That’s what I said to my wife back in 2007 after slogging my way through the supposedly flat and simple Outer Banks Half Marathon.
After spending months training along every street and alley in my little town and feeling confident that I could breeze through 13.1 miles, I struggled most of the way, especially up the steep, mile-long Washington-Baum Bridge, which they had strategically placed three miles before the finish. In the end, I stumbled across the finish line a good half an hour slower than I had planned.
Whatever you do, I told my wife afterward, never let me forget what a painful, exhausting, miserable experience this was. I never want to run again!
This past Sunday I ran 17 miles as part of my training for the Columbus Marathon in October. It was the farthest distance I had ever run. I guess time really does heal all wounds. Either that or all the red wine I’ve imbibed over the years has broken the part of my memory that remembers pain.
To be fair, the OBX half marathon shouldn’t have been as difficult as it was. I’m not one to make excuses…but if I were, I’d tell you that I had been sick for the two weeks leading up to the race and therefore never completed my training. That I was woefully uneducated about proper running nutrition. That it was really windy that day. And cold. And that I had a side stitch. And, oh yeah, my nipples were raw. But like I said, I don’t like to make excuses.
Anyway, immediately after the race I announced that I was officially retiring from running, at least the long-distance variety. I had no desire to run that far ever again in my life. I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, albeit barely, and that was good enough for me. From then on I’d stick to the occasional jog around town. Or better yet, watching TV.
But as the years passed I gradually forgot about the pain and began to go farther and farther on my regular runs around town. Then, this past spring, I ran 10 miles, just to see if I could do it. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. It actually felt great. Pretty soon I was getting up at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, just so I could have the quiet, peaceful avenues of my still-sleeping town all to myself.
Then one day it hit me: I want to run a marathon! The big 26.2! Never mind that half that distance had almost killed me years before, when I was younger. This was something I wanted to do. It was something I had to do. Maybe it’s because I’m approaching middle age and I feel a need to prove that I’m not over the hill just yet. Maybe I like the idea of challenging myself and shooting for something that scares the bajeezus out of me. Then again, maybe I’m just nuts.
But hey, literally thousands of people run marathons every year. People of all ages and of all shapes and sizes. I mean, if Oprah can complete a marathon, surely little old me can do it too, right? I guess we’ll see.
My kids have no idea what Daddy is doing. All they know is they wake up to find me sprawled out on the living room floor, way too tired, sweaty, and smelly to play horsey just yet. Of course they’ll probably run a marathon themselves throughout the course of the day, just in their normal running, jumping, and bouncing around the house. And then they’ll put up a fight when it’s finally time for bed. The little jerks.
So if you happen to be out about town in the early morning hours and you see me lumbering by, please beep your horn and say a little prayer that I’ll actually follow through with this thing. Either way, when it’s all over with, I’m going back into retirement.
At least until next time.