The time was 6:30 AM. The temperature was somewhere between 30 degrees and Absolute Zero. Though the conditions were less-than-optimal, the eager spirit of those wandering wayfarers pacing atop the mountainside alit the atmosphere with energy and anticipation.
My first half-marathon.
With a whole two weeks of training and a pocket full of running ambrosia (AKA Gu), I laced up my super high-tech $20 K-Mart running shoes and headed out the door, my soul filled with oblivious confidence and my mind ready to get it over with. What started as a last-minute promise to my dad would now become the 6th greatest endeavor of my life, not counting the time I had consumed an entire watermelon. I was vastly unprepared and overconfident as usual, and I was ready.
With the 30-minute busride to the top of the mountain came the realization as to just how impossibly LONG 13.1 miles is. To put it into perspective: I was able to eat a second breakfast, take a nap, and defeat an evil chinese warlord before the bus was able to reach the start line. Sheathing my sword, I stepped off the bus and into a crowd of people chaotically searching for bathrooms and emergency bananas. Then suddenly a shot went off, and the pandemonium coalesced into a single body of people.
It had begun.
The young and fit, the saggy and old, the reborn middle-agers; we all gathered at the start line, a sense of hushed anticipation buzzing through the crowd. 600+ people from all walks of life readying themselves for one single goal: 13.1 miles. The reasons and seasons for these people were all different…to get fit, to become sexy, to fight off depression, to find onesself, to lose onesself…but every single one of us was focused on that finish line. For the next few hours we would be teammates, family, life support, One. A sense of camaraderie I had yet to experience linked us together and pushed us to lengths we’d only dared dream of. Synergy. Determination. Success.
These were the grand emotions I experienced before I began my descent into Hell.
The first three miles were a breeze. They always are. Keeping a good 2 hour pace and only occasionally being passed up, I finally reached the Mile 4 marker which I now realize was the Gateway to Hades in disguise. My lungs began to burn (from the sulfur of demons barbecuing innocence) as did my legs (its difficult to run atop the souls of the damned). With every passing mile another one of my organs would shut down. Arms? Who needs them. Liver? More like DEADer (bad pun) (really bad pun) (I apologize). Still trying to run more than walk, I pathetically kept pace with an ultra-fit octogenarian who had probably accomplished more in one day than I had in my entire lifetime. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from running, its that anyone could be a runner. ANYONE. They walk among us, unseen and undetected, but always present. ALWAYS.
Anywho, if Mile 4 was the Gateway to Hell, than Mile 12 was the stairway out. And it was anything but pleasant. As I jogged/limped/walked toward the finish line, I could feel blood pooling in my shoes and every muscle in my entire body spontaneously combusting. The burning in my legs I had experienced earlier had decided to kindly transform into a simpler but more effective form of pain, known as pure pain. My legs were the very definition of pain. With volunteers cheering/bullying me to finish, I sauntered across the finish line like a pimp who had lost all use of his kneecaps.
2 hours, 12 minutes. A full 30 minutes faster than my anticipated finish time. Am I a total boss? Yes, yes I am. Am I an idiot? Indeed. Though I finished at a speed I had only dared dream of, my body experienced severe repercussions for the next week. My stiff legs caused me to walk like someone who didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. Soreness consumed my mind, body, and soul. The processes of my brain shut down entirely. I was one large bruise from head to toe. And I do not regret a second of it.
Though there are consequences to running that would leave the un-runned man in a state of pure agony, the benefits outweigh the setbacks. Firstly and foremost, running makes you sexy. Your muscles get all sculpted and fit and you become a total beast. You also get really high from all those natural drugs that hide in your body. You get to join a very supportive (albeit mostly insane) community of runners. There are medals. And super stylish sweatsuits. And a lot of milk for some reason. And most importantly, food tastes A BAJILLION times better after running. Like, over 9000.
And I would do anything for food.