On Sunday, February 7th I'll be doing my first half-marathon in three years. In fact, Surf City, the one that I'm doing, holds a very interesting place in my running history. It's the course where I PR'ed (that means set my personal record, for you non-runners that are reading this) and also the one where I decided that I was burnt out and done at, a year later. It was my eleventh half and I thought it would be my last. Apparently, I was wrong.
I go into my last month of "training" with excitement and trepidation. Part of me is looking forward to spending the night in a hotel room close to the start line by myself, and then being able to get a few hours down by the beach to exercise. If it stops being a running-and-music sort of affair, it'll be a walking-and-audiobook sort of deal. The race expos are always fun to walk around and the energy in the corrals right before the starting gun is palpable (especially when there are tens of thousands of people hopping around, trying to stay warm, checking their Garmins, adjusting their spandex, and testing out their playlists). Runners are a nice bunch and the volunteers are usually a great group. It's a club, there's a culture. Plus, you get a shirt, a medal and a bag of bagels and bananas. If that's not reason enough, I don't know what is.
But my feelings really are very mixed. My foot is in bad, bad shape. I don't think it will bother me too much during the race with my orthotics (especially if I can sweet talk my podiatrist into giving me some anti-inflammatories to take before), but after is going to be a different story. Right now even doing four or five miles leaves me hobbling around a few hours later, so 13.1 on asphalt is undoubtedly going to be excruciating (I have an extra bone in my ankle that causes swelling and pain, partially due to the over-pronating my collapsed arches cause). I've also trained poorly, but I knew that would be the case when I decided to do this. I walk in my very hilly neighborhood every day and have been running on the treadmill a few times a week. My running mileage is really low, though, compared to what it should be (I should be running at least 20 miles a week right now). I have been incorporating a lot of speed work and fartleks into what I have been doing, so I'm hoping that will help on some level. I'm trying to go into it with no expectations, but it is discouraging knowing that there's no way my numbers will even compare to what I've done in the past.
I'm also slowly remembering what all goes into running a long race, logistically. I've never, ever run a race without a Garmin, and mine is shot to hell (these are fancy watches that track you via GPS and give you tons of stats). I'm obsessed with numbers and during a race I'm constantly calculating my mile time and projected finish (and whether or not a PR is likely). I don't want to spend a ton of money on a new one, since I'm not sure if this will ever happen again, so I bought a cheap Timex Ironman one that will let me calculate my lap times. I know it's lame, but not having a Garmin is really bothering me. Scratch that- not lame, downright ridiculous.
I had to purchase a new armband for my phone and have to decide what I'm going to do about fuel and water. I used to run with a fanny-pack sort of thingy that held two water bottles and had a pouch for Shotblocks and my key. For some reason that sounds horrible now (the hip jostling!), but so does going long distances without anything to drink.
Then there's the weather and the whole "tossing the layers" thing (runners often will wear cheap gloves and jackets they want to get rid of and toss them as they warm up; race volunteers pick up everything and donate them to homeless shelters or other charities that take clothing donations). I always go in willing to freeze for the first little bit, but I'm not sure if I am anymore.
And here's what makes all this worrying about details that would seem trivial to non-runners: I'm not really even any good, even when I'm truly training and following a plan. At best? Average. But the fact that in elementary and middle school I was utterly embarrassed about my inevitable back-of-the-pack status on mile days, makes me proud that I can finish 13.1 miles at a time now. The fact that I have to work so hard at even being okay is actually appealing to me, and having something to at least half-assedly train for is motivating. Running keeps me in check physically and mentally. And, if I am being honest, I do it to burn calories. I have to do something to burn off the Golden Grahams.
So, running. I kinda hate it. And I kinda love it.