My First (Does that mean I’ll run at least another one?) Half Marathon
Oh, I don’t run particularly fast and I don’t much like to do it at all. No. Really. I actually pretty much hate every part of running except when I cross a finish line, catch my breath and my face resumes its normal pale hue.
I decided to start running last January because I’ve reached that middle-aged point in my life where every food item that passes my lips now goes directly to my stomach, which bulges and makes it tough to sit down without two fat rolls popping out up the front of me. I don’t like those fat rolls since my eyes keep doing that darty thing, making it hard to drive, you know?
“Why run?” you ask.
Good question! Answer: I watched my husband lose 25 pounds running. He went from completely sedentary to competitive runner over a one-year period and his fat just melted away. I wanted to get my share of fat melting.
Since I’m pretty organized I sit and think about how I can motivate myself to run. I get MORE magazine, a terrific publication for women “over 40,” and as I was paging through it last December I saw an ad for the MORE/Fitness marathon and half marathon.
“Bingo,” I thought. “Sign me up!”
Figuring I could coerce my workout buddy and good friend Maria into joining me in the half-marathon (13+ miles, for those of you who don’t know) race, which I thought we’d do as a walk/run, wouldn’t be too tough, I mused.
Maria had just taken up long-distance bike riding as a sort of cross training (yep, 50-75 miles in a single ride) and hates to run; who knew?
So I trained alone using the MORE magazine training plan. It was three months of tough going, but I stuck with it, although I mostly hated the running parts and loved the walking parts.
The Friday before the race Mike picked up my number and race packet at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. He called and asked me, “Do you KNOW how many women are running this race?”
I shrugged (which of course he couldn’t see) and replied cautiously, “No, not really. How many?”
“A lot,” he said. “The line snakes around the room, out the door and down the block.” That said, he returned home with my official number and race packet in hand, having stood in line for less than an hour. Efficiency. I love efficiency!
I woke up on Sunday morning, race day, to an unseasonably hot, sunny, day. Temperatures were expected to break records on the high side.
”It figures,” I thought, as I hopped in my car, drove through the Lincoln Tunnel, parked in the $22-for-the-day lot just outside the tunnel exit, then began to walk toward Central Park, figuring the walk there would be a good warm up. I didn’t notice people staring at me right off. I mean why would I? I was thinking!
I was dressed to run: black shorts, black sleeveless shirt, white hat, running shoes and my official number pinned to the front of my shirt. I looked perfectly fine. . .if I was actually in the park instead of walking a measured pace up 8th Avenue early on a Sunday morning. People began to talk to me, asking me what I was doing. So much for New Yorkers being cold and uncurious (hey, is that a word?).
I reached the entrance to the park and worked my way through the crowds and found my corral; a corral is a roped off area where you line up and wait for the race to start. Each corral corresponds to the time it takes you to run a mile, on average. You had to fill that part in on the initial application. The slower you said you run a mile, the further back from the starting line you are. Does it give you a clue that I couldn’t even see the starting line? Well, how fast do you run a mile? Huh?
Looking around, I knew there were liars in my corral. I mean some of the women were so lithe and fit I figured they underestimated their times on purpose; maybe out of a lack of confidence? And others in my corral were fitness challenged from what I observed. I mean I watched at least five women who were unable to bend over enough to re-tie their own running shoes; a friend or perhaps family member did it for them. What’s THAT?! I also noticed that most everyone had a buddy or family with them and I was all alone, not even a spectator to cheer me on.
“Ah well,” I thought. “I’ll run at my own pace and applaud myself when I finish.”
Then we heard the announcement on the loudspeakers: Based on the ridiculous heat and the incredible number of women entered, race officials cancelled the full marathon and announced the half marathon would not be officially timed “for our safety.” I, along with many women around me, was crushed and mad, at the same time. This is what I had trained for, this is what I wanted to do and now some officials are taking it all away from me “for my own good?” I’m a Mom. I know how to take care of myself and everyone else around me. These women and I could do it. I knew it and they knew it. We were an angry, rumbling mob. Some women even cried. Jeez.
With that, and a last minute distribution of salt packets by the handfuls, the gun sounded and we took off, thousands and thousands, and thousands of over 40 women. . .walking since the crowd was so tightly packed. At around mile three it started to loosened up, and by mile five, I could actually swing my arms as I ran, finally getting a rhythm going. Mile eight and beyond was tough, but I kept going, not willing to give in to the heat and exhaustion it caused.
I ran that race with happy women, disgruntled women, fast women, slow women, women like me, women completely not like me. We ran. We sweated. Some of us threw up. Some stopped before they crossed the finish line. Many, many of us persevered. And finished.
I trotted across the finish line, and God bless the announcer, he read off my number and welcomed me by name, even pronouncing my last name correctly. I finished. I finished my first-half marathon in 3 hours and 34 minutes. I did it. And I didn’t lose a single pound, not one, during my training.