Some say that the difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry form. If that is the case, then I am a runner. Compared to the average person, I’m in pretty good shape. Compared to the average runner, I think I’m probably below average. I spent most of my teenage years playing volleyball. My legs took a pounding and it was good exercise, but it never fostered the kind of endurance that even a 5K requires.
I played football in high school too. Though I was one of the smallest guys on the team, I was also one of the fastest. Unfortunately, my hands of stone precluded me from being a receiver, so I spent my time grabbing on to the other teams’ receivers (and holding on until they fell down) as a defensive back. My sophmore year football coach was also my geometry teacher and the varsity track coach. I remember sitting in geometry class one day before the bell rang. Coach May was studying something in earnest. Suddenly, he looked up at me.
“Brian,” he snapped, “out in the hall.”
“Oh shit,” I thought, “I don’t remember doing anything stupid. Did I miss a step in my proof of the pythagoream theorem? Is this about that blown coverage in last week’s game? The receiver dropped the ball in the end zone.”
Out in the hall, he leaned in toward me and looked me squarely in the eyes.
“Do you play baseball?”
I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly.
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Do you play baseball?”
“You ran the 40 yard dash in 5 seconds flat….running flat footed. I’ll teach you how to run the right way and you’ll really fly.”
“I play volleyball in the spring, coach.”
He grabbed his heart with both hands and leaned back away from me with a pained look in his eyes. He groaned. In his litany of spring season sports he had forgotten volleyball. In fairness to Coach May, it was a forgiveable omission as boys volleyball wasn’t technically a sport in the state of Missouri at the time. It was, rather, a “club” implying that we just met everyday after school to talk about volleyball and volleyball related issues instead of actually playing games against other schools’ clubs. In any case, there was no way in hell he was going to get me to join the track team. Volleyball was my life.
I had been playing volleyball since the sixth grade and I was one of the few boys in the area who had been playing so long. In the sixth grade I was 5’9″ tall. I’m 31 today and I’m 5’9…and a half. It should have been obvious that day in the hall that the world was catching up to me and my days as a volleyball player were numbered, but it didn’t. I hadn’t noticed that I was now the shortest guy on the court. I was standing across the net from 6’5″ fully mobile trees.
Sometimes I look back and wish I had taken Coach May up on his offer, but I’m pretty happy with my life as it is so why change any of the things that got me here?
I finally ran my first race in February 2006 at the age of 29(a 5K through downtown St. Petersburg) and I enjoyed every minute of it – all 28 of them. Determined to improve my time, I ran a 5K every other day on the treadmill until my second race in April. I finished in 24 minutes.
Over the summer, it actually occured to me that other people have been running this distance for quite some time (and knew more about training for a 5K than me) so I decided to download a 10 week 5K training plan from Active.com and faithfully followed it, running my next 5K race in 22:28 the following fall.
Afterwards, I took a few weeks off and returned to a more advanced workout in an attempt to break the 20 minute barrier in February (cue triumphant montage-esque music). During my first workout in that plan, I developed a sharp stabbing feeling in the side of my knee (cue dark, foreboding music). It was the dreaded IT band syndrome lashing out at me. I tried to pick up the training plan a week later, but after about a mile of running, that sharp pain kicked in and I had to stop. Finally, I gave up running altogether for about 2 months.
In late March, I started running again. I began by running one mile at a time at a relatively fast pace. By “fast”, I mean a 7:00 minute mile. After I completed a week of that without even a hint of pain, I worked my way up to 1.25 miles at the same pace. This went on for about four weeks until I could comfortably run 2.5 miles at a time without any pain whatsoever. By that time, the running season in Florida was over.
I’ve always been a Disney freak. I know this seems like a ridiculously abrupt change of subject, but stick with me, it all comes back around. When I say Disney freak, though, I’m not talking about collecting little ceramic Mickey figurines and Cinderella posters. More specifically, I’ve always been a very big fan of Walt Disney World. Growing up in St. Louis, my parents used to take my brother, my sister and I to Walt Disney World every other year. We all have very fond memories of this time.
So, I was lucky enough to find a woman who not only agreed to marry me, but also enthusiastically agreed to go to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon. We’ve since moved from St. Louis, MO to St. Petersburg, FL – a mere 80 miles from Walt Disney World. Notice I always refer to it as “Walt Disney World”. That’s its proper name – not “Disneytown” or “Disneyville” or “Wallyworld”. Occassionally just “Disneyworld”, but never “Disneyland”. That’s in California and I’ve never been there, so it can’t possibly be as good. That’s how big of a snob I am.
So, the whole point of this blathering about Walt Disney World is that even when I started running, I often said that I never wanted to run a marathon….but, if I ever did, it would be the Walt Disney World marathon. Eventually, I subscribed to Runner’s World magazine and I’ll be damned if you can’t read a few issues of Runner’s World and not want to run a marathon.
Still, that’s a long way to run, so after being inspired by the April issue about the Boston marathon, I decided that maybe I’d register for the Walt Disney World half-marathon next year. We have annual passes now, so it’d be a great getaway for the whole family. I tucked that thought in my back pocket.
While in Atlanta for a design conference, I met a woman name Mara from Colorado. When I told her I was from Florida, she mentioned that she’d be there in January. She’s running a marathon. I knew instantly that she must be running Disney.
“That’s cool, I’m running the Walt Disney World half-marathon, “I said. Actually, that’s not true. I said “Disney half marathon”. I had already had a few drinks. She informed me that she had already run a half-marathon and then excused herself for a smoke. I’ve never run a half marathon and I’ve never had a smoke. Well, except for those two Cuban cigars, but I didn’t inhale.
Upon returning home from the conference, I decided that it was certainly time to sign up for a half-marathon. So, I decided to register for the Walt Disney World half-marathon right then and there. I pulled up the website. Scrolled through the marathon weekend activities and found the registration area.
It turns out that there are a lot of other people who decided to run the half-marathon next year. I don’t have to worry about them all finishing in front of me. They’ve all beaten me to the starting line and there’s no room left for me.
Undaunted, I decided to run the full marathon instead. What the heck, right? Once you’ve run 13.1 miles, what’s another 13.1?
What follows is the rest of the story. I’m not sure how it will end, but the fact that this blog exists and that there are people that I know who know about it means that I can’t slack off on my training without taking a lot of flack for not completing what I set out to do.