When You Have No Business Running

A half marathon, that is.

And I use the term “running” loosely because for me it was more like shuffling. Or maybe plodding.

I partook in such an event in Cleveland this past May after implementing an innovative training method. The crux of this method: run the distance of the half marathon (13.1 miles) in the weeks leading up to it. By that, I mean in the weeks leading up to it run a TOTAL of 13.1 miles. In my case, I did so in 3-4 mile increments.

The results: I may want to revisit this particular training technique. Let me elaborate by providing a summary of the “race.”

Pre-Race: I discovered that there *is* a 7:00 AM on Sundays. This particular one found me standing in the rain in 50-degree temperatures prior to start time. I’m pretty sure the $80 registration fee relinquished the previous day was the only thing that kept me from yanking my bib off and going back to bed, where a person belongs at 7:00 AM on a Sunday.

I knew enough to be nowhere near the front of this masochistic bunch. I made my way backward between race participants until I met a veritable wall of runners who must have also realized that they, too, had no business toward the front of the pack. I figured the spot would have to do.

Mile 1: The opening of the race was fantastic, mainly because it took about a minute and a half for everyone in front of me to start moving. People around me began to slowly move toward the starting line ahead; as I walked comfortably along I noticed a few people begin to run, almost in place, at this incredibly slow pace. What in the world is their hurry?

Mile 2: Breathing easy as I trotted along, I took note of the people around me. I was amazed at the variety of body types represented in the crowd; not exactly what you might picture as ideal. I gained a newfound respect for the effort it must take some people. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself poetry in motion, but I saw in many individuals so much movement outside the direction of travel that it must take them twice the effort it would otherwise to move the same distance. And, of course, I have to go the bathroom…two miles in.

Miles 3-4: Very comfortable, heading across the West Shoreway. Got behind a young lady whose out-of-direction-of-travel movement I didn’t mind one bit. Thanks to whoever you are; miles 3 and 4 flew by.

Mile 5: Still feeling good, and also approaching unchartered waters. Up to that point, I had never run more than 5 miles at once. I was pretty sure I would learn something about myself that day.

Mile 6: Breathing hard but striding easy. I was surprised I was doing so well.

Mile 7: I realized the error of my ways. I had run miles 3-6 too fast. What I knew would happen began to hit me in Mile 7: my legs began to tighten up. They were simply not used to the abuse (as if any other part of my body is). I slowed way up in order to achieve my goal that day: run the entire race.

Mile 8: Systems began to redline as we looped back around the west side of Cleveland and headed back downtown. I no longer had to go the bathroom. My body had realized its rashness in delivering that fluid for excretion and renigged on its offer. I was passed by many of the body types I had noted earlier that seemed ill-fit for running.

Miles 9-10: Sensory anomalies as I ran east down Detroit Rd. I began to hear noises and my vision was hemmed with red spots. Unlike the start of the race, I was eagerly grabbing cups of water/powerade as I passed by refreshment tables. I did not stop running as I latched onto them; I know myself well enough to know the urge to simply not START again would be too great. My legs were nearly spent, the muscles urging me to stop. Makes sense to me. There was nothing controlled about my breathing.

Miles 11-12 (the finish): It felt as if my body was shutting down certain systems in order to deliver for me. I am grateful to it. My legs had pretty much checked out. The last two miles consisted of delirium, interspersed with the nagging question of why I didn’t just stop. I did not “finish strong,” as I typically like to do when running. It seemed daunting enough just to continue my perpetual plod across the finish line. The second my stride went from “running” to walking, I teetered. I righted myself as I locked eyes with a worker donning latex gloves. With machismo typical of a male, I mustered enough wherewithal to convey to her the message that I was alright. Given the various sensations in my body at that point, I am not sure if the message was accurate or not.

The first few post-race minutes had my mind trying to reattach itself to its physical domain, taking stock of the situation. Some diagnostics were run and it came to the conclusion that, yes, I was going to live. I spotted the bananas. Now, I normally think bananas are okay, I guess, but at that moment they looked irresistible. Inexplicably (I don’t know if this a typical craving of a spent body or what), well before I would have thought my body would want food, I had slammed three of them. They tasted delicious.