Run, Gracee, Run
Long Beach, CA – At first, the concept of marathons confused me. Why do people pay an ample amount of money to run elbow-to-elbow with thousands of other sweaty people, when they can run the same lengths for free, and without intrusions, at another time and day? Is it the medal? Is it the fanfare that comes with it? I understand what it could mean to an athlete or an organization with a cause, but what’s in it for people like me? Of course these ruminations didn’t stop me from joining my first ever marathon. Hence, this post. This is the story of my first foray into the world of running.
If you’re expecting a blow by blow, mile by mile account of an unlikely hero’s triumphant quest to conquer the most prestigious, most talked about and the highly regarded Run Forest Run 5k Marathon, then this is not it. True, running for 3 miles straight was no mean feat for me. It was the ultimate test of my tenacity, the peak of my athletic capacity, the bane of my sorry existence–ok, ok, I’m overreacting.
Everybody knows I have very limited athletic skills. Although to be honest, the interest has always been there—from the moment I picked up that first piece of chalk and drew my first “piko” diagram on the street, to the time I made my glorious jump and completed my first Chinese Garter routine. I was very young then, but everybody could tell I was bound for the Olympics. By the time I learned the complex dynamics of Dodge Ball, I was phenomenal, beating boys and girls here and there, most of them way older than me. Then I started developing respiratory problems, and that spawned overprotective parents. The rest, as they say, is history.
My dad said I have an odd way of running. When I run, my toes tend to point inwards, and my weight leans unevenly and unstably on the balls of my feet. It gives me an odd swagger. The worst part is when I constantly trip on my own feet even when I’m standing still. Thankfully, marathons, as I’ve learned, are not just for full-fledged athletes. Whether you are old, fat, young, or simply unfit, they would call you an athlete—and that day, in that brief moment, I did feel like one.
The Long Beach Marathon, as in most marathons, are divided into categories: Full (26 miles), Half (13 miles), and the Special Category, which could either be a 10k (6 miles) or a 5k (3 miles). Bikers can only partake in the Full category and they get to start first, usually before the crack of dawn. It’s funny that there’s a category specifically for those joining full and half marathons but would refuse to run, and it’s aptly called “Walkers.”
Bikers, walkers and early starters are the first ones to go, followed by full and half marathoners. The highlight of the event is reserved for last, the 5k marathon, where only the fittest, the most determined, and the most ambitious survive (pun intended). It took them 3 hours to dispatch all three batches of runners, that by the time the gunshot was fired to signal our turn, I finished all my GU and energy bars and I was so thirsty. I should have brought water, I know, but my ginormous camera was already weighing me down. It didn’t help that the sun was already way up. It was hot and I was dehydrated. After the first fifteen minutes, my legs were just about ready to give up.
The route took us around the Long Beach Pier area and then back. I ran fervently alongside 90-year-olds, children and fat people. But don’t let their facades fool you. They have the endurance of a carabao. They’re the ones who kept me going. I kept thinking that if that person who’s obviously 30 pounds heavier than I am could lift her feet and take another step, then so could I. I did finish eventually, but it would forever leave a scar in my heart knowing that despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to outrun them.
After what seems like forever, despite the ferocious beating of the sun against my back and the epic battle between the asphalt and my feet, I prevailed. The price: the highly coveted shrimp emblem that only the most tenacious of us can have the privilege of wearing. I also got a pat on the back by no less than Forest Gump himself, who graced the event with his sidekick Shrimp Louie. But more than that, I also realized why non-athletes go through all these trouble only to wear themselves out. It’s about pushing limits. It’s about being part of something big, like a massive movement of sweaty humans, in which everyone—young, old, fat, fit, men and women—are heading in the same direction and reaching for the same tangible goal at the same time. It doesn’t matter whether you finished first or last; everyone wins just by making it to the finish line. That’s not something you see every day. But more importantly, it’s because of blog entries as long as this and the pictures that went with it–the pleasure of knowing that you’ve achieved something despite the odds and the gratification of having an interesting story to tell the world.
My time? 3 miles in 40 minutes! Not bad for a first timer, Gracee, not bad at all.
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