18 January 2013

I’m writing this having just jumped off of the treadmill. I walked/ran two miles and I feel like I need to take a long nap. That’s a sad enough statement in and of itself, but I’m reminded that six years ago this weekend, I ran a half marathon. My, how the unfit have fallen...

I had gotten laid off from Billboard a few months prior in August 2006. Having never found myself in the position of being unemployed/self-employed before, I wanted to challenge myself. I had also lost a lot of weight over the previous few years and in 2005, I ran my first 5K (a truly life-changing experience). Then in 2006, I expanded to a 10K.  Still, a half marathon seemed really crazy, though a good reason to carbo-load. I knew I couldn’t/wouldn’t train by myself, so I signed up to run the Carlsbad (Calif.) Half Marathon through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We did practice runs every weekend in Santa Monica and were expected to train during the week on our own. 

Let me add in here that I am not a pretty runner. Every Sunday, I would galumph alongside (behind, actually) girls who looked like shiny, pretty ponies when they ran. Their ponytails were the only things that jiggled with each step and they glided along the beach path as if propelled by a gentle breeze. No matter how far we ran (our longest training run was around 11 miles), they looked fresh when we finished, unlike me, whose face stayed red for hours and my t-shirt was usually soaked. It’s a pretty image, isn’t it? 

 I stuck with it, despite having a coach who only wanted to encourage the cute, young girls he could flirt with (he was not asked back), and despite, for whatever reason, not making good friends with anyone on my team, and despite being the slowest person. When race day came, one of our mentors stuck reasonably close. He was a sweet, kind source of inspiration and support. If there were times when he wanted to run beyond my sad, steady little trot, he’d dash off for a mile or so and then come back and find me (Thanks, Jeremy, wherever you are).

 My favorite part, other than crossing the finish line, came when the elite marathon runners passed through. They had escorts and the rest of us could keep running, but we had to move over on the path.  The marathon started about an hour before the half marathon, so I was poking along at mile 8 or something like that when the marathon winner came soaring past me.  Every stride was long, his arms were in perfect rhythm with his lean body. His motion was smooth and graceful. It was like looking at a moving piece of art or a human gazelle.

I would stop for water breaks and to swallow some goo (runners know what I’m talking about. It’s an electrolyte gel that you squeeze down your throat for a power burst). You don’t really need it for a half marathon, but I was going the distance, man. I was going for the full experience. I was a (half) marathoner. I had the race number, the strapped-on water bottles, and the goo to prove it.

By the time I got to mile 12 or so, I was exhausted and walking, but I knew I was going to finish.  When I saw the marker in the distance for mile 13, I took off like a rocket (a snail-powered rocket) and ran past that marker and for the next .2 miles so I could say I ran over the finish line. 

I’m too embarrassed to publicly announce my race time other than it was somewhere between what Paul Ryan claimed to run his marathon in and what his actual time was.  I do not run like the wind.

But guess what? I raised more money for LLS than anyone else on my team. I may have been slow, but I finished, and the donations I gathered spent just as well as if I had come in first place. I also lost my nail on my big toe. Ask any runner, that is a badge of honor. 

When I think back on a time that I really challenged myself to accomplish something I did not think I could do, I look back at that experience. That and getting certified for scuba diving, but I’ll save that story for another post.

Here I am, six years later, attempting to get back up to speed, literally. I don’t know if there’s another half-marathon in me, but I’d at least like to walk/run 10Ks with some regularity. Let’s see if I can make that happen by the end of the year too. 

So today’s $10 goes to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They do great work and if anyone is training for a half or full marathon, I heartily recommend them. The survival rate for many blood cancers has quadrupled in the last 50 years, according to LLS, and a big reason is because of the research paid for with LLS dollars. 

Jan. 18: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: http://www.lls.org/

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