Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Do you have the bug?

I've been running for about nine years. I'm not a pro - not even close. I've completed several 5K's, 10k's and half marathons. 2005 brings on a new challenge for me. A challenge I've been debating for a few years now - going the distance. No, not the Ironman -- but the big 26.2.

I thought by 2005 I would have accomplished this great feat by now. There was always an excuse. I live on Long Island, so the big marathon close to home is the great NYC marathon. Every year I watched thousands of people on TV bite off one grueling mile after the next. I'd think: I can't run that on my own. I can't train on my own. Maybe when I find a running partner that runs the exact same pace as me. Someone who loves to run, takes it seriously, but isn't too psycho about running.

Oh, the excuses. My biggest fear has always been doing it alone. But just this past year, it hit me... DUH! You most certainly will not be alone in the NYC marathon! And that was that. I was going to do it. Or, at least enter the lottery. And if I don't make the lottery? Well, there are plenty of other marathons I can register for and get this bug out of my system once and for all.

Running partners have been scarce for me. My very first running pal was my father. He is the one who taught me the love of running. He's been running the same route around Hicksville, where I grew up, since before I was born and still is to this day. He ran the NYC marathon when it was merely laps around Central Park. He chuckles at the thought of having to enter a lottery before you're even considered entered into the marathon. You could register the morning of the race back in his day, or so he jokes.

I would join my father on hot summer days, following behind on his five mile route. I wouldn't be running though. No, I was only about six years old and had a brand new Huffy pink bicycle to break in. So I'd ride behind him, dodging his spit in the wind every so often. I didn't realize it then, but running changed his life. From a spare-tire, twinkie-loving, out-of-shape man to a determined, motivated, physically fit athlete. In those days, it was just a fun way for me to spend time with my father. Plus, I was allowed to ride my bike in the street. Looking back, those rides changed my life too.

I was pretty athletic most of my life - always in gymnastics, on a summer softball league or the church basketball team. Once I hit high school, all physical activity came to a screeching halt. I was a typical teenager trying to figure out where I stand in the world. And then college happened... being away from home, having way too much fun and eating terribly.

One of my college apartment-mates worked at the campus gym. She and two of my roomies were heading for the door to go for a run in the crisp, upstate New York autumn air. I sat there on the couch, overweight, bloated, lazy and .... well... determined to change.

One day my mother-in-law asked me, "What do you think about when you're running?" I couldn't answer right away. Do I think when I run? Or am I just enjoying the scenery while keeping mindful of moving cars and nearby dogs. Then I answered, "How happy I am that I can run."

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