By Jamie Balke
Explorebigsky.com Columnist

There was a time when I didn’t hate running. Growing up in the Midwest, I participated in my share of sports teams, but my favorite for many years was basketball. I’m tall, so it made sense. My freshman year of high school, the basketball team required me to participate in a fall sport. For reasons I can’t remember or currently fathom, I chose cross-country.

I had never run for the sole purpose of running. Rather, I was always running to get in shape for another sport. The cross-country coach was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. His kindness permeated the team, and it was a rare bastion of acceptance and encouragement in an otherwise ruthless school. We had all sorts of weird and fun traditions, and I ended up stayed with the team all four years, even though I left basketball after sophomore year.

I kept running during college, and after graduating, pursued a job with very specific fitness tests. When I moved onto a different type of work, I experienced a dramatic moment of immaturity and decided since it was no longer a requirement, I’d quit running. This moment lasted for several years during which other than outdoor ventures, exercise involved sporadic elliptical machine use, and only ended last week.

Last week, I met a friend at the gym, mentally prepared to rock out on an elliptical. Instead, I found her walking on a treadmill. Hopping onto the adjacent machine, I walked for a bit, and then began jogging on a whim. She followed suit, and before long we had approximately the following conversation:

Friend: You know, I’ve never passed the three-mile mark.

Me: Really? I think you could do it. (At this point I should have stopped talking. Instead, the following words spewed forth from my face). In fact, I’ll work on it with you.

Friend: We should do a 5k.

Me: Yeah, totally.

Since that time, I’ve mostly been winded and angry. My days have been filled with a disconcerting amount of unsightly sweat.

My friend and I are have set a goal to run together weekly, and are messaging each other with times and distances when we go it alone. This has been an effective strategy so far. If left to my own devices I would rationalize a reason to skip a day, or possibly the majority of days. Instead, the shame of sending a lame excuse keeps me honest. As well, I hope writing about it in this column will keep me on task.

My wonderful, ambitious friend proposed the Run to the Pub in March, believing it to be a 5k. It is in fact a 10k or a half-marathon, and in a horrifying twist, the plan to participate has not changed.

From what I understand, there will be Saint Patrick’s Day-related costumes and beer at the end, which helps soften the blow. My friend has promised that we will wear green tutus, but even this has not completely stifled my urge to flee (at a walking pace).

So, should you run past a winded and angry woman in a green tutu cursing the sky during the Run to the Pub, that will probably be me.

Cheers!

Jamie Balke moved to Bozeman in the fall of 2009. She could do without all of this running nonsense.