As some of you may know by now I decided to go ahead and run the Pasadena Rock and Roll Half Marathon on Sunday. Prior to this race and since October 1, I ran exactly four times. I had not run more than five miles since June. My training scheduled looked like this: Sunday, December 30, three miles; Wednesday, January 2, three miles; Sunday, January 5, five miles; and Sunday, January 14, three miles. That's it. I might also add that in addition to not running, I also wasn't walking, doing any sort of aerobic activity, or even doing anything of any kind. I believe my only aerobic activity was one Saturday morning of Wii dance and while I whipped my three old at the game, I'm still pretty sure it doesn't count. The point of all of this is to say that I was woefully out of shape heading into this race. But, as explained in my previous post, life simply got in the way.
Now, it is true I abused my body before. I completed a marathon. But, I trained for that, - a lot. So, as I thought about the half-marathon, I knew that I needed realistic expectations. Running, or even run/walking the entire race was out of the question. I knew I simply wasn't in the shape to manage that. But, I paid my $90 bucks to register for this thing, and I had friends running, so it was worth it to hop on board. I told myself the night before that I had to run at least the first three miles. If I made it to five miles, I could walk the rest of it, and at seven miles I would be more than satisfied with my performance.
The first three went pretty dang well. There was one hill that definitely slowed me down, and I did take a brief stop to cheer on the elite and wheelchair runners. One of the coolest things about this course was that I could see those runners. Deena Kastor won the women's division. I saw her twice before at events but I had never seen her run anywhere except on T.V.. Watching someone keeping a five and half minute mile pace is pretty impressive. Knowing she is forty also keeps me inspired to keep my twelve minute mile pace (we have talked before about how slow I am, no need to rehash it here.) The wheelchair competitors were also amazing to watch. This race is full of crazy steep hills. I can't even imagine the strength in these competitors' arms. Damned impressive. (Oh, and btw, when you stop to cheer for other people, no one realizes that you are also taking a break, -they just think you're a really enthusiastic nice person. Fools.)
I made it five miles on pace. But, during mile four I knew I was already tired. Oh, and at mile five my friends who started behind me, passed me! But, I kept going and was still going okay until mile seven. Mile seven sucked. I am pretty sure you can't even call that running or even jogging. It was more like some weird painful shuffle. I think my pace for mile seven was actually slower than when I gave up and just started walking. But mile eight turned out to be my favorite. Sure, I was walking - but so was an amazing little boy. Team Hasc, with which I have no affiliation, was just awesome in general. The runners were a group of young Jewish adults. They ran to raise money for Camp Hasc, a summer camp for special needs children. Several of those special needs persons were with them on the course. The young people walking and running were enthusiastic and took turns pushing the special needs children in wheelchairs along this difficult course. During mile eight one of the boys got out of his wheelchair and started walking the route using his crutches. Needless to say I had to stop and cheer for him too. It was truly an amazing moment for me in the race.
But, I knew I had to keep on walking. I walked eight and nine. But, at the end of nine I was feeling really good and wondered if I stopped running too soon. In retrospect, I think that was just the high of seeing that boy getting up. In any event, I knew the next mile was mostly down hill so I decided I would see if I could do some short interval runs (2:1) down the hill. But, as I finished mile ten, I felt pretty confident my legs were toast, so it was back to walking for those last three miles.
The thing about walking a race is that is where you really get to see stuff. The first thing I saw was, myself, getting smoked by the geriatric set! That's right. Races are full of the over the over seventy set and they can speed walk like nobodies business. The first to leave me in their dust was an obviously older gay gentleman and his two female besties. They were gossiping like crazy as they shimmied down the course. Let me just say their calves were so thin and muscular that if I put all six of them together they might make one of my flabby ones. It's not just the older set getting their walk on, people on the course come in all shapes and sizes. Now, I'm not exactly what one would call a small girl, but there are some folks out there who are carrying some pounds, and more power to them, because they were out there getting it done! My favorite was a shortish, chubby African American man, who just happened to be wearing a jacket from a previous race -- the hot chocolate 15K! HA! Thinking about how cute that was helped me giggle right through that thirteenth mile.
As I crossed the finished line, I felt pretty great. It was a huge contrast to when I crossed the finish line for the marathon. At the marathon, I didn't even make it to the festivities afterward. Here, I stopped, drank my chocolate milk and water, and even grabbed a piece of a Slater's 50/50 burger (Yum, but one piece was more than enough!).
The reality is that even without training, participating in this half marathon was way more fun than the San Diego marathon. Doing San Diego was an overall amazing experience as you can see from reading my previous posts about Team in Training and running in honor of my Dad. But, this was just more fun. I attribute that to a variety of factors, including the shorter distance and the fact that I didn't train. Not training for this race meant that there was no pressure. If I had to call for a ride to pick me up after the third mile - so what I didn't train! I didn't make it in under 2 1/2 hours. Who cares? I didn't train. No, PR, no problem! Because there was no pressure I stopped to cheer for strangers (and friends), I listened to the bands playing along the route (who were also better than in San Diego, btw), I noticed the amazing people who were out there on the route, and I made a decision not to push my body any further than it could be pushed. That's not to say that I didn't push; I did, and I am paying the price today. My legs and back hurt like crazy. My body feels substantially worse than it did the day after the marathon and that was twice the distance, -- but a distance I trained for. So, I have no intention of ever running another race (over a 5K) without training ever again.
But, I'm glad I did it. I think it gave me a fresh perspective and renewed my interest in running another race. When I signed up for this I did it to keep myself running after the marathon. That clearly didn't work for me. Life got in the way. But now, now, I want to be a part of that collective experience again. I want to experience the inspiration that comes from watching elite runners, the strength of the diversity of the participants, the joy of people who get out there and do it for fitness, and the amazing gratitude I have to those who run for people who can't run themselves. People run because it is their life with all its joys, successes, messiness, and interruptions. That's what running should be and that's what I want I want my next race to be. I encourage everyone to get out there and to run a race that way. Run with abandon, -just maybe don't abandon your training altogether……