of a drive or interest in pushing myself – at least not when it comes to exercise. After about 5 minutes of running, I start telling myself Amanda, you don’t have to do this. No one is making you, and it sucks. This negative attitude is what has convinced me to push STOP just .6 miles short of accomplishing my goal. But for some reason, this past Monday, I convinced myself to keep going, and something about it was even exciting! When I reached 5K and hopped off my treadmill, I was bummed that no one was around to congratulate me. I grinned and went on my way.
In spite of my intense hatred for long-distance running, I do actually enjoy short-distance running. It’s exhilarating, a nice challenge, and it’s over before you know it! In the same way, I’ve always been a short-distance singer. I have done immense amounts of choral singing throughout my lifetime, though with a few exceptions, it has mostly been pieces around 5 minutes in length. But lately, in my program here at Yale, I’ve had to learn to do long-distance singing. Just in the past week, I’ve performed the full Messiah (just under 3 hours in length) and am about to perform Haydn’s Creation (around 2 hours in length) tomorrow and Monday. Other large pieces I’ve performed this year include Part’s Passio, Handel’s Solomon, Beethoven’s Ninth, and the Durufle Requiem. And not only have I sung many looooong pieces this year, but I’ve listened to and studied even more for my conducting lessons! I’ve become fond of referring to this activity as Marathon Listening. Some of the giant pieces I’ve listened to this year are the Berlioz Requiem, the Mozart Requiem, Mahler Symphony 8, Bach St. John Passion, Haydn Harmoniemesse, Mendelssohn Elijah, Britten War Requiem, Foulds World Requiem, Beethoven Missa Solemnis, Hindemith Requiem, and many more.
I must admit that just as I hated long-distance running at the beginning of the year, I also hated long-distance listening. It takes a certain amount of concentration and mental stamina that I guess I’m lacking. My childhood must have been filled with ADD musical experiences! But if there’s one thing I’m proud of accomplishing at school this year, it’s my growth in appreciation for big works. For the first time ever, I’m starting to recognize the beauty in marathon listening. The rewards are different from the short-distance stuff. And it’s hard to explain, but I imagine running a marathon must feel similar. (I think I’ll stick to marathon-listening instead of marathon-running.) I do hope that any readers (do I even have any anymore?) who have shared my lack-of-appreciation for long choral/orchestral works will take away from this post an understanding that long-distance listening requires training just like long-distance running does. And it’s hard, but it’s worth it.
If only there were more hours in the day! This stuff is time consuming! Singing The Creation on Sunday and Monday are my last big things of the year before I head to Turkey and Greece for two weeks with the ISM (my program at Yale). I have more thoughts to share to wrap up the year, and there’s much to tell about my summer plans, but it probably won’t happen until I get back from Europe (May 18). Until then, peace!