Monday, April 19, 2010

With a Little Help From My Friends

I remain unconvinced - now having transformed myself from virgin to veteran - that anyone should actually run 13.1 miles voluntarily. Do not misunderstand me. If fleeing from hostile natives in a Third World nation or some such thing then running as fast as possible for as long as possible is an exceptionally fine idea. But waking up in the morning and deciding to run 13.1 miles just for the hell of it seems as silly an idea to me on this day as it seemed to be yesterday.

Yet I am happy that I spent slightly less than two and a half hours yesterday morning on the campus of Rutgers University as a participant in the first-ever Unite for Charity half-marathon. It was a terrific day on which to run - a bit chilly when we started but comfortable throughout. And the route that the race organizers mapped out was excellent - full of nice changes of elevation without being brutal.

Running is a solitary pursuit - and given my propensity for not playing well with others - it is perhaps unsurprising that having developed a taste for it, I now am almost consumed by the desire to do it. Yet even though it is a solitary pursuit, yesterday was for me proof positive of the old adage about the relationship between strength and numbers.

Gidg - my running cohort - and I had presumed from the time we signed up for this epic misadventure four months ago or so (and did not 13.1 miles seem to be a much shorter distance when I completed the application than it did when I completed the race) that we would run together. However when I went on the Disabled List two weeks ago and was moved (temporarily as it turned out) from the "running" to "unable to run" list, she was faced with the prospect of running a distance she had never run before by herself. That can be a daunting thing to do. And I would be lying if I said that the thought of leaving her hanging - flying solo for 2 plus hours - was not weighing on my head more than a little from the moment I received the recommendation in the ER on Easter Sunday against running at all for at least two weeks.

Yesterday - as I knew she would - Gidg ran a great race. And as I suspected she would, she spent more time fretting over the ever gimping-strides of her running buddy than she did anything else. I held her back yesterday. She could have easily run a time 10 to 12 minutes faster than she did (she finished 12 seconds or so ahead of me), had she not decided to ensure that having started together, we finished together. At race's end, proof that our training for this event had been appropriate, both of us felt tired but neither of us gasped for air or gave off the appearance of being a big messy dish of warmed-over death. Running 13.1 miles with a friend proved to be a damn sight more fun than running it alone.

And numerical strength is found not only in those running the course with you but in those waiting for you at the end of the journey as well. The Family Kizis was well-represented as always. Margaret was there also, undoubtedly wanting to scream out "Jackass!" when someone who looks quite a bit like me rounded the final turn and raced to the finish, yelling out encouragement to us and being there for the all-important post-race hug.

Half-marathon completed. For my next trick, perhaps I shall try my hand at not singing out of key. I have a good support system. I like my chances.

-AK