It’s 6:40 on a rainy, 40 degree, Sunday morning and I am standing outside waiting for a gunshot. 6 Months ago when I signed up to run the Houston Half Marathon I had no idea the anguish that I would experience before I even took a step in the race. I am cold, tired, hungry and disgruntled but atleast I am not alone. More than 25,000 of my fellow brethren and sistren have decided to voluntarily pay to run for the better part of the morning and we are still 20 minutes away from this mother even starting.
I wanted to run the half marathon for the same reason guys want to eat a super monster burrito from Freebirds. Actually, thats not true, I wanted to run the half marathon because I had eaten too many things like the super monster burritos from Freebirds. I wanted to get back to my old fighting weight like when I was in high school. Man, those were the days right? You could eat or drink anything and it never affected you. It’s literally like you go to bed and you are reborn every morning.
As I began training for this thing I realized several things about myself:
- I don’t like running anymore and neither does my body. Running makes your whole body hurt and, if I’ve learned anything from life, then I've learned that if it hurts don't do it. I want to emphasize that your WHOLE body hurts when you are training for long distance running. Things like chest pains and loss of bladder control are pretty normal. Any other time you experience these things you might start to worry but if it happens during an 8 mile (you gota lose yourself in the moment, you own it...) run then it just means you are an average out of shape moron trying to be something you're not.
- I will literally come up with any excuse not to train. When you’re several months out from the race this isn’t that big of deal and the excuses make sense. For example, if it’s 4 months until the race and it’s raining outside then I think everyone can understand that it might be a good day to skip. However, If your 2 weeks away from the race and you decide to skip your Monday run because you “always run better on Tuesdays,” or you’ve “never seen this episode of The Good Wife” then you may just be fishing for excuses.
- I prefer to run alone. I run at below average speeds and I can’t talk when I’m humiliated, so there is no point to exercise with people nearby.
With less than 3 weeks to go until the run I had to make a decision. My training to that point could be described as more intentional than physical and I needed to let the Houston Marathon Folks know if it was time to give my spot up to someone more abled (there is actually a waiting list for this thing). As Kenny Rogers says “you’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” Well by God, I decided it was time to run. I quickly plotted out a 3 week plan of action. I would run 3 miles and then add a mile every other day. I would reinvent what it is to train for a long distance run.
So, 3 Weeks and about 45 miles later I am standing in the rain listening to Houson’s Mayor Annise Parker give a pre-race speech. She actually opened with "Houston is a city where dreams come true." I have lived in Houston all my life and I love it but that phrase should be reserved for Disneyworld and Doubble Dave's Pizza. Soon after Annise's speech the race begins. Here are just a few things that I noted about the run:
- People start walking early, like less than a mile early. That totally amazed me. I felt like Lance Armstrong (pre Oprah) compared to those people.
- The people that sighn up for this deal and run it are crazy, but the people that stand out in the pouring rain and cheer for the runners are completely insane. The fans and the volunteers are the impressive ones.
- It's difficult to run with 25,000 other people. There is pretty much no way to be nice and run a decent time in the same race.
- I was surprised at how much fun it was. I knew a few other people running it but I really wanted to run it alone because I wasn't sure how fast I would run and I didn't want to slow anyone down. I was pretty happy with that decision because I got to see people checking on and encouraging one another. It really made me feel good about humanity. Of course that feeling goes away a little when you see people pushing in line afterwards to get a free t-shirt.
All in all it was a great day. If you ever decide to do it there are 2 things you need to know. The first is to liberally apply Vasaline to any part of the body that touches another part of the body when you run. This is very important. The second is that you should place a bandaid over each nipple. That's a mistake you only make once but it's best not to make it at all.
Oh yeah, one more thing about the run. I had this stuck in my head the whole time...