When I turned 51 several months ago, it suddenly occurred to me that I was unlikely to live forever. With that miserable realization hovering overhead like a personal black cloud, I found myself making a bucket list.
Having two kids in college pretty much removed the Corvette, the beach house, and the trip around the world from the list. And, as for more prurient pursuits, I’m not even sure Cheryl Tiegs is alive anymore. So, that really left only one thing: This loyal citizen of Recliner Nation would take the tattered remnants of his knees and ankles and try to run my first marathon.
Because I was going to do all my training in Corpus Christi, which is like running on a pool table, the course had to be flat. I figured the Houston Marathon must be about the flattest around. But, incredibly, even though there are slots for 11,000 runners, there are far more people who want to run than there are slots. That’s why you have to enter a selection lottery and submit your credit card number, which is immediately charged a $115 fee if you’re selected.
Naturally, the only lottery in my life I prayed I wouldn’t win, I won, and, also naturally, it cost me money. In Ireland, they say if you want to climb over a very high wall, throw your cap over it. That $115 was my cap sailing over the wall. I found an 18-week training schedule free on the web (so you know it must be great) and, ignoring my wife and kids’ good advice, took to the roads.
At first, it wasn’t so bad; my creaky joints seemed to be holding up well. In the middle of a 14 mile run, I’d look down at my knees pumping as reliably as pistons and wonder whose they were. In my mind, I’d ask them over and over, “Why didn’t you guys tell me you could do this before?” And they’d always answer, “Because you never asked.”
But, the 18 miler killed me. My right ankle swelled up and both Achilles tendons blew out. I laid off the next six days and then set out on the longest training run on the schedule, a 20 miler. I finished, but it hurt. The next day, it was worse. So, with visions of heated, buzzing machines and blonde, Swedish masseuses dancing in my head, I happily went off to see a physical therapist.
It was pain the likes of which I’d never experienced. The treatment consisted of the therapist locating the sorest spots, and then pressing on them with both thumbs as hard as he could. My response to the treatment consisted of spouting curses loud enough for those scared, cowering souls in the waiting room to hear. Weirdly enough though, the therapy seems to be working.
The Houston Marathon is next month. Thanks to all the injuries, I will have run only a total of 4 miles in the 3 weeks before the race. I suspect that’s not going to help me finish. But I’ll be at the starting line, no matter what. Because I’ve discovered a place about 12 miles out where all your troubles and broken dreams fade away, and it’s just you and a sunny day and the open road, like it used to be all those years ago.