Sunday, November 15, 2009

20 Days 'Til The Race: Why I'm Running

In a little less than three weeks, I'll be doing something I never dreamed possible: running a half-marathon. Unless you've been under a rock or just not paying attention to my constant Facebook updates or Tweets, you know that I'll be running the Rock N' Roll Half-Marathon in Las Vegas on December 6, as part of a team challenge to benefit Crohn's Disease and Colitis.

Even with the race under three weeks away, it seems nearly impossible to believe that I'm going to do this. If you had told me in June that within six months I would have run two 5K races and would be training to run a half-marathon, I would have asked you to share whatever hallucinogen you were taking.

A little more than 18 months ago, I was the heaviest I've ever been. Simply going up and down the stairs in our house winded me. I never really wanted to do anything more strenuous, because I was scared I'd have a heart attack. Shoveling snow, carrying boxes at the office, even dragging my luggage upstairs after a trip put a strain on me physically.

Luckily we decided to start working out. I say luckily for two reasons: first because I remembered how much I liked to exercise and was able to take advantage of the benefits of doing so, and second, because during a routine assessment, they discovered my blood pressure was obscenely high. Like numbers that should never be seen in a blood pressure reading. So starting to work out saved my life in more ways than one.

But why run a half-marathon? I get asked that question a lot by those who know me.

I've never been athletic. Those of you who knew me growing up can attest to that. If there was a way to avoid athletic activities or gym class, I figured it out. My father used to joke that when he coached my soccer team, he was the only coach who never played his kid. I was more content to sit on the sidelines and talk to everyone else. I wrote tons of extra credit papers for gym class in high school to make up for all the times I showed up without the proper clothes. Even as a kid at camp, I spent nearly every day avoiding athletic activities.

But it wasn't so much the exercise I was avoiding as it was the ridicule. I was—and still am—uncoordinated. Big time. Ball coming at me? I'd certainly not be able to catch it. I'd either drop it or, more often than not, it would hit me square in the face. Growing up, I scored plenty of baskets and goals for the opposing team, struck out with the bases loaded or caused more than a few double plays. Try that a few times and you guarantee you'll always get picked last when they divide up into teams.

Don't be fooled; I don't feel sorry for myself about my lack of athleticism. But I will admit that it is one of the biggest motivators pushing me to run this race. (That and turning 40 six days after the race, but who's counting?) I know that when I cross the finish line in Vegas, I will have achieved something I never dreamed possible, a long time after I believed I was capable of something like this. And while the weight of the past may slow me down a little, it's what I need to carry with me through the race, almost as necessary as water or nutritionals.

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