By Ron Poggi
So you’re thinking about running your first race? Some people start big and go for that marathon right out of the gate. Too much you say? Tell that to all those charity runners who year after year run for a great cause. Others start slow and decide to tackle a 5k or 10k. Now, for you semi-coach potatoes out there, you may be wondering, can I really do that? Well, if you can get up and walk to the fridge or have to get out the door every morning to go to your job, then you are active on some level. After all, when you were a baby, you had to first learn to crawl before you learned to walk. It’s as easy a deciding, committing, and taking action. To put it in running terms… you must first walk, then jog, and finally run.
That’s how it’s been for Isabella, my wife of 28+ years. She’s always loved to walk or exercise on the elliptical machine, but nothing more. Her thinking was, I get enough exercise. Besides that, she would say I’m not a runner. But something started to change several years ago. After years of waddling around and getting little exercise, she became motivated to drop excess baby weight. That’s when she started a nutritional cleansing program, dropped a bunch of weight and started walking consistently. Yes, it was challenging at first, but she continued. She went out maybe three or four times per week. It started with one, then two to three miles at a time. After a while, it became so easy that she actually started getting bored with just walking.
That’s when I suggested incorporating jogging into her walks. For every five minutes of walking, “try to jog for about one minute at a comfortable pace.” Well, she tried this. One minute of jogging turned into two, then five, then 10 minutes of jogging. And, in a short amount of time, she was jogging for 30 – 45 minutes.For her, the pace was around 10 to 12 minutes to cover a mile. Now she’s able to cover around three miles without stopping. Then, the hammer fell, the suggestion to run in an actual race. The crowds, the early morning start, more crowds, the fun atmosphere of a “fun run” and finally crossing the finish line to celebrate. But, was she up for it? She had done the distance already, but there’s something different about actually running in a race against other people. In the end, she said yes to the race and decided to take on the 10k distance at an upcoming Giant Race that was a few months away. That’s when the increased training began and eventually race morning came.
Glancing at the clock as the music alarm blared, I reached over to whack the snooze button, yet one more time. Then it hit me, I was running in a half-marathon today, better get up. But, I was having the most wonderful dream about doing something supernatural and wished it could last a bit longer. Today, however, wasn’t about me. For the first time, Isabella was joining me, not to just cheer me on, but to run in her first 10k. The first words out of her mouth were, “It’s too damn early in the morning.” She mumbled, “you over achiever athletes. I don’t know, it’s Sunday. Noon is more my style.” You know what it’s like, getting up early because you want to, not just because you feel you to have to (like some people treat their jobs).
Anyway, we got up, packed the car with all our essential equipment and nutritional products, and were off. The night before, was a different story. BTW, that’s the best time to lay out your running clothes and prep your stuff. Questions came up like … What do I bring? What do I wear? Does it matter how fast I run? And, You mean I have to use one of those port-o-potty-outhouse-thingies? Clothes, running shoes, no and yes were my answers. Still, the nervous excitement showed itself in a big way. For Isabella, it was a cross between I now I can run this distance and I have no idea what to expect. As we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge heading to San Francisco, you could see Bay Bridge in the distance. This reminded us what we both knew, the start time was fast approaching. You see, both races started and ended at the same place and time, AT&T Park. We parked and began the short walk to the starting area. Quick note… we picked our race bibs at the expo the day before. This gave us the opportunity to check out several vendors (usually race sponsors) and pick up our bobblehead (best swag ever).
Then, she saw them, all lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery. They were blue and shiny. And, even had that newly cleaned look. I suggested we get it over with now, before the crowds really show up and we have to wait in line. At this point, we were about 90 minutes before race start. We both chose a door, entered, did our thing and exited. Well? I asked. With a perplexed look, she questioned, “Where do I wash my hands?”As I chuckled, I noticed some wash basins just to the left, which I pointed to. To my surprise, the experience was a lot more pleasant for Isabella than I thought it would be. She commented later, “It was worth getting up early, just to be the first to use these clean things.”
With plenty of time to spare, we wondered around for awhile. I pointed out the starting line around the other side of the stadium and we talked about where to meet up afterwards. As we settled into a spot to stand, relax, then eventually stretch, we struck up a nice conversation with these two ladies, Eileen and Mary. Both were there to run in the half-marathon. Eileen was new to this distance, while Mary had done one before. As pleasantries were exchanged, the conversation eventually went to “why?” In other words, Why run? Why this distance? And, How was your training? “Because I have a sense of
freedom and to challenge myself,” proclaimed Eileen. And,”I ran about three to four days per week,” Mary answered. We wished each other good luck and headed to sweat check. Not the nervous energy perspiration dripping down your forehead kind, but the putting your sweat pants, jacket and extra stuff in a bag with your race number on it. You then hand it over to one of the many volunteers (mostly high school age) for them to place in the back of a delivery truck to retrieve later. Note here – write your number clearly on the bag or tightly secure the numbered tag to the bag so they can easily find your bag later. Only once, just once, in a past race, could they not find my bag after the race. I was pleasantly surprised, however, two weeks later when my stuff showed up in the mail.
Then, it was time. We finished stretching and got into position about 20 minutes prior to starting. Parted company, wished each other good luck and headed to the start. After a few thank you announcements and a live rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the horn screeched for the official start. And we were off… As I was running, I kept thinking about Isabella. How was she doing? Did she train well enough? What would the experience be like? After I crossed my finish line and headed to the post-race expo area, I looked around wondering… Where was she? What seemed like minutes, was really seconds. Then I heard that familiar voice behind me, “Hey honey. Isabella, with bag of goodies in hand, was smiling from ear to ear. I thought, looks good. But, then I had to ask. “How did it go?” With a confident smile and exuberant look, she explained, “Now I know why you like these races so much. Look at all this free swag you get.” This with her mouth full of chocolate something and after downing a cup of nice hot specialty coffee to get warmed up. There was the usual sponsors with drinks, protein bars, more drinks, cookies, health screenings, products, flyers for future races and more. If you have the time and are willing to carry a bag-o-stuff around, then bring some samples back to your children. I know ours sure loved the samples we brought back.
On the short ride home, Isabella talked about what race she wanted to take on next. nother 10k or maybe a half marathon? You have to realize that it’s more than twice as long as her race today and she’s never completed that distance even in training. But, as she puts it, “If I can do a 10k, then it’s just a little bit farther. Should be easy.” Now that’s confidence.