Recently, a co-worker of mine has been trying to get into better shape and lose a few pounds. I try not to talk too much about my personal life at work, but he knows I run from time to time, so he has begun coming in and reporting his progress to me.
“Hey man, I ran for 20 minutes last night!”
“That’s awesome, way to go! Know how far you went?”
“Uh…however far around my block is.”
Then the next week, “Hey man, I ran for 25 minutes last night!”
“Way to go! Keep it up! How far’d you go this time?”
“Uh…I think half a mile?”
This pattern has continued for the past two months. He finally came in this morning and said, “Hey, you’ll never BELIEVE what I did this weekend!!!”.
“What’s that?”, I asked, knowing the answer.
“I totally went for a run. A LONG one. I mean, I ran FOREVER.” he said.
“Oh really? Sounds great! How far did you make it this time?”
“I went to that trail over by my house. I think I did a full mile!!!”
“Whoa, way to go! That’s awesome! How hard was that?”
“Oh jeez, you don’t EVEN want to know! It was muddy, there were sticks and rocks everywhere, but I kept running! Totally did A MILE, man! I think I wanna run a 5K! You know, just to cross that off my bucket list, get it out of the way, that sort of thing. Hey, do you think you’d want to run it with me?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had just run my 23rd half-marathon in a year just yesterday, or that I could run a 5K in half the time he can, almost without breaking a sweat. I mean, a 5K is a decent warmup these days. I’m busy planning out how many full marathons I can get in this year, then looking at running ultra’s next year. Why the hell would I waste a valuable weekend morning running just a 5K with some putz who’s practically walking the whole thing?!?!
Then it smacked me across the face like an angry housewife with a cast iron frying pan: I was him.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was doing exactly what he was doing. Hating every single step. Thinking a mile was the longest distance possible for a human being to make it without imploding. A full 5K? Oh sure, maybe after I train for two years. I mean, that’s like THREE miles!! What are you, insane?!?!
Then I put my head down and started running. Got better shoes and ditched the cotton shirts. Things started hurting less. Soon I could make it two miles. Then three. I ran a fun 5K and ended up coming in 3rd overall.
I wanted more.
The miles started feeling like they were melting away. I discovered a perfect 6 mile loop around my house, on a nice paved trail. Even had a big ass hill! Oh man, hills! Can I run those too?! Without walking?!?
Turns out, not only can one run up a hill, one can enjoy it too! Who knew?
I set my sights on a half-marathon, thinking it was an impossibly long distance. Surely my legs would break and fall off, my feet would revolt and succeed from my body, and my heart would fling itself out of my chest in protest.
I kept running, pushing my mileage slowly higher and higher. It became a running joke in our house that every time I came home, Cara would ask me how far I ran. “Farther than I’ve ever run in my life!”, I’d proudly exclaim, because it was true!
Soon I hit double digits. Ten miles. Oh man did I feel like a million bucks! Well over halfway there, maybe this whole half-marathon thing isn’t so far fetched!
I finally made it to 13.1 and ran my first half-marathon accompanied by my running partner and excellent friend Blaine. In our massive amount of inexperience, Blaine forgot to pee before the race. He told me to keep running, then ducked out at 3 miles to heed nature’s call.
I was terrified, I’d never run that far alone before. Could I do it?! Would my worst dreams come true?
Turns out, yes, I could. The previous two years of running had prepared me well. I could breathe, my legs were just fine, my feet hurt the usual amount. I can do this.
Poor Blaine sprinted the next 7 miles to catch up with me around mile 10. We crossed the finish line together in a rousing time of 2:25.
I couldn’t have possibly done it without a world of support from my friends, family, and, most importantly, a host of runners I soon was able to call my friends. Dozens of them stopped and gave me advice along the way. Fixing my stride. Encouraging me to keep pushing. Talking to me like 13.1 miles was a Big Deal, but don’t worry, you’ll make it with no problem. Those people are what got me through the long hours of training and times of pain.
Fast forward to present time. Blaine and I decided for our 30th birthdays we would run 30 half-marathons in a year. We’ve been working our way through, getting 22 half’s in before taking two months off for the holidays and winter.
Yesterday, after being fat lazy bums for 60 days, we set out to run #23. I strapped on my shoes, grabbed my water pack and gloves, and we set out.
I had zero doubt we’d finish. I had zero doubt we could do it. We had a year of experience and history to draw from. We had learned our lessons, we knew what to do.
After not running for two months and indulging in holidays treats, Blaine and I finished at 2:25, matching our exact time from our very first half-marathon together.
All of this went through my head as I stood talking to my neophyte co-worker.
“Hey, do you want to run a 5K with me? I’m not sure I can do it.” he asked, wearing his delicate running heart on his sleeve.
“It’d be an honor. I would love to run a 5K with you.”
Follow Nick and Blaine’s running adventures at Thirty for 30