If you’re not some sort of a runner, you probably know someone who is. It really is the silliest activity; one foot in front of the other, thousands upon thousands of times in a row, usually to arrive at the very place you left. Pointless, yes? When I took up this hobby, which would soon turn into an obsession, a friend had the standard one-word question for me: “Why?” Why? Since you asked…
About a year and a half ago, I figured (OK, hoped) that it was probably not too late to atone for an adult lifetime of treating my body more or less like a toilet. Starting my fifth decade on this planet, leaving behind ages of perceived immortality, I was able to see what could well be my future – a ceaseless treadmill of pills, doctor visits and hospital stays – a heavy user (pun absolutely intended) of the vaunted American healthcare system. That’s where my parents are, and they don’t speak very highly of it. So I figured if I get hooked on this running thing, maybe my first hospitalization can be for something minor like knee arthroscopy, instead of coronary bypass surgery.
On top of that, I became a father just days before my 40th birthday. These days, that’s not an insanely advanced age for one to sire progeny, but more than old enough that I am destined to be a busted-up, decrepit old fart who is too out of shape to have a catch with Junior (and Child the Second, due to join us in early January), unless I clean up my act in a big way.
After finally having our fill of the urban paradise that is Trenton, New Jersey, we managed to escape, all the way up to the West Trenton section of Ewing Township. It’s about five miles and a universe away. After I adjusted to the culture shock of being able to gaze out my front window without wanting to vomit (provided I don’t look at my own lawn, of course), I noticed that lots of people around here like to do legal and productive things outside, running not insignificant among them.
Lastly, and because I don’t think my wife knows this blog exists as of yet, I think it’s safe to admit this: While out on a run, I would not be able to change a diaper, nor could I hear my then-infant son’s latest screaming fit. Plus, I figured, If I’m going to occasionally escape the house for a little bit of “me time” – which I fiercely recommend to all new parents – I might as well spend that time doing something that’s actually good for me. As opposed to…oh, let’s say…emptying my pocket into the cash register of any of the area’s many fine publicans.
So I literally dusted off an old pair of kicks in January 2011, and set out for a loop around my neighborhood, hoping against hope that nobody would actually see me. Just over one mile and thirteen minutes later, I thought I would die on the spot. But miraculously, I did not die. So I did it again the next day. Still alive. About a week later, I lost my mind and ran all the way out to Trenton-Mercer Airport and back; a gaudy two miles, plus hills!
You can see where this is going, can’t you? Two miles eventually turned into five. I participated in my first 5K in over a decade. If you believe in such things, the 5K is definitely the “gateway drug” of running. It shows you that you’re not so fat, you’re not so slow, and might well be destined for something bigger. Flogging the metaphor, I went from rocks to bricks, signing up for last year’s Philadelphia Half Marathon. Prepping for this took 13 weeks, during which I ran over 250 miles; no small feat for this corpulent fella. On the big day, I crossed the finish line in 2:19, and was overcome by a rush of accomplishment, soon followed by a rush of exquisite pain that would last for about a week. I thought that was it for my illustrious running career. Once an addict, always an addict, however; you forget about the pain as the memory recedes, and you sign up for another race.
Just over three months ago, I survived my second 13.1, the St. Luke’s Half Marathon up in Allentown. Better than merely surviving, I knocked seven minutes off my Philly time, and on a much more difficult course. Still hurt like holy hell for a week, though.
Having just completed two half marathons, I concluded that the terminal step in this addiction would be to run two more of them… only one right after the other. That’s all. Piece of cake. Proving that I had finally hit rock bottom, I signed up for the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon, which takes place the Sunday before Thanksgiving, whether or not I am ready for it. Putting the drug metaphor out of its misery, you can say I’ve gone from snorting it, to smoking it, all the way to mainlining it.
Thanks to the lovely folks at WordPress, who have a pretty rigorous set of standards for getting your content hosted, I get to combine the narcissistic activity of marathon training with the equally – if not more – narcissistic activity of telling you all about it! Rather than making this all about me, however, my intent is to convince you, Sid and Terry (…sedentary? get it?), that if I can pull this off, almost any one of you can. Also, I look forward to sharing my novice runner’s advice and wisdom with you, absolutely free of charge! And if I happen to even accidentally entertain any of you along the way, that’s a bonus.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.