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Half a Half Marathon

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I never used to be a runner, but I consider myself one now.

My first run, about twelve years ago, was with a friend whose husband had taught her how to run. I wondered at the time how someone teaches another to run—something most of us started doing as toddlers. As it was my first time, we ventured out on a gentle three-mile circuit. I say “gentle” because most of it was flat, and we were running around a body of water, so I could see the whole route before we even began. “I can run that,” I thought. I had been training and doing aerobics for a few years, so how hard could it be to run around a lake?

It was only minutes later that I felt the fire. Burning in my legs and my lungs simultaneously. “I am going to die,” I thought, rather dramatically.

“We can walk for a while,” suggested my kind friend, “until you catch your breath.” I had never loved her more. While we walked—and not a stroll or an amble, but an arms-pumping power walk—she explained that this was how she had started, too. Her husband, patient in every way, had walked beside her when she couldn’t run anymore, waiting until she got her breath back. It was then that he coaxed her into starting to run again. My friend did this for me and we continued in this fashion all the way around the lake.

Each time I felt I couldn’t run anymore, I walked, arms pumping and with my friend beside me. And as we made our way around the lake, I wanted to make these breaks shorter and shorter, willing my body to recover so we could start running again.

It was a huge sense of accomplishment to get back to where we’d parked. And I knew then I had a starting point. I would focus on making the walking portions smaller and further apart, until I could run it all.

Thanks to my friend and her kindness, that day and on subsequent runs, I found my exercise niche. While other friends extol the virtues of yoga, or swimming, or spin class, I know that the exercise that works best for me is running.

It is not so much that I look forward to the run, but that I know I need it. There is something meditative about the rhythmic foot strikes and the conscious in/out of breathing. Running affects my headspace; all the problems and concerns tumble out, sort out, and clear out. When I return home with a body depleted, my mind is usually buzzing with energy, ideas, and a sense that everything is in its right place.

This is why I have long wondered if I could run a half-marathon. Fortunately, I have recently made a friend who has long wondered the same thing. We are training together at the moment, and we are using a lake as our training ground for the time being. It is three miles around, and we are up to six miles, comfortably. We reason that if we can do twice around, then we should certainly be able to do four times around.

It is a little trickery we are playing on our bodies, but a huge part of running is psychological. I can almost always run further than I thought when I started—and often do. So, at the moment, we are running 1/2 a half marathon, and are working our way up to 3/4.

And so far, I am loving it.


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