Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Acrid Stench of Death

So tonight was the launch of pre-season training for the NYC Half-Marathon. I was so nervous as I made my way from the 68th Street subway station up onto Fifth Avenue and the few blocks into Central Park. The rain that had threatened to fall all day finally started to splotch everything as I stood at the 72nd Street entrance to Central Park, a full 15 minutes early for training.

In my anticipation, I texted my sister. I mentioned where I was going, and that I was early, hoping to inspire some last-minute words of encouragement. "You're early? Haha - nerd!" was the reply. Figures.

I killed some time fiddling around with my backpack and then made my way to Bethesda Terrace (well rehearsed after Sunday's reconnaissance mission). A small but growing group was already there. Coaches and mentors in shiny, sporty jackets were shaking hands and greeting newcomers. I hung around the back, smiling at people when they looked at me, but trying not to look maniacal and "late night Central Park-y" (think "Law and Order" for the type of menacing nutty expression I mean).

I got talking to a girl next to me and we discovered that we were both half-marathon virgins. In fact, neither of us had ever done anything like this in our lives, and we were still trying to work out how a promotional junk mail postcard (that we would normally never read) managed to suck us in this far. A kindred spirit if ever there was one. So we adopted each other and when the time came to go downstairs, drop off our bags and confess about our lack of running ability, we did it together.

Fortunately there were more first-timers there tonight than I was expecting. The vast majority seem to be non-runners, though tonight was not the time to divulge why we've all come together to do this thing. I suspect we'll save that for another night.

Tonight was about getting started. The head coach announced that we would run for 10 minutes. We'd run 5 minutes in one direction, turn around and then run back to our meeting spot. Before we knew what was happening, we were off. I actually ran. Body parts wobbled and wheezed. My head spun. But I did not stop. I ran the full 10 minutes without stopping. I talked to my new friend the whole way, even laughed a few times, and yet my legs and arms kept moving and propelled me forward.

By the time we got back to the meeting place I was knackered. My new Nike shirt was excellent at wicking away sweat, but my face was on fire and I thought I was going to die. And yet I didn't die - quite the opposite, in fact. I totally kept going. We did silly exercises back and forth, skipping and lifting our knees up, crab-walking and side-lunging, and then a grapevine type step that was quite easy until I started concentrating and then I nearly fell down.

After that we did some stretches and it's fair to say I was in my element at this point. Standing still and stretching is my forte. I did a good Pilates plank and held my form, though my core is not as good as it used to be and I can't wait to get back to my Pilates tower/reformer classes that start next weekend.

There was a lot of "woohoo" and "go team" and self-congratulatory applause employed tonight. At first it was a bit weird. I was waiting for someone to pass me a glass of Kool-Aid. But then I kind of relaxed into it and realised that it was actually a very supportive, encouraging environment.

My running and lunges and crab-walking will probably render me immobile tomorrow but I am so resolved to do better next week. I've arranged to meet my friend at top of the stairs next week (when her friends will also be coming along) and with safety in numbers, I think we'll all be fine to keep on truckin'.


coco cooks said...

That's it. You have crossed over to the other side of marathon people. Just be careful with all that Central Park jogging.

Anonymous said...

GO THE GABSTER [pant] [pant] [pant] .... God, all that exuberance just about took it all out of me.

kilabyte said...

Pose a suggestion to your new mate that the pair of you go as a novelty double. You sit in a wheelchair and she pushes you for the first half of the route, then you swap - well, she swaps with another mate of hers and THAT mate pushes you for the rest of the trip. Mission accomplished and no-one has had to die.