You too can run a half-marathon
No, really. You can.
Unless you have a limiting physical disability, you are perfectly capable of it. I know what many of you are thinking, because a year ago today, I’d have been thinking the same thing. I would have been calling bullshit on me.
Except a month later, I started the Couch to 5K program. I had to work my way up to being able to run for five minutes without stopping to walk. I came into this with no natural athletic ability and a fitness level that would rank in the neighborhood of Very Poor. Also I hated running almost all of the time that I was doing it.
But while I hated actual running, I liked having run. I liked what it was doing for my body, my mood, and my energy level. I liked that, before long, I was up to twenty minutes, then three miles, then three miles a little bit faster every time I ran it. I liked being sore because I’d worked hard.
I give a lot of credit for my transformation into a runner to the Couch to 5K program. It's structured and it's success-oriented. These were things I needed. The first week is made up of intervals of 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking. I needed to start there, succeed, and feel confident about being able to do the next week’s intervals. I needed someone to tell me when to run, how far to run, and for how long.
But there’s a lot more credit to go around. I saw my friends Karin and DC roommate Holly start running, lose weight, and get in shape. In the years I’ve known San Antonio roommate Holly, I saw her transform from a non-athlete like myself into a genuine capital-R Runner, with countless 5K, 10K, trail races and half-marathons under her belt. Nobody could dispute that she is an athlete, and it’s because she made herself one. She got up at 4:45 a few times a week, laced up the shoes, and did the work. Now she’s training for a full marathon.
My friend Katie started running half-marathons. She and Chrystal signed up for the Virginia Beach Half-Marathon. I should do it with them! It would be fun and we’d all go to the beach. It was about four months away. Holly told me I could do it. Raj told me I could do it.
Raj had, in fact, told me in February that I could be running a half-marathon by summer. I told him he was insane. Turns out I could have. (Please note for the purposes of my relationship that I am not admitting here to having been wrong. His sanity, as a general subject, remains in question. After all, he dates me.) Raj has been extremely supportive all this time. I could text Mr. I’ve Run Several Full Marathons “I ran for five minutes!” and he’d respond “Great job!” without a hint of eye rolling. Sometimes during training runs when I really wanted to quit, I’d picture a finish line and him standing on the other side of it to keep me going. The fact that I’ve never told him that makes it all the more extraordinary that, when he found out that he had to fly to San Diego the day of my half-marathon, he arranged his travel so he could come to Virginia Beach and watch me finish before driving back to DC just in time for his flight. He even let me hug him immediately after finishing though, verily I say to you, I was disgusting.
So I was lucky to have a lot of good influences around me. And I finally just made up my mind to do it. The convenient timing of the half-marathon just before my 33rd birthday helped. Fitness would be my gift to me. Though strangely, that hasn’t really sunk in yet. I don’t see myself as being in any better physical shape than usual, though this is clearly the most fit I’ve ever been. It still threw me where, under the signature line on my race form, it said Signature of the Athlete. I kept waiting for someone to come take it away from me while laughing and saying “You’re not an athlete!”
But I was! And I am, I guess. Particularly since not only am I already looking for the next race, I’m getting a little twitchy after not having run all week. I’m actually looking forward to it.
And I’m a person who can follow though on something that takes months of preparation. I didn’t admit to anyone when I signed up for the race that I probably gave myself about a 75% chance of going through with it. Sure, there was a chance I’d hurt myself and not be able to run it, but there also seemed a good chance that I just wouldn’t do all of the necessary training. (Not that I did all of the training, by any stretch. I’d say I did about two-thirds of the training program I used, omitting several mid-week runs and oh, all of the scheduled cross-training.) My training mantra had a lot to do with how mortifying it would be to have to walk the last ten miles of a thirteen mile race. The threat of total humiliation is a powerful motivator indeed.
Fortunately, so is the rush of finishing the race. I want to do another one. I want to do it faster and with less walking. I want to feel just as wrecked, if not more, afterward so I know I didn’t leave anything I had in me on the course. This is a drug and a sickness. It’s the Thank you, sir, may I have another? of things that are actually good for you. It’s awful and I love it.
Plus, you guys. I’m totally starting to get a butt.