Maybe I’m Crazy…

“But why do you want to do this?” my mom asked in that tone, the worried whine of motherhood.

“For a lot of reasons,” I answered. “Because I want to, and because I don’t think I can, and… well, probably because Dad and that race when I was in the third grade.”

She sighed. She remembered.

I don’t know if I wrote about this before. Probably. Yep. I totally did. It’s worth reading, because it explains things a little.

“Just be careful out there,” Mom said. “Don’t hurt yourself.”

“Mom, it’s 26.2 miles. It’s going to hurt.”

More sighing. “Good luck.”

Four years ago I couldn’t finish a mile. The reservoir near our house was a pretty, peaceful 2.5 mile track, and since I lived right next to it I told myself this was the opportunity to lose some weight and get healthier. That first summer the goal was to finish a mile without having to stop, without wanting to die. I eventually got there. And then I could go all the way around the track. Then I could go around twice.

I don’t remember when I told myself I had to run a marathon. Maybe someone made it sound impossible. That tends to be what makes me want to do something. When I can’t.

Dan and I were in the middle of a long run back in January when I first suggested it. We were talking about how sick and stressed we’d both been and this was the year of taking back our health and we were doing such a great job at it. We talked about how the people who complete marathons are often the ones who have fought back from something, who need to prove to themselves that they are in control of their bodies and can push them to do the seemingly insurmountable.

I told Dan, “I only want to do it once, so I want to go where it’s beautiful. I want to run in paradise.”

“That sounds perfect,” he said.

“So I’m thinking Maui. It’s in September. It’ll be beautiful, and you run along the ocean and maybe it’ll rain a little and we’ll be filled with the Aloha spirit that’ll make us want to do the whole thing. Would you run the Maui Marathon with me?”

“Hell, yeah. We’re doing it. And then? Mai tais.”

So it was on.

But then we started working, and I was back at Mencia and he was going to go back to Top Model, and as the training stopped for our jobs, we wondered if the marathon was going to turn into a joke. “Remember when we were going to run a marathon? Hilarious! Pass me the Doritos.”

But then I didn’t get staffed for the fall, and Mencia was ending in June, so I had the four months I needed to train for the September marathon in Maui. I asked Dan for his blessing, and he gave it to me.

I registered.

“How much was it?” stee asked. I told him. “Oh, good. Not much,” he said. “So if you decide not to do it, you won’t lose that much money.”

That wasn’t an option. I didn’t tell many people I was going to run a marathon because deep inside I was worried I wasn’t going to do a marathon. That I’d find a reason not to. That I’d get a job that kept me from it. That I’d get there and decide to drink a pina colada instead. That I’d get to mile ten in training and get the flu again. Exciting excuses and fantasies of fantastic accidents filled my head.

But I booked the flight. The hotel. The rental car. No excuses. I trained. I ran. A lot. One day I ran from my house, through Eagle Rock, through Glendale, through Atwater Village, over to Silverlake, and around that reservoir where four years earlier I couldn’t even stroll without losing my breath. I circled that thing and then ran back home again. And that? Is half a marathon.

When you tell someone you’re going to run a marathon, they either tell you about the time they ran a marathon, or they tell you horror stories of someone they know who ran a marathon. I’ve heard about so many toenails falling off, sudden heart attacks, public bowel blow-outs, and severe dehydration. I found out my friend Cliff is a serious marathon enthusiast, running at least two a year, who told me that while I was going to be able to finish the race, I might want to up my training just a bit.

It wasn’t easy to find three hours to go run while still trying to get my work done, and there was a heat wave, and I was traveling, and I know these sound like excuses because they are, but also: three hours to go run? On a Wednesday morning? Really? When I could just drink coffee and check email and then go have lunch with a friend?

I ran that 5K for Laura last week before the marathon, and it was over before I even knew it started. I wanted to see what it was like to run with other people, to wear a number and complete a race. I’m glad I did it, because I learned running a 5K is fun. I need to remember that now. 5K is fun.

As the race day quickly approached, I asked for some advice from friends who either ran marathons or believed that I could run one. I got a lot of “You’ll finish. You can do it.” One friend praised the importance of Big Red gum. Another said, “It’s already done.” That one I liked. “It’s already done.” I’m just taking the steps to meet my future.

Time cannot be stopped, no matter how much it feels like it can be manipulated, so eventually stee and I were leaving for Maui. Dan and I had a tearful goodbye that morning. I wanted to be here with him. I was now running for two.

We got here on Friday night. The race was Sunday morning. The bus to the start line left the hotel at 3:30 am, so I knew I had to get to sleep early. Luckily it took all day and night to get to Maui, so the first night I was asleep pretty early and up at dawn to stand on the beach and breathe in paradise. I spent Saturday trying to keep calm, to stay loose and centered and not freak out about the fact that in a few hours I’d be doing something I wasn’t quite sure I could do. Something that, quite frankly, scared the crap out of me.

This is where I relinquished the last shred of dignity and realized I was going to need some kind of fanny pack in order to carry everything that was going to get me through the marathon. My pace for long distance is very slow. Cliff warned me that whatever I was doing to train is what I should do for the race, and not to get excited with the competition. I’d burn out, just as I did as a kid. Even during the 5K I started thinking about running the marathon all the way through, quickening my pace, getting frustrated that I hadn’t trained harder or longer. I started getting competitive. I went back and read my training book. (Because I’m a dork and trained through a book — recommended by my friend Laura who ran a marathon, and purchased by a reader as a gift, so thanks, internet!). I’m so glad I did, because the book reminded me: You aren’t running the marathon to place or set a time goal. Your only goal is to finish. All you have to do is finish, and you won. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment, when you’re doing something that’s already extremely difficult. Just finish.

I bought a gear pack, some energy goo, a little bottle of friction salve, and wondered if I should pack my cell phone to call Dan when things got bleak. He told me I didn’t need another distraction, and that I’ve already got the fanny pack on — texting or blogging while running is too geeky, even for me. I didn’t pack the cell phone, but contrary to the rules of the race, I did pack my iPod.

I had my Enell bra, shorts with pockets, a hoodie for when it was cold in the middle of the night on the way to the race (or cold while running alongside the water during sunrise), shirt, socks, shoes, sunglasses, and a Mind of Mencia hat… because I figured running a marathon is a little dee-dee-dee.

I went to sleep at nine, fell asleep around ten, and woke up every hour, convinced I’d missed the bus to the start.

Tomorrow’s post: the marathon.

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