My Longest Run

DECEMBER 12, 2012

 

One month ago, I couldn’t run more than 1.5 miles without complaining and feeling like I was about to collapse.

It’s not that I’m lazy.  I work out occasionally and can hold my own in workout classes.  But running is a different story.  In my opinion, running is one of the hardest forms of exercise because it takes just as much mental energy as it does physical.

Up until about 3 weeks ago, I hated running.  It was boring.  It hurt my legs.  Blech.  I didn’t understand how people could run miles and miles, yet I envied them.  I envied them because runners seem like the toughest crew around and I wanted to be part of that.  I had tried over the years to run more than a mile or so, but I just couldn’t do it.

One runner in particular that I admired was Emily.  For as long as I’ve known Emily, she’s been a runner.  A real runner…a marathon runner.  Occasionally while working on Quarterlette together, I’ll hear her talk about an upcoming race and say: “I would love to do that!  This month I’ll learn how to be a runner!”

6 months ago I even downloaded the iPhone app. “From Couch to 5K” to get my booty in gear.  It was all very exciting. I was going to train to run a 5k (roughly 3 miles) in time for the Color Run in NYC.  This was it!

Unfortunately, about a month into my training – with 1.5 miles under my belt -  the Color Run booked up and I didn’t get to register.   “That won’t stop me”, I proclaimed.  “I’m still reaching my goal of running those 3 miles even if I don’t have a race to work towards.”

Well…that didn’t happen.  Without any motivation, I got bored.  And busy.  Bye, bye runner.

I still gazed longingly at runners on the street, but I just figured I was not cut out to be one myself.

Then, a few weeks ago, Emily sent an email to some friends asking to join her in a 5 mile (8K) run in support of Brain Cancer Research.  A few years ago, Emily’s brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  He underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation and is now (thankfully) in remission.  Immediately after reading the email, I knew that I wanted to get involved to support her, her brother and the cause, so without thinking twice, I signed up.  Right after registering, however, I realized that it was a 5 mile race (not a 5k) and that the most I had ever run was 1.5 miles.  The race was less than 2 weeks away.

I was pretty intimidated.  I called Emily and asked her if I could run some of the race and walk the rest of the way.  She said yes.

After getting her approval to run/walk, I had these visions of coming in last place, but it was for such a good cause so I didn’t even care.  Game on.

The weekend before the race, I ran 2 miles.  Afterwards, I fell asleep in my bed.  A few days later I pushed myself to run 2.5 miles and then 2.9 miles…but JUST barely.  I honestly couldn’t do anymore than that.  I figured I would try to run 3 miles and then walk the the remainder.

A few days later, it was race day and I was excited.  I even found a running buddy – a high school friend who recently ran the Philadelphia Marathon (hardcore) but offered to run/walk with me.  I told her that she could sprint off at any time…I didn’t want to hold her back.  But she assured me that she would stay at my pace.

As I approached Central Park, in my new running gear, I got nervous again.   Everyone looked legit and super athletic.  Everyone looked determined and focused.  I was freaked out.   It might not seem like much to runners, but 5 miles for a complete non-runner is daunting.

As I lined up with my friend at the corrals, the race announcements began.  While listening to the speakers, I started to notice all of the t-shirts and signs around me in memory of loved ones.  Sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, friends.  I had, of course, previously seen public displays of love in memory of friends and family, but I had never witnessed it right before I was about to embark on something that scared me, all in support of those who the t-shirts and signs were honoring.  It definitely fueled me.

Minutes later, the race began and I set the pace for myself and my friend.  And that pace was preeeetty slow.  All I wanted to do was get through 3 miles and then we could walk and run the rest of the way.  I figured if I went slowly, 3 miles was totally doable.  But the one downside of being slow is that you have to handle people passing you, sprinting ahead, showing off.  I tried hard to ignore them and stay focused.

Then something great happened.

Mile 1 came.  I felt fine.  Mile 2 came.  I felt totally fine.  Mile 3 came.  People were stopping to walk.  Why wasn’t I super tired?  I stopped for 15 seconds to get a drink and thats all I needed.

During mile 3, as I was starting to hurt (this was the longest distance I had ever run in my entire 28 years), I noticed a woman running in front of me wearing a t-shirt with a photo on the back.  As I got closer, I could see that the photo was an image of a little boy playing on a beach.  On top of the photo were words in tribute to this little boy who had passed away.

It was heartbreaking.  For all I knew, this was the little boy’s mother in front of me.

At that moment, I knew I would run the full 5 miles without stopping.  No pain in my legs, or shortness of breath, could even compare to the pain this little boy’s family must have experienced.  No excuses.

Mile 4 came, with some uphill battles, but I was fine.  Tired, but totally fine.

“Ray – it’s the last mile!” said my friend.  “You can do this!”

The last mile was great, knowing that I accomplished more than my goal and that I pushed myself to do something which was both challenging and scary for me.

As we passed the finish line, I didn’t want to pass out.  I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse.  I did feel a bit spacey and weak but simultaneously energized and great.  Definitely a high of some sort (they aren’t kidding when “they” – those who run and the doctors who write about it – talk about a runners high).

I don’t know whether it was the support from my friend who was running beside me, the motivation to run for Emily and her brother, the slow (but steady) pace I kept, the energy of the crowd, or the emotion surrounding everyone who was there honoring friends and family who had been affected by this horrible disease, but I ran those full 5 miles.

It was my longest run.

 

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1 COMMENT

  • Awesome Job Rach!! It is such a great feeling to accomplish our goals and some, especially for such an awesome cause!