Archives for posts with tag: running

A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to try to run a half-marathon. I thought it would be a good test of my physical fitness, my determination, my perseverance and my utter cluelessness. It didn’t matter how old I was, I thought; I could be just as stupid as I used to be.

I never did run that half-marathon. I would like now to explain why.

First, I found out that a full marathon is indeed 26.2 miles long, or 26.1 miles longer than walking to the mailbox to get the mail. Second, I found out that a half-marathon is, in fact, half a marathon.

To get a better grasp of what that means: technically speaking, it’s 13.1 miles, 21.08 kilometers or, in England, 16.7 imperial liters. It’s a lot of liters. It is, in fact, the equivalent of running to the supermarket, then running back home, then finding out you didn’t buy anything at the supermarket and having to run all the way back, just for a loaf of bread.

And then it turns out the supermarket is closed. And that’s assuming that the bread was any good and the supermarket was only one state away, and mostly downhill.

In addition, I discovered, you can’t just run a half-marathon without preparation apparently. You need to train for it. I would have much preferred that meant I needed to book on Amtrak. But it turns out that means doing a lot of running even before you have to do a lot of running.

Yes, I know it seems unfair.

In particular, in training for a long race, you are supposed to start small and build up over time. I was fine with starting small. I was so fine with it, I stayed small.

You are supposed to slowly increase your mileage until running a half-marathon is as easy as going to the supermarket and buying a loaf of bread. We know how that turned out.

When I was training, after running about three or four miles I would begin to get that certain feeling you get, that runner’s high — you know, that moment when you are certain you are surely going to die.

My feet would swell, my legs would hurt, my back would ache and my breathing would be labored. It was sort of like when I’m watching a presidential press conference.

In addition, all that preparation to run a half-marathon takes a lot of time, and, frankly, I’m a very busy person. I have naps to take, emails from acquaintances to ignore, dishes in the sink not to wash. Sometimes, I have to spend whole days figuring out how many characters I have left when I want to tweet something.

But perhaps the most important reason I gave up on my half-marathon quest was that I found out I could just buy one of those “13.1” bumper stickers and not have to prove that I earned it.

Some words to the wise: Never get bogged down in a land war in Asia. And if you’re going to run a five kilometer race, in Asia or elsewhere, don’t fall down.

And definitely don’t fall down twice.

Falling down tends to slow you down, interferes with your race time and allows you to be beaten to the finish line by the guy in the Super Mario computer game Halloween costume and the woman in her eighth month of pregnancy. It also, incidentally, will rip up your knees, scorch your hands, crumple your arm and make you start seriously wondering why you weren’t home eating Cheetos.

Or so I’m told.

I speak here, of course, hypothetically. Because absolutely nothing like this has ever happened to me, the Western Hemisphere’s slowest and most careful runner. But if it did, it might have happened something like this.

Somewhere around the middle of a recent race, in the middle of the deep woods, on a bumpy dirt trail, there was a rock or a tree root or a hardened, stale Twinkie silently sticking up from the trail. No one else was looking for it, no one else could find it, but I did!

I could have missed it, of course, like the rest of the runners did, but I’d show them how I still had my unerring sense of direction — without a GPS! My left foot easily found the obstacle.

I stumbled. You know that millisecond, when you stumble, when you truly believe you’ll be able to right yourself and continue on like before? This wasn’t that millisecond.

I crashed to the ground, landing on my knees, my hands, my arm, my side, my pride. A fellow runner stopped to ask if I was OK. We have this special code among runners — when asked if we’re OK, we always collegially respond: No, you idiot, I just crashed to the ground, landing on my knees, my hands, my arm, my side, my pride. I’m bleeding and I want to be home eating Cheetos.

After that warm exchange of camaraderie, I got up and continued to run. For about another half mile or so.

That’s when my foot hit another bump in the ground and I took another tumble. But this was completely different from the first tumble. At no time, during this tumble, did I ever truly believe I’d be able to right myself and continue on like before.

Nevertheless, I got up and continued on like before. We have a code among runners: Keep going until you can damage another part of your body.

It would be nice to add now that, despite the tumbles, despite the damage to my pride, I raced to the finish line and was greeted with acclaim. Actually, I was greeted by Super Mario and the pregnant lady, who not only already had finished, but weren’t even bleeding.

Both of them appeared to be eating Cheetos.

First, the good news. The other weekend, I ran a 5K race and I did not end up in the emergency room. In fact, I finished second in my age group.

The bad news is that I’m not sure there were more than two people in my age group.

And to make matters worse, the other guy in my age group just managed to edge me out by a hair — or more precisely, by 17 minutes.

I know I should nevertheless be grateful that I came in second in my age group considering that many people in my age group are dead — or worse, they are on hold with the cable company. And yet, I still have this sense of unfulfilled expectations.

A couple of years ago, I had decided that I should set for myself a physical goal, something that would test my mettle and let me find out if, in fact, I had any mettle left and if that was the reason I was having so much difficulty getting through security control at airports.
As I was getting older, I wanted a challenge that would show everyone that despite obvious evidence, I was not getting older. I wanted a challenge that would stretch me and test me and show everyone that even at my age, I was still capable of major accomplishments and extremely foolish physical exertions.

I considered parachute jumping, snowboarding and eating raw oysters in months without an “R.”

Instead, I decided that I was going to run a half marathon.

I think I may have made this decision before I discovered that a half marathon is actually, in point of fact, half a full marathon. That it is actually 13.1 miles, which, I believe, is the exact distance from here to the emergency room.

Nevertheless, I pursued this goal with the same dedication, determination and perseverance that got me kicked out of college three separate times.

I bought fancy running socks. I purchased a fancy running jacket. I acquired two running caps, one for the winter and one for the summer. Both of them were fancy.

I downloaded an app for my smartphone that would measure my running — how many miles I ran, how many calories expended, how many times I said I’m going to go out running but decided against it because it was too cold. Or hot. Or rainy. Or not rainy enough.
Occasionally, in between excuses, I also trained — or, as we runners like to say, ran. I worked on my stride and my stamina and my speed — or, as some of us runners like to say, I thought about working on my stride and my stamina and my speed while watching television and eating pretzels.

I had hoped to be ready for the half marathon by this spring, marathon season, when “13.1” bumper stickers blossom on cars everywhere.  Instead, I ran a 5K, and although I came in second in my age group, I have begun looking for a month without an “R”.

The race is not always to the swiftest. Sometimes, I figured, it’s to the guy right behind the guy who’s wearing the armor and carrying the lance.

I ran a 5K (for those of you not into metrics, that’s 6 Euros) race the other day, and I had my strategy all ready. (If I’m going to run all those Euros, I definitely need a strategy.)

I looked first for all the runners wearing shirts that showed they had run in lots of long races before, like the Death Valley 500 and the Everest 3,000, and were wearing those short little socks that looked like they weren’t wearing socks at all. It helped if they all looked emaciated and had matching shorts that looked emaciated, too.  

I obviously stayed far away from them.

Then I checked for runners who looked like they had spent most of the past couple of years in the Haagen-Dazs store. It was a bonus if they were wearing knee socks that didn’t match. If they did, in fact, have shirts that advertised a race, the shirts had to be from the 1973 Grateful Dead tour.

Those were my people, my pacesetters, the people I figured I would run along, the people I figured I might even be able to beat to the finish line. I took my place among them.

We waited for the start, and then I noticed, just to the right of me, a guy in chain mail (for those of you not into bizarre running gear, that’s a type of armor consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh). The chain mail didn’t look emaciated, but then, again, it’s hard to tell.

The guy in chain mail also was carrying a lance (a long, pointy thing used to lance stuff).

I figured, stay near him, as long as I didn’t run right in front of him. Then, at the end, put on a burst of speed which I intended to borrow from a speed bank along the route, and shoot ahead.

The starting gun went off.  For the first two miles or so (3.5 Euros or 75 North Korean Sos), I stayed, as we runners say, well within myself, which means that I could barely breathe, my right hip ached, I was developing a blister on my toe and I couldn’t remember all the words to “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

I was right on pace. I was right on the heels of the guy in armor, which may have been what was causing my blister.

As we rounded the final turn toward the finish line, I accelerated, which is a poetic metaphor for not going as slowly as I was. I crossed the finish line seconds ahead of the guy in armor.

I exulted in my victory, until I saw the guy in armor being greeted at the finish line by another guy in armor who had already finished.

Next time, I want a lance.

In an attempt to show that my brain is almost nearly as far gone as my body, I’ve decided to run a half marathon.

For some time now, I had wanted to do something that would challenge and stretch me. However, the rack wasn’t available.

So I have chosen to do the half marathon instead. I could have decided, I know, to try to run a full marathon. That would have been an even greater challenge, but I eliminated that possibility when I quickly discovered that a full marathon is, in fact, twice as long as a half marathon. Or as we experienced runners like to say, “Oh, damn, there’s another 13.1 miles to go and not a single taxi around.”

The germination of this idea to run a half marathon was that I had wanted to do something that would show the world — and show myself — that age is just a number, although some people may believe it’s a noun. (Those are people whose numbers tend to be much smaller.)

I wanted to show everyone that I was still as fit as I was back in the day, when, fortunately, I wasn’t fit at all.

I enter this challenge, however, with eyes wide open. I’ve attempted risky physical feats before, including continuing to websites that were not recommended.

Not only that, but I’ve dared to try to speak French, occasionally even with French people, and once, memorably, even tried to use the subjunctive tense.

But I do understand that this running a half marathon will be a far greater test.

It will require stamina, fortitude, a high tolerance for pain and a commitment to revamp my diet and reduce my mint chocolate chip ice cream consumption to levels not seen since the last millenium.

I know I’m going to have to seriously train for this running, which may include lots of running. Fortunately. I already run, frequently setting age-group records for slowest male (60-69) on the treadmill.

I run several days a week, maintaining a steady pace based on how much my legs hurt and are they keeping pace with how much my lungs hurt.

To do this right, I will also have to buy serious running gear, like head bands and wrist bands and high-quality running shoes that will cost more than my house did but that will allow me to use the word pronate whenever I feel like it.

But I am committed to it. The plan is to run the half marathon sometime next spring. That should give me more than enough time to figure out a reason why it’s really probably a better idea to try to speak better French instead.