When I began my list of 50 Things To Do Before My 50th Birthday I (impulsively) added, number 33 "Run Participate in a Half-Marathon." You'll notice I said participate, not run.I'm a lawyer and a blogger, so I know I should choose my words carefully. I committed to participate because I didn't know if I could ever be that kind of person who actually runs. I have never liked running, and I never understood those people who gushed when they talk about running and the runner's high they get after breezing through an easy 2 or 3 mile jog. For me, running has always been a slog, something I had to do when my P.E. teacher punished us with laps around the track. So, you can imagine that it was a real leap for me to even think about participating in a half-marathon. But, my list of 50 Things to Do Before My 50th Birthday is about challenging myself to do things outside my comfort zone. Besides, if not now when I am nearing 50, then when will I ever run in a half-marathon?
I told my friend Julie about my public proclamation to participate in a half-marathon and because she knows me so well, she laughed out loud and said, "What do you mean participate? Are you going to pass out water in those little cups?" She was right. Merely participating is too wimpy, too non-committal. If I was going to do it, I really needed to do it, and soon. My 50th birthday was approaching. Just after the New Year, Juan and I were sitting on our couch, sipping coffee on a lazy weekend morning and I was browsing through my Instagram feed when I spied a photo posted by Catalina, a local blogger I follow. She had posted this:
It seemed Catalina was working her way to a 5K on a treadmill with an app, and she was posting her progress on line. That was my "Come to Jesus" moment. I knew I could not put this running thing off any longer. I asked Juan if he wanted to run with me and he agreed. We decided that we work our way up to a half-marathon and begin by running in the LA Big 5K, on the LA Marathon Weekend. We downloaded the Couch to 5K app on our smartphones and the next morning we began Week 1 of the 8 Week training program. We started out with four intervals of 2 minute jogs and 2 minute walks. That first morning I felt like I was going to pass out!
We kept at it and ran three times a week with this program, increasing our jogging time while decreasing our walking time and intervals. I gradually built up my endurance and soon we began running around the Rose Bowl with dozens of other joggers and fitness enthusiasts. I actually began to feel athletic. By week 8 I was running for 30 minutes straight and no longer felt like I was going to stroke out. Nevertheless, I still didn't love running, and during the first 10 minutes of my runs, all I could think of was, "This hurts. I want to stop. Why can't I breathe?" But after about 10 minutes my body would finally take over. Running became easier and almost meditative, even if I didn't experience a runner's high.
Finally, the day I trained for arrived. Last Sunday Juan and I woke up early and joined 3000 participants at Dodger Stadium for the LA Big 5K. We all gathered at the starting line and soon we were off! At least some of the runners in front were off. Those of us in the back moved en masse, walking more than running as we wound our way through the parking lot of Dodger Stadium. As I picked up my pace along the course I realized that this was not the easy, flat terrain I had trained on. There were some down slopes but my legs felt like most of the course was uphill. Juan hit his stride and broke away from me. I was in a pack of runner/walkers until the first big hill and then, even with my slow jog trudging uphill, I managed to break away. I finally found my groove and set my pace alongside another runner who looked like she was a bit older than me but had a consistent stride. I was tired and my thighs ached as I ran up one hill after another. I kept thinking about how far I had come training over the last 8 weeks and the thought of my success motivated me to keep running. When I finished the race I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment and maybe even a little bit of a runner's high. Whatever. I felt great!
I don't plan to stop at a 5K. After all, I did say I wanted to do a half-marathon. At the rate I am going I know I won't be in shape to run 13.1 miles by my 50th birthday but I will get there, one slow slog at a time. Then, I can check number 33 from my list and finally say that I participated ran a half-marathon.
Here is a short video Juan put together of our first 5k:
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