I chose to run a half marathon because I am in fantastic shape, I knew it would be easy, and I thought it would be a pleasurable experience. Well, not really. Actually, I chose to do it because my 11-year-old, Alex, decided to do it and asked me if I was up to doing it with him. What would you do?
Now, just a bit of friendly advice here: if you are going to run a half marathon, there is the way to do it, and then, of course, there is the way not to do it. Alex did it the way it is supposed to be done. And I, of course, chose the road less traveled (pun intended).
Here is how Alex prepared: He trained for several months with a kids’ running group. He ran three days a week with them, starting with just a few miles a day, and later worked up to the point where he was running 6-8 miles in a day, several times a week. He trained, conditioned, and even did the obligatory “carb-load” the day before the marathon. He was fit, rested, and ready to go the morning of the marathon.
Now for my pre-marathon training schedule. It consisted of energy performance drinks (Diet Coke), finger exercises (returning hundreds of e-mails daily), regular stretching exercises (standing up occasionally at my desk), and the lifting heavy objects (like stacks of paper on and off the desk.)
Actually, Alex and I did have one thing in common: when the race was about to begin we both felt great! We started running with Team Coleman/Strong Enough, and I lost track of Alex after the first mile or so. I started to look behind me, scanning the crowd to see if I could spot Alex someplace in the mass of people immediately behind me. Several of our Team Coleman/Strong Enough teammates asked me who I was looking for. I replied, “I’ve lost Alex. I don’t see him.” They all started laughing and said, “If you want to see him, why don’t you quit looking behind you!” Apparently, Alex was way ahead of me within the first mile or so, and that never changed.
Alex, of course, has a kind heart, and at one point he waited for me to catch up to him and then we ran together for a while. Within a short period of time he was way ahead of me again, but he then waited up for me. After the third time doing this, he said “Dad, do you mind if I just kinda keep on going?” (Translation: “Dad, you are a major drag here. How am I supposed to run a serious half-marathon when I’m pulling an out-of-shape lawyer behind me? Seriously, man, be sure to hydrate, call a cab if you pass out, and I’ll see you at the finish line. That is, if you make it.”)
That was about mile three. From that point on, as I was jogging, I saw a lot of people along the route that I recognized. They all shouted, almost word-for-word, the same thing: “Good job! Did you know that Alex is waaaaaay up there ahead of you? Did you know that? Like, waaaaaaay ahead of you!” My response was always “Yeah, isn’t he amazing?” (Translation: “Man, you’re slow. Your 11-year-old son is completely dusting you. Seriously, pick up the pace.” Translation of my response: “Thanks for telling me something I didn’t already know. Wow, I feel so much better now. Except that my ankles are still screaming at me, my knees are still pounding, and I would give anything if I could just do something so much more enjoyable, like have a cavity filled or get a root canal.”)
When I hobbled across the finish line, Alex was there waiting to greet me, with a big smile on his face. “Good job, Dad!” he said. In the end, he finished about ten minutes ahead of me, and got a bronze medal for his age group. It was so rewarding, however, to see so many Signing Time fans and friends at the finish line. Leah looked fantastic, Lucy had just been on her first half-marathon, and Rachel and Aaron looked like they had just warmed up and were ready for a real run. Alex then proceeded to spend the rest of his day playing with Leah, running around, and doing what kids do (as I tried to recover on the sofa).
The next morning as I got out of bed, my ankles and knees refused to work, and notwithstanding my Advil, I could hardly walk straight. And stairs? Forget about it. There was no going up or down stairs. For the next few days I walked as though I had just added about 50 years onto my body. Seeing my condition, Alex assured me that he, too, was sore. (I didn’t buy it, of course.) In the end, it took several days for people to stop asking “Hey, what happened? Why are you walking funny?”
So, the real question: would I be crazy enough to do it all over again? Absolutely! (Next time, however, I will follow Alex’s training schedule to prepare.)