Then I somehow found myself signed up for a 5K. In California.
Jillian had swept me up in her excitement about the Star Wars race weekend at Disneyland, and at first, I was just going to be the moral support. But as I signed her up for her races (she was on a plane when registration opened and entrusted me with this solemn duty), it occurred to me that it was kind of silly to travel almost 3,000 miles to watch people running. So I signed up for the 5K. Small change compared to the 10K and the half marathon she was also doing, but hey, baby steps.
I had about seven months to get ready to run three miles. So I loaded Couch to 5K on my phone and proceeded to inch my way forward. And amazingly, I didn’t die. Granted, C25K starts you off alternating running and walking for sixty seconds at a time, but it’s funny how that builds your confidence. Again, baby steps. I’m not going to say I felt fantastic, but it was more my legs being out of shape than me being short of breath. The program slowly ramps up the running time and decreased the walking time, and eventually I progressed to a twenty-minute run. Which, while not being exactly pretty for the last twelve minutes or so, I did. Possibly followed by a fist pump which I’ll deny if anybody saw.
Then summer decided I was having too easy a time of it and turned the heat up to 11. It just became unbearable; I set out to do a set of two ten minute runs one August afternoon and couldn’t even finish the first one; it was like digging through wet laundry. So the C25K got cranked back to the earlier, easier pace, and then eventually put on hold until the weather got cooler.
Now we were in November, and I didn’t want my first ever 5K to be with Jillian in front of thousands of people at Disneyland. So I signed up for a smaller 5K here in Orlando at SeaWorld. By this point I’d settled in on a comfortable two-minute interval pace of walking and running, and had done a practice 5K a few days before the real thing at a pace that wasn’t going to set any world records, but which wasn’t exactly embarrassing either. The morning of the race dawned cold, which wouldn’t be a problem a minute or so into the race, but which led to a lot of questioning of life choices in the moments leading up to it. But then our corral was moving forward, the film scores were blaring on my headphones, and I was actually running in a race I’d paid money to be a part of.
And I did it. Averaged a little over 12 minutes per mile. It’s funny how much faster you go without realizing it in a crowd of people. You subconsciously pick people you just have to pass, and keep passing them. And at the end, I felt tired, but a good tired, the kind where, with maybe a few minutes of rest, I could have found a nice couch to sit on and watch some football for a while. I mean run a little bit more, yeah, that’s it.
So I became a runner. Not a speed demon, but I got out there and did it, while a lot of other people were home in bed. And then I did the Star Wars 5K the following month. And signed up for one in March. And, at the last minute, signed up for one on Saturday. This along with planning on a 10K at some point and doing the Wine and Dine half marathon with Jillian later this year. I won’t be running the whole time in any of those races, but I plan to run as much as I can. Which is a hell of a lot more than I could have a few years ago.
I’m not becoming fanatical about it. You’re not going to see me buying specialized phone holders and water bottles and hats and such, or preaching the gospel of pounding the pavement. But I will say it feels good to be able to do something that I thought I never would again. And that I had the determination to get off my ass and do it. Yes, sometimes my feet hurt, or it feels too cold on some mornings, or that last interval can just bite me. But it beats being too fat to do it at all.