Running and Resolutions

It's hard to express how much I used to hate exercise. My father is a former high-school cross-country coach, and much of my adolescent rebellion was tied up in being as sedentary as possible. (Passive-aggressive, with emphasis on the "passive"; Holden Caulfield had nothing on me.) In high school I got B's in gym -- given that I was aiming for a 4.0, I saw this as all the more reason to give it up once I finished freshman P.E. And in college I took the four phys-ed courses necessary to get the requirement out of the way, no more, never more.

But over time, my attitude changed. I fell in love with walking cities when I studied abroad in England, and got to know New York via long hikes in random directions. I joined the Scholastic Corporate Challenge team as a walker and dared to try a little jogging between strolls. Then I started dating a runner, and his influence and encouragement made me first interested, then active. My father bought me a pair of running shoes (barely restraining his excitement); my boyfriend and I started taking Saturday-morning runs; and we were out walking one winter day when he said, "I bet you couldn't run a 10K."

I said, "Excuse me?"

"I bet you couldn't run a 10K."

"I could so!" I said. "Maybe not right now, but I could totally run a 10K if I wanted to." He laughed, reached over, and started poking the front of my peacoat. "What do you think you're doing?"

He was still laughing. "I'm pushing your buttons."

Needless to say, he was both annoying and wrong, and obviously had to be proven so. So I put "Run a 10K" on my 2004 Resolution List, and that December, after much training and swearing, I ran a 10K. (The boyfriend ran it with me, and kindly admitted he was mistaken afterward.) I didn't do anything longer than my marathon lark last year, but for 2006 I decided I wanted to challenge myself again, and "Run a half-marathon" went on the Resolutions.

So this very small picture is a very big deal: me at the end of my first half-marathon this morning in Central Park. It was by far the longest distance I've ever run, and the crowning event of three months of regular training (also a big deal, as I usually have the self-discipline of a Jack Russell terrier). It rained the entire race, beginning with a cold downpour while we were waiting for the starting horn and occasionally varying to "heavy spit," "steady sprinkling," and "cats and dogs"; but after the initial soaking, this actually wasn't too bad, as it kept me cool and gave me something to think about besides how much farther I had to run.* Likewise I concentrated a lot on my music: "Sunday in the Park with George" for the first loop around the park, my Running playlist for the second, with "Superstition" to kick me up the Harlem Meer hill and "Mr. Brightside" to speed my last mile to the finish. My final time was 2:09:26 (a 9:52 per mile pace), 3002nd out of 4275 participants. As I hoped just to complete the thing, I am quite pleased to have turned in a sub-10-minute-mile performance, and also pretty tired. But yay for being done with the Resolution, and for growing and changing and challenges.

* Another source of contemplation: At about the seven-mile mark, I gave myself a pep talk that went like this: "You're running thirteen miles in the rain. Finish this race, and you will be the most badass of all the badass people in the world. You will be more badass than Samuel L. Jackson. You will be more badass than Shaft." But then I had to shut my mouth -- both for the audacity of the thought, and because I couldn't think of anyone more badass than Shaft. The race ended; I came home, took a shower, and collapsed on my bed, and an "Alias" rerun was on TV. And there was my answer: I was more badass than Jack Bristow. (But don't tell him I said that. )