For anyone who’s connected to me on Facebook (friends), Twitter (friends, acquaintances & some strangers), Google + (random people) or anywhere else on the social web for that matter, there are a few things about me that become abundantly clear after even the briefest of exposure.
I don’t sit still very often.
Granted much of that is business travel and the truth is that when not on the road for work, I’m very much a homebody; but that said, I do have a penchant for being in motion. Most notably, thanks to my friends at RunKeeper, pretty much any time I lace up my running shoes (which is often), the distance, route and time of my activity gets shared across the landscape that is me on-line.
So it was no real surprise to folks when I started talking about running a ½ marathon in October. What most people missed, though, was that in spite of my being a relatively fit individual I was far from someone who was what I would call “training” in any sort of formal way.
That is, until July 12, 2011.
That’s the day I received an email from a friend. She and a pal had signed up to run the first half of the San Francisco marathon on July 31. The pal, however, was now injured and would be unable to run and with just about two weeks before the sold out race had been lamenting the waste of her spot. Having seen my persistent stream of posts about having run 5 miles here or 4 miles there, my friend reached out:
“Hi Cathy, My friend who was going to run the SF first half of the Marathon on July 31st is injured and is not going to be able to run. Are you interested in running it? She is trying to sell her spot even for part of what she paid for it if she can and I could not think of anyone that might want to and then you came to mind…”
Just as one should not dial or text while under the influence, one should avoid responding to emails at late hours when overly tired.
“Why sure, that sounds like great fun,” I replied, hitting send and heading for sleep.
In the light of the next morning I realized what I had done, and had immediate second thoughts. My friend then emailed and gave me the opportunity to back out. It’s right about this time that my good, old-fashioned, Taurean stubbornness kicked in. I mean, I’d been running regularly – the longest trek was about 7 miles – so that meant a two-week intensive to try and extend my endurance by another 6 miles or so.
So it began. I marked my calendar and began in earnest. I put myself on an aggressive, if not slightly over amplified, training schedule. Regular runs with increasing intervals alternating with strength and endurance training at the gym. About a week into my self-imposed Boot Camp, My friend Briana Stockton, who happens to be a personal trainer and fitness/nutrition advisor, posted something to Facebook. She was offering a friend and family deal for training sessions. Much like my hair trigger response to the ½ marathon invite, I responded immediately.
With my ½ marathon about a week away we didn’t get to start training for that, but she did give me some tips to aid my last minute prep and then we set our schedule to begin as soon as the race was done.
Back to my preparation I went, and as the day grew closer, I found myself a bit worried. What if I couldn’t do it? What if the lack of training resulted in my getting hurt? Putting the fears aside, I plowed forward. Race day arrived and cutting a long story somewhat short here’s the gist.
I did just fine. Cardiovascularly I had no problem whatsoever with the race. At about 8 miles in to the course, however, I hit the first wall. With a deep breath and a little energy goo I managed to get a second wind, but it didn’t last long. At about the 11-mile mark, I hit wall number two. This time the reserve tanks were empty.
There I was, 2.1 miles left, feeling as though I was running barefoot across gravel and bark chips, my major muscle groups began to seize up. Two things kept my feet moving.
First, music. I’d compiled a pretty kick ass playlist for the race that I’d entitled “Worth the Hurt” (the theme for the 2011 San Francisco Marathon). Just about at the time my energy began to flag, a friend’s voice came wafting from my iPod. It was Kate Schutt and her superb rendition of “Glamourous Life”. If you’ve not heard this version of the tune (and you didn’t click the previous link to check it out), I’ll tell you this. It’s impossible to hear Kate’s mellifluous voice sashaying across this tune without getting a little swagger, and swagger I did. Well, it pepped me up a bit. Moments later, Annie Lennox’s powerful voice belted “Walking on Broken Glass”, which just made me laugh as you might guess based on my aforementioned description of how my feet were feeling at this point. From there, my cheering squad of Adele, Ellie Goulding, Big Bad VooDoo Daddy & Blues Traveler carried me forward, each time I began to wane, a new set of rhythms catching my feet and propelling me forward.
Unfortunately I’d not timed the playlist quite right, and it came to an end with about a quarter mile to go. Did I mention that before the home stretch to this finish line the last ¼ mile goes uphill? Yeah. Well, it does.
So with an already played tune failing to motivate me, I found myself looking up that slope (one that’s not altogether steep on any other given viewing I might add), and wondering just how much of a wuss I’d be to peter out at this point and walk. That’s when I saw him. A rather lanky fellow with a shock of dark hair, he was just ahead of me to the left and as I came up behind him I could see that he was starting to slow his gait, almost slowing to a walk. As I trotted by, I turned to him, “Hey … you’re almost there. Don’t give up now! You can do it!”
He whipped his head towards me startled, I think, at the voice coming so close to his shoulder; and then he smiled. Giving me a thumbs-up and flashing a wide grin, he picked up the pace again and we began powering towards the finish. Matched nearly stride for stride, we pushed up the final hill and began our way down the gentle slope towards the finish line.
Long story longer, we finished the race, I met up with my friend and we went for a mammoth breakfast (pretty sure the breakfast burrito I consumed was almost the size of my head). Afterwards I headed home, took a hot shower and promptly passed out on the sofa.
Upon waking, something interesting … I was entirely energized. Yes, I’d had intense exercise. Yes, I’d consumed volumes of food. Yes, I’d crashed hard and slept for two hours. But the type of energy I had came from something much deeper, it came, I think from having pushed through challenge by getting out of my own head.
Or perhaps it was the burrito.