A non-runner’s race to the Holy Half
Marisa Iati | Monday, February 3, 2014
Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a series of columns chronicling the journey to the Holy Half Marathon on March 29.
“Good luck on your run!” my coworker calls out cheerily as I’m about to leave the office.
I glare at him. “Are you mocking me?”
He is, understandably, surprised. “I’m trying to be encouraging…”
At this point in the three-month training process, I might be a little oversensitive to allusions to the Holy Half. My preparation for the 13.1-mile run hasn’t gone quite as planned so far, and it’s frustrating to feel as if I haven’t been improving as quickly as I should be.
I actually wasn’t planning to write this column for a while. When I told my friend I’d write the next installment of this series “when I have something to say that isn’t bitter,” she reminded me that not everything I write or say has to be happy-go-lucky.
She’s right. Reality is messy. It doesn’t always go how we plan, and even the most optimistic among us sometimes become disappointed and discouraged.
So, let me put this out there: Right now, I am, in fact, disappointed and discouraged.
Of all the obstacles I knew I would face, I did not expect the whole “Polar Vortex” thing. I wasn’t anticipating wind chills that made stepping outside, much less running outside, the absolute last thing I felt any desire to do. I didn’t consider how much mental energy it would take to psyche myself up to trek to Rolfs and run around in circles on the track for what felt like an eternity.
But, maybe even more importantly, I had very little concept of what it would be like constantly to compare myself to others. I didn’t think about how it would feel to listen to my friends casually mention the nine-mile run they completed that morning or to watch fellow non-serious runners charge through six miles during the second week of training. I wasn’t aware that those things would be difficult, but they are.
Every single step of every single run is an immense challenge for me. Each time I put one foot in front of the other, I am fighting for it. I have been blessed enough that many things come easily to me; running is not one of them.
That’s the whole reason I’m doing this, though, isn’t it? To prove to myself that I’m capable of pushing through any obstacle, any challenge, any roadblock? I guess so. But some days, it’s hard to maintain that perspective.
Only a week and a half into my official 10-week training period, I had already asked aloud, “Is it too early to say that I’m not going to be able to do this?”
The answer, delivered unhesitatingly and unequivocally to me by my roommate, who is the greatest of all tough-love cheerleaders: “Yes, it is.”
Well, I guess I’m not quitting just yet.
There is a part of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” in which Atticus tells his son that courage is “when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
As far as this Holy Half business is concerned, I’m pretty sure I was licked before I began. But I am continuing to convince myself, over and over again, that this unfortunate circumstance is no reason to throw in the towel. In all honesty, some days I only keep going so I won’t have to write a column for this newspaper admitting that I’ve given up.
Whatever it takes, though, right?
There are still more than seven weeks until the Holy Half. That’s seven more weeks of struggling, of sore legs and of trying to remember why I ever thought this was a good idea. But it’s also seven more weeks to develop the ability to run a half marathon, and I guess that’s pretty great.
The mantra of the Holy Half is “Earn your wings.” If I make it through the whole race in March, I definitely will have done so.
Contact Marisa Iati at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.