Last year, as I approached my 39th birthday I already started thinking ahead. I had one year left of my youth, I thought to myself - time to make some plans. The result of my fear of aging was to create a list, 39 things I hoped to accomplish before I turned 40.
The list itself was a potpourri of things - I wanted to make it through the winter without cutting my hair out of boredom (it sounds silly, but every year come February - chop chop!), buy something frivolous, try a new restaurant each month. I didn't do everything on my list, or even most of them, but one of those items I started tackling right away. I said I would complete the Couch to 5K training program for running, and ultimately, I wanted to run a 5k race.
I'd done the training program years ago, and I had even gotten pretty fast but it'd been years since I had run and when I got started, I could barely get through the required two minutes of running before breaking into a relieved sigh when it was time to walk again. A year ago at this time, running a mile without stopping seemed a pretty hefty goal.
Well, I did it.
And I kept going. This summer I did a 10K race in Chicago and when I was done, I felt so amazing, like I truly DID SOMETHING BIG that I decided I wouldn't stop there. I kept running, kept training.
Last weekend, I completed a 15k race. For those (like me) that aren't sure of the miles to kilometer conversion, 15K is about 9.3 miles. Let that soak in a bit - because I know that I have trouble believing it myself. I ran 9.3 miles. Without stopping. I did it.
But it was really hard.
Whereas my 10K featured a lovely lakefront path that was smooth sailing, the 15K route took runners under the streets of Chicago through dimly lit tunnels. It was terrifying, running in the dark, and added a layer of emotional tension to the sheer emotion of running further than I ever had.
For most of those 9.3 miles, I was very aware of Usher Syndrome and I hated it.
It was a huge race, tens of thousands of runners. Our corral started and it is immediate jockeying to find your place and your pace, getting around people who move slowly and finding that spot where you can comfortably run.
I knew it would be a struggle for me, so I decided to just follow some all around good life advice: stay in your lane. Though there were no "lanes" so to speak, I figured I would be best off to not try to move around too much and instead just put one foot in front of the other and keep on moving forward.
Unfortunately this didn't work.
I feel like this could easily be a post griping about other runners, but I don't want to do that but I guess I'll take a moment to chat running etiquette which I'm largely making up because, y'know, I've only done two races.
If you're gonna walk, move over to the side. Okay, I know I"m not making this rule up because the announcer must have said this 495 times as we waited for the race start time. But it doesn't matter how many times he said it because a large percentage of participants ignored him, choosing instead to just stop and walk wherever, whether they were on the side or in the middle of the course, making it necessary to leapfrog around them.
Why you gotta wear all black? Etiquette? Maybe not. But it's harder to see a runner wearing all black when you're running through a dark tunnel underground. I'm just sayin'.
During those first two miles, I'm sure that I bumped into (and annoyed) a great many runners because it was hard to see them in the darkness. (The dude wearing the Pikachu costume, however? I never ran into him. Kudos on the costume, man. You were very visible.)
It was tough and emotionally exhausting but I made it through because I can do tough things - which is what accomplishing this goal taught me. I even want to strive bigger. I have my eyes on a half marathon this spring.
My next hurdle, though? How the heck am I going to train this winter? It's too dark in the morning. It's too dark when I get home from work. I'm too clumsy for a treadmill. Running exclusively on the weekend is my best option, but is that going to get me to where I need to be?
I will do this... and yet I am so frustrated at how difficult it is to just DO this thing. The time just changed today and already I'm ready for the moment where the days start getting longer again.
It wouldn't mean as much to me if it were easy to accomplish, but I have gotta admit, I wish it weren't so hard.