I'm going to run a half marathon this year. No, really – I have the shoes to prove it. A pair of one-hundred-and-forty-dollar glorified slippers that will be absorbing the shock of the road and the inevitable shock my otherwise lazy body will feel as it wonders why we're suddenly moving with such haste.
Considering my tendency to bail on newfound exercise goals, I shelled out another $90 to run with the aid of a coach and the company of fellow novices like myself for the next nine weeks. Not only am I now personally and socially committed, I'm financially invested. There's most definitely no backing out now.
To prepare myself for Day One, I headed down to my local gym-o-plex for some literal trial runs on the germ-infested treadmill and handed over my membership (or as I like to call it, "charitable monthly donation") card to the girl behind the counter. I braced myself, hoping she wouldn't point out that I hadn't entered the joint since March of two-thousand-and-eons-ago, but the girl buried her face back in her cell phone, clearly un-fazed by my lack of participation in my overall health.
For the next couple weeks I sporadically pitter-pattered out a mile here, a mile there, sometimes running outside, sometimes taking a turn on Ol' Germy, and I surprisingly found that despite my previous aversion to physical activity, I actually could run a couple miles without collapsing onto the floor, grasping at my chest like an evangelical preacher.
I was psyched, no – pumped – for Day One. So pumped in fact, that I forgot my pants. Well, not all of them, per se, just the bottom half. As I stood in the bathroom at work pulling up my new cropped pants on the coldest day of the year, ever so quietly giving my naked calves a pep talk for the frigid beating they were about to endure, a fellow employee walked in and said, "You know, honey, it's not any warmer out tonight than when you came in this morning."
Really? Thanks. I took a look in the mirror and headed out the door.
Pants? Questionable. (Check.)
Gloves? The ones with the fingertips cut off. (So, "negative.")
One ill-prepared novice runner? Put me in, coach!
I met my designated running buddy, Molly, and the rest of the newbies, and with dusk upon us and sub-zero temperatures tormenting every inch of our bodies – exposed or otherwise – we were off.
It turns out that new runners are divided into two levels: Beginner and Intermediate. Beginners are then divided into Level 1 and Level 2. Basically Level 1-ers do a whole lot of walking, while the 2s can manage a steady jog for the full two miles. "Oh, we're a 2," I told Molly. "I'm totally not screwing around. Let's do this."
Typical. I could be doing needlepoint with your 90 year-old grandmother and manage to turn it into a competition.
"Definitely," Molly agreed, although probably a little terrified. (Did I mention I had just met her?)
We set off down the street and the cold tightened my jaw, making it difficult to ask all Molly all those important get-to-know-you questions. Molly is a fellow CB blogger, so that made for an easy, oh-so-appropriately named ice-breaker. Although I'm sure, "How was your first holiday as a married person?" is a bit hard to understand when spoken from a frozen tongue and wheezing lungs.
Half mile, three quarters, one and a little more. We looked behind us and saw that our original group of about 20 had dwindled to no more than 10, and we were keeping pace with our coach – who was properly dressed, unlike to the one who was wearing shorts, who also had an open wound on his leg and who we affectionately called The Bleeder. ("He doesn't need pants. He's badass. He's a bleeder.") "You guys are definitely Beginner 2's," said our Bundled Leader.
"WOOHOO!" Molly screamed. "Promoted already!"
Soon, the tightness in our lungs gave way and we settled into a nice pace. "I'm not cold anymore!" I said. "Me neither!" said Molly.
Then, as we rounded a final corner and headed down the home stretch to our starting point, I started to feel an unfortunately familiar wave of nausea. Not wanting to boot all over my new friend, I swallowed my pride and half the contents of my lunch and told her I needed to walk. "Sorry! Sorry! I'm so sorry!" I kept saying. But the person I was really apologizing to was myself. "I am NOT going back down to Beginner 1!" With our coach and a few others already back at the start, The Bleeder swung back around to check on our progress.
"Did you eat dinner before you came out tonight?" Me: "Nope." Bleeder: "You gotta eat! We had a girl last week who felt like she was going to throw up, and she ended up just passing out. Eat next time, OK?"
Lesson No. 1: Eat dinner.
Actually, no, wait...
Lesson No. 1: Don't wear cropped pants in winter (stupid).
Lesson No. 2: Don't talk crap on your first day.
Lesson No. 3: Eat dinner.
A couple minutes later we made it back to the start and headed into the warmth of the running shop for some water and to get notes about our next run. When all was said and done, Day One was a huge success. I was pretty darn proud of myself for not only (almost) running a couple of miles – in the cold nonetheless – but trying something new and completely uncharacteristic for me – and really liking it.
And it turns out our coaches are actually pretty cute. Now that's the kind of motivation I was looking for...