I DID IT --- Why? (Part 1 of the Detroit Free Press Marathon)

I want to start with a disclaimer. On 10/17/10 I finished the Detroit Free Press Half-Marathon (walking, people!!!!!) without proper training. If you want to start any exercise program you should consult your physician first (I did and was given the OK to train) and if you want to participate in a half-marathon you need to prepare adequately. If you continue reading you’ll see that I made sure that at NO TIME was I in any physical danger.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way here’s my tale…..

Back in May I posted of my plan to walk the Detroit Free Press Half-Marathon. Yes 13.1 miles, more than I’d ever walked at one time in my entire life. I did lots of research, printed out the perfect training plans, found this great running store to buy custom fitted shoes, etc. and so on. Then I took that information, put it neatly in a folder and let it sit for a few months while the only practicing I did was my regular routine of procrastination.

Right in the beginning I told a high school best buddy my plan. She’d already run about 8 or 9 full marathons and was going to attempt her 10th, the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10 (which she accomplished…look at that date!). We hadn’t seen each other in over a decade and she’d always wanted to participate in the only marathon that crosses international borders. Plus she thought it would be a fun way to see each other and catch up, so she decided to join me in walking.

By now everyone is excited, my co-workers, my high school chum is filling out her passport application (needed since we’re crossing to Canada). Fun times lay ahead.

So the summer rolls around, school lets out, life happens, am I exercising? Randomly, I put in thirty minutes at the gym, a walk during lunch, or one after work with the little one and even that tapers off closer to race day. Soon I’m a month away and getting nervous. All of the plans I’d checked advised to allow a minimum of twelve weeks to properly get ready and now I have four. I have a doctor’s appointment at this time where I’m sure when I mention that I’d be trying to prepare for such an event in such a short period of time he would save me, tell me I wasn’t healthy enough to train in a few weeks. Nope! I get his full support to give it a go. I have no doctor’s note to present to all of these people I’d hyped myself to - that I’d be ready with bells on for this race.

Now it’s crunch time and I actually start getting sick…migraines one weekend, a cold another, lazyboneitis the other and I’m getting seriously worried. As the weeks before the race turn into days I express my doubts to my co-workers and my friend. It goes something like this:

“I’ve been getting headaches lately.”
“I was sick this weekend.”
“I don’t know…..”
“I feel exhausted.”
“My training sucks/is almost nonexistent.”

Michelle, the expert, assured me that I’d be fine since, although she’s a marathon running vet, when she walks, she walks very slowly. My co-workers just aren’t hearing my nonsense at all, they are confident that I have the physical ability to participate and finish.

Now I’m lamenting in being weaksauce, chastising myself severely. Instead of trying to get some cardio, walking, doing any kind of last-minute preparation, I spend the final week curled up in a fetal position whining about all of the wasted days I let pass by, trying to figure if I should fall down the steps or have someone hit me across the back with a two-by-four so I can have a legitimate way out. (Not seriously, but I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross my mind.) The Friday before the event I’m in full blown anxiety attack. Was I really going to be lame and be a no show? It was only because of me that my friend signed up and even got a passport!!! She’d be bringing her husband and kids driving 5 hours from Chicago, staying in a hotel just for this event!!!

The last thing one of my co-workers, Renee, said to me before she left work on Friday was, “You’d better show up!”

At that very moment I made a choice. This quote came to mind: “A loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning that they don’t even try.” The fact is I’d neglected my training program and I couldn’t change the past, but I was reasonably sure that I could complete at least 3 or 4 miles of this race (which I’d done at the gym before). I’d attempt more miles and if my body gave me any symptoms that it was overly taxed: lightheadedness, wheezing, pains around the chest area of any kind, I would bow out and take the “Bus of Shame” back to the start, actually called the Last Chance Bus. Not that it’s shameful to get on the bus, which takes participants to the end of the marathon if they can’t finish from either not feeling well, or not keeping up, but I knew I’d be getting on it because me being trifling and my ridiculous procrastination.

So I get my head together determined that, if I wasn’t physically strong enough, I’d at least have a bit of mental toughness. Saturday I spent the day loading up on the carbs needed to keep up my energy throughout the race. I went down to Cobo Hall, picked up my race packet and then went on to buy race gear. You’re not supposed to try out new things before a race. Everything, from pants, to what you’ll snack on while you walk, is supposed to be tested prior so there won’t be any surprises and you can make adjustments if necessary. Obviously I hadn’t done this. Everything I purchased was brand spanking new, the shirt, hat, pouch, pants were bought that day. Even the most important piece….the shoes, the day before a 13.1 mile walk I’d be walking in new shoes, shoes not broken in…who does this? Me.

I took my rest that night, excited and nervous about what was to come on Sunday and very happy to be seeing my old friend, Michelle. There was no turning back now!