Having said that, I’m sure there are those of you that train for marathons, tri-athlons and all other kinds of endurance races that I would never attempt, and you routinely run 12, 13, 14…20 miles without much in the way of medical supervision. But for those “weekend warriors” out there, who have no education, training or skill in the strenuousness of endurance sports, you should definitely heed my advice. I wish I had.
So I was running a half-marathon on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. It was something that I had decided to do this past June. I was really looking to preoccupy some of my downtime as I ran a business from home and looked for a job (most of which involved sitting at a desk or riding the subway), and I thought to myself, “hey, why not run a marathon?” Then I ran about 4 miles in Week 3, and I said to myself, “that’s why you shouldn’t run a marathon…but we will give this half-marathon thingy a try.”
As it turns out, running is a helluva a way to lose weight. I was running all over the place 3-4 times a week. I actually decided to stop lifting weights for a period of time, because lifting was seriously getting in the way of my ability to run farther and faster. Speaking of speed though, I didn’t have much of it. I was about as slow as molasses to begin with. While living in Harlem for the last 4 years, I have ran around in Central Park more than my fair share of times, and I have always ran to the same point in the Park: 1.25 miles from my door, before turning back to complete the 2.5 mile roundtrip. That usually took me 30 minutes or less–usually not much less–putting me pretty damn close to the 12 minutes/mile pace. Not impressive at all.
However, by Week 5, I was routinely finishing in 25 minutes or less, and I was now running distances of 4 to 5 miles. My triumphant day came in Week 6, when I was supposed to run 6 miles, a distance my 29-year old body had never before ran in its life. During that 6-mile run, as I slowly trucked by the 3-mile point, where I should have turned around to head home, something in me told me to keep going. So I did. I wound up jogging all the way around Central Park (6.5 miles with my trip home in total), which was something that, despite having decided to run a half-marathon, I never thought I would do.
Fast-forward to that Sunday over Labor Day Weekend. I was confident. I was cocky. And I had reason to be. Just two weeks before I had ran 10 miles without a hiccup. My 10-mile route included going around Central Park, and starting my 4 mile path once I circled back. Now I thought I was ready to tackle the 13.1-mile race, and it could not have started off worse.
I woke up way too late. Which means it was way too hot. It wasn’t crazy hot, but starting the run at 11am was way different from starting the run at 9am. But I did it…and I felt horrible as I did. It was at about the 3 mile-mark where I realized that I was not feeling up for this. I had just finished doing something I always do: try to keep up with somebody who is clearly a faster long-distance runner than me, but I don’t believe it, because our body types suggest that I should be a better runner than the other person.
This time it was a little pudgy, late-20s female that could not have been taller than 5’3″. As she came cruising past me, I turned up the jets and stayed with her stride for stride–but two or three steps back, because I don’t want to appear creepy, ya know? After a half-mile of that though, I was exhausted. I slowed down to the pace of a snail, and I watched her take off, perhaps even faster than she was running before.
At this point, I don’t know if it was from over-exerting myself and running faster than my typical pace, or if the first week of work and a lack of my usual summer exercise had done me in–but by mile 4, I was done-so. At some point, there was a 50-some year old, overweight man running at my side, and it took every bone in my body to keep up with him and not stop running. As I approached 90th Street on the East Side of the park, I knew this was not my day. I hadn’t even finished the first lap, and I was already thinking about quitting.
But I proceeded. If there was one thing I wanted to get out of this whole half-marathon experience it was the ability to run from my apartment door, around Central Park, and back with regularity. So I powered through the first lap around Central Park, sluggishly and panting, and by the time I did my first lap (the 6.5 mile mark in my half-marathon), I was already contemplating when I was going to start walking. I ran up the steepest hill in Central Park, and began walking for 10 minutes. I was ashamed really. I didn’t need to walk, nor did I even feel compelled to walk when I had ran the 10 miles two weeks before. But the free food at Google all week long, coupled with it being the first week of work (and no regular exercise), must have done me in.
At the end of my 10 minutes, I started up again, and never before, not even on a roller coaster ride, has inertia kicked my ass like it did when I tried to start running again. My shoes were soggy. My pants were dripping. And I was, in hindsight, completely dehydrated. The quads on my 245-pound frame wanted no part in running again, but I did it anyway. Because even if I had to take a 10-minute walking break, I was going to complete this half-marathon with some semblance of a respectable time.
That didn’t happen. I wound up walking on another 3 occasions, for a combined total of 20 minutes–or 30 minutes when you combine my first walk. It took me 2:39:40 to finish the half-marathon. While certainly the walking did not help my overall old-man jogging pace, it was the starting up again that killed me.
The first 2 minutes of trying to run again after you have taken a walking break, are 2 of the toughest mental minutes I have ever gone through. Here I am, so tired from running 10+ miles that I decided I needed to walk in order to prevent throwing up. And instead of resting my body and walking the rest of the run out, I somehow feel the need to run…some more…when I’m even further weighed down by the sweat that settles into your clothes (and apparently your shoes) when you stop running!
So yeah, it was really tough trying to finish, but once I got out of the park and had just .5 miles left to get to my door, I felt good about myself. I felt even better when I finally finished the 13.1 miles at my apartment building’s front entrance. I took a seat on the sidewalk–because what else do you do after you have run 13.1 miles–for about about 5 minutes, before forcing myself to go up the 5 flights of stairs required to get to my apartment. Yes, to top off my 13.1 miles, I walked–or better yet–I crawled up 5 flights of stairs.
As soon as I got into my apartment, I immediately hit the floor. My girlfriend brought me some water, and I just laid there, tired, sweaty, and apparently, approaching death. After about 10 minutes of non-movement, I tried to take a shower, knowing that my gift to myself for having run 13.1 miles was going to be taking part in my all-time favorite Labor day activity: The Olive Garden Never Ending Pasta Bowl!
But as I proceeded to grab the soap and lather up, I felt the spoils of victory coming up and through my throat. I didn’t throw up, but I got the hell out of the shower, 10% of my body covered in soap, the other 90% still covered in sweat, and I proceeded right back to my spot on the floor. I wanted to sleep, but my body was so damaged that it couldn’t pull it off. So I just laid there. Thighs burning. Head hurting. Stomach growling. Body cold. And about 3 hours later, after I got out of shock, I finally took that shower. I was good to go from that point on. But at some point that Sunday, probably on my hard, un-carpeted floor, I learned a lesson that I learned so long ago…way back in Week 3: there’s absolutely no chance that your boy is ever running a marathon!