Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to Run Your 10K With New Shoes, Little Sleep, and Less Training

This is what happens: you return from the Warrior Dash with no sneakers. You didn't lose them in the mud pit, but instead donated them afterwards. You've had them for years. It was time.

You intend to buy new sneakers early in the week to run this weekend's 10K. The draw of this race is that it's a trail run, just the way you like it. Dirt and roots and rocks. That's about right.

But for various reasons, you don't get to the store until Friday. Which means that your exercise this week has been limited to treading water and spotting back tucks. Not ideal, but no big deal.

Fueled by increasing crankiness, you reject the Nike and Reebok pairs and reluctantly head into the last store. There you find a beautiful pair of white-purple-green Asics with built-in gel pads. They fit. They are deliciously squishy. This is perfect. Mexican food is the only way to celebrate this achievement.

Until the next day, when you take the prettiest sneakers you've ever owned (with the exception of the Little Mermaid kicks in kindergarten) for the maiden voyage, and a couple of miles in, they pinch your inner arches so irritatingly that you stop.


You dust them off and return them to the store. Then you hustle out to another store in the opposite direction, the last stop for the evening. If nothing fits here, no race manana.

Oh, but you'll make it happen.

Play Cinderella. Try on every sneaker that comes in your size, especially if it's on sale. This is not a night of fiscal risks. You pluck out a box of sneakers that has no mate on the top shelf. They are black and electric blue, like skater shoes, and instantly you judge. They can't be real sneakers. They're faux-sneaks that girls wear to look athletic and occasionally ride the elliptical.

Forty-five minutes later, you leave with the faux-sneaks that actually seem to be real sneaks hiding under ridiculous colors. Your father will probably judge you. You're ready for it.

You try to fall asleep at midnight in your friend's guestroom. Midnight turns to one a.m. turns to thrashing about half-awake until the alarm goes off at six.

This will not be pretty.

But you have said you will do this, and so you will. Even though you have to make sharp and wide turns to help your friend Jess find a functioning ATM so she can pay the entry fee. Even though your body is still dreaming and you're already sweating from the humidity as you walk to the registration table.

You put Vaseline on the sore spots. A woman ahead of you on the Port-A-Potty line donates two band-aids. You are as ready as you can be.

How do you run the race? You don't stop running.

You give up despairing over your split times, knowing they're much slower than they could be. After all, there are choices: Run hard now and be ill later, or take it easy and finish without throwing up. You don't move quickly, but you don't stop moving. Over the small bridges and under the tunnels and around the lake.

When your stomach starts to hurt and your feet feel that these shoes are stiff with not being broken in, Jess says, "We're almost there. It's almost over." You keep telling yourself that, too. You hold the pace until the finish line appears a few short meters ahead and then you sprint with Jess calling behind you, "Where are you going?" the way she would chastise a child. You know you deserve it. But that's okay.

The entire race, you think about how awful this all is. Painful and slow and sticky. How do people run double, quadruple this? How do their bodies handle it? Not you, no way. No more races.

Soon after the finish, you take a flyer from a stranger and say, "Hey, Jess, here's a race with costumes."

You keep going.

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