Friday, February 22, 2008

On the Run

Feb. 22, 2008

So I'm about to utter a sentence -- the essence of which I never thought would enter my conscience, let alone pass my lips or form words on my keyboard, but here it is:

In 16 days I plan on running my first half marathon. 13.1 miles. More than 2 hours of running straight. My goal is to finish -- or at least that's what I'm telling everybody.

Until about six months ago, I had never been a runner. In fact, I hated, despised, loathed running altogether. I enjoyed exercising, but 30 minutes on the elliptical machine at the gym a few times a week was good for me. I had come to accept that the 10-15 pounds of baby weight accumulated over the past decade would in all likelihood stay put. Every once in a while I would try a short little jaunt, but after just a few minutes would become so winded and feeling so out of shape that I had not even a shred of desire to ever try it again.

I've had many friends who are/were runners. My best friend in high school runs and loves doing 5Ks. Another friend I grew up with was a great, fast runner. A few years back a friend in Sacramento ran a full marathon after battling cancer. A cousin of Brett's ran two marathons; we watched her cross the finish line of the California International Marathon in front of the state capitol. Admittedly, it was inspiring to watch her and all the runners achieve their goals.

But even then -- while I was so impressed with their feats -- I still didn't "get" running.

Somehow that changed last April when we moved to Phoenix. It started innocently enough with the purchase of a treadmill. My husband didn't think I'd really use it. By June and July it was just too miserably hot to exercise outside or even pack up the kids in the car and go to the gym. So the treadmill became my escape, my "me" time. The boys were out of school, the twins were home every day -- not in preschool yet -- and I had only met a few people. So I'd throw on my Ipod and hop on the treadmill.

For months I was stuck at two miles (remember, I said I wasn't a runner!). I'd be huffing and puffing and feeling like 20 minutes would never end. Finally I bumped it to 2.5 miles and not long after that I was doing 3 miles.

At about this time the weather started cooling off (when it actually got below 90) and I started running outside. That's when it happened. Just as I had read from runners forums and articles, I was no longer running as a means to an end (like to lose weight, get some exercise, etc.). I was just running to run. Putting on my iPod and running ... clearing my head ... leaving the stress on the road. Feeling energized.

By September I started thinking about the people I know who have run marathons and half marathons. Maybe I could do it. Then I'd run on one of those warm mornings with the Arizona sun blasting down my back. Legs feeling heavy and clumsy. Maybe not.

After some intensive Googling, I found various training plans. Within days the Hal Higdon 12-week novice half marathon plan was stuck to my refrigerator. With my yellow highlighter always nearby, I proudly marked off each training session. Brett even started training, too, and was enthusiastic about running the half marathon with me. Like me, he's never been a runner, and after a rough first couple weeks, he is embracing it, too -- almost as much as I am.

We decided we'd try the P.F. Chang's Rock n Roll Marathon in early January. To try to keep this short, I started having major knee pain. Tried to ignore it, but it got to the point I was just dreading running. So I took 3, almost 4 weeks off. Enjoyed the holidays, got sick, took care of sick kids. Then on the day of the Rock n Roll marathon, I ran 5 miles and decided during that run that I would try the next one to come along -- the Valley of the Sun Marathon. March 9th in Mesa.

So here we are. A few "shorter" runs during the week. These are up to 5 miles now. And then the long run on the weekend. We did 9 miles the past two weekends. The first time was awful, the second was much better. This Monday we're going to try 11.

Ugh ...

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