Thursday, February 16, 2012

a newspaper column about running

This week's column from the St. Clair Times is about mine & Stacey Heath's experience running in downtown Birmingham, the first such experience for me. It was great because neither of us died. The column leaves out my brother Jack's finish in Sunday's marathon, in which he disappointed his family by finishing in a mere 2:51 (15th overall). Ridiculous. As always, feel free to comment here or on Twitter.
First try at distance turned out mediocre, which is for the best

Perfectly mediocre.

That’s the only way I can describe our finish Saturday in the Mercedes 5KBR race in downtown Birmingham, the first such race I ever ran in my entire life. My wife — who thought this was a good idea in the first place — and I started in the middle of a giant pack of runners, wheezed our way through freezing cold and just over three miles’ worth of plodding, and finished … well, roughly in the middle of the pack of a giant pack of runners.

Perfectly mediocre.

To be frank, I never really imagined myself competing in any sort of “distance race,” because I’ve never been very good at it. I’m much better competing against other people at sports that involve sprinting — basketball, maybe, or even soccer. “Competing against myself” in a run that takes 30 minutes to complete (stop laughing) … not so much.

Still, there comes a point where a man must accept his fate. For me it happened with basketball about the 374th time I turned my ankle. The message was clear: This is not a long-term proposition.

“Well, I guess we could always start running.”

Those words, it turned out, may have been a poor choice.

“We can run the Mercedes 5K in February!” said my wife. “We’ll set that as our goal.”

It was just an idea at first, as I could barely complete one mile — much less 3.2 — without seeing my life flash before my eyes. Then one day I got an email thanking me for registering for the race.

“Run like a superhero!” it said.

Well … now there’s money invested in it.

And so we trained — nothing special, usually just enough to maintain a conversation, usually about not-so-pressing matters related to work, or whatever annoying habit of a fellow driver or one of my co-workers had picked up that I could use to occupy my brain. Occasionally I tried an iPod — it didn’t last, because it turns out I don’t listen to the right kinds of music for distance running.

The morning of the race, as you know by now, gave us one more big challenge: icy temperatures and bone-chilling wind. By the time the horn blasted to actually start the race, everyone was pretty excited just to finish it.

In less than 40 minutes — I said stop laughing — the deed was done. My brother the marathon runner — he placed second in his age bracket the following day — came to the course, allegedly to cheer us on.

“That’s really good for your first time out,” he said.

Actually, it was about average. Which is where it should have been, I guess.

1 comment:

-D. said...

Congrats. Y'all should sign up for the Warrior Dash with us.