Sunday, March 2, 2008

The fat, running slob

Here are the facts:

43 years old; 6' 3"; 255 lbs; manager of a credit union branch; husband; father of 2 (girl 11 & boy 9); runner; social drinker (I can be too "sociable"); NASCAR fan; self important; Catholic; self critical; smart @ss;

I was a fat and sedentary bum. When I played softball for the "Mamma's Boys", I was an out-of-shape, drunken slob, who would get winded running from home plate to second base. I was fast. I could stretch a slow-rolling single into a double because the right fielder never expected a guy like me to have wheels. Outwardly, it was great to be congratulated by Hondo, Joe Mamma or Animal when my speed resulted in an extra run , but inwardly, my spirit was crushed because I realizes I was a fat tub of goo. I wanted to change, but it would take way too much effort, too much time and I didn't believe it could ever come true.

My rescue came from an unlikely source. It came from a radio "DJ".

Chris Hawkey is a member of KFAN 1130's morning radio show, "The Power Trip", in Minneapolis. Even though he was several years younger than me, he said he used to be in the same boat as I was. Fat, growing older and out-of-shape. He impressed me because he was starting to train to run a marathon. The thing that lit a fire under his belt was a book by
John "The Penguin" Bingham called The Courage to Start. Chris swore that if you wanted to be a runner, but were convinced that the laws of physics guaranteed that you would never be one, this book would convince you that you were wrong.

I read the book and was inspired enough to start running in January, 2007. My first run consisted of 2 laps around our "block". Each run consisted of: 100 yards-slow jog, 50 yards-walk, 100 yards-slow jog, 50 yards walk, etc. I ran 2 times a week and worked my way up to running 2.5 miles non-stop.

I continue running once or twice a week until June. My weekly maximum never exceeded
5 miles a week. A really good friend of mine, Jon, was training for the Twin Cities Marathon and told me about this podcast called "Phedippidations". WTF was that? He said it was a podcast that was dedicated to running. He liked it, I respect his opinion and figured I should give it a try. After all, he was running 6 or 8 mile non-stop on his long runs, maybe that would inspire me?!?

When I listened to the first episode, I thought it was pretty good. Steve, the "host", had a Monty Python sense of humor, a honest presentation and a huge passion for running. The second episode was also good, but the third episode was the kicker. That episode, "Fdip92: A Duel in the Sun", was a recap of the 1982 Boston Marathon Duel between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. The combination of race audio and commentary blew me away! I had chills running down my spine as I lay in the grass watching my son Jacob, play his U10 soccer game.

At this point, I decided that I needed to be more serious about my running and commit myself to running a race. I decided I could run a 5k without killing myself. I looked online at the different races that happened around the Twin Cities and found the perfect one. The James Page 5K Blubber Run. What a perfect race for a fat, drunken slob to run. At the end of the race, you received two free beers from James Page Brewing Co. and an free bratwurst. It was a match made in heaven.

My goal was to run the 3.1 miles in under 30 minutes. My only reason for choosing 30 minutes was that it was a nice round number. I was sure, that with minimum effort, I would be able to meet that goal.

I went to "Runner's World" magazine's website and printed out a 5K training log for me to follow so I could reach that goal. I ran 3 days a week. I knew that because I had a set schedule to follow, I would. Had it said run 8-10 miles a week on your own time. I would inevitably end up running 5 or 6 miles a week sporadically. I made a conscience effort to follow the schedule and ended up doing it.

I read about the race from a local racing website. Because the official website was hosted by a brewing company, the firewall at work blocked me from accessing it. I trusted what it told me.

On race day, I piled into my car and headed to Hennepin & Washington in Minneapolis. This was the registration spot the racing website mentioned. I drove by, didn't see anything that looked like race booths, but I was a rookie, I had never done this before and I was there 90 minutes before the start of the race. I found a spot to park and headed back to the spot. Luckily I wasn't the only numb-nuts who thought the race started in that empty parking lot. It was even more lucky that one of the people standing there called a buddy who was at the real starting line half a mile away, on the other side of the Mississippi River by Harriet Island and Riverplace.

I found a spot on Harriet Island to park, asked a few people on the bridge that lead off the island where the race registration was and hustled to designated area. When I got there, it was really cool. There was a band playing on the stage behind the registration desk. This was the same park where I watched the City of Minneapolis 4th of July fireworks. It is on the north end of the Stone Arch Bridge. I got my number, t-shirt, a bottle of water and headed to the starting line.

I stood near the back of the pack and realized that not everyone was taking this as "seriously" as I was. 5 or 6 guys were dressed as huge construction cones and at least 50 were dressed up as cans or keg or glasses of beer. (James Page, of course) The real kicker was the two guys at the front of the line dressed up in cross-country ski gear, including skis. I decided I would need to stay on the outside edge and pass the stragglers.

The race started and I kept to the outside left edge. An added benefit of keeping wide left was that I avoided the uneven cobblestone road. After a few hundred yards, there was a right-handed turn to where we would cross over the Stone Arch Bridge. Right before the bridge entrance, a dog, who was being "run/walked" by a woman dressed up in scrubs, squatted and took a dump. Luckily, I was 6 feet to the left of the cable-laying canine.

On the bridge, casual runners in front of me were lined up 3 and 4 abreast. This is really tight when you consider the 2176 foot railroad bridge, which was built in 1883, is only 28 feet wide. This was complicated even more by the string of morons who insisted on crossing the extremely crowded bridge against traffic. "Idiots! You're ruining my race!"

I realized during the race that it was a lot harder to run a 9:20/mile race pace than it was to run twice that distance at my 11:30/mile training pace. Thank God there was a water stop at the top of the hill near the half-way point.

After I crossed the Plymouth Avenue bridge, we headed back toward the starting line. The end was getting closer. We weaved through a parking lot and crossed a skinny pedestrian/bike bridge to get back on Harriet Island. On that narrow gravel path, the everyone bunched up. I was able to sneak around the left side of a couple who were telling each other stories. "C'mon, move over! Fat guy runnin' thru!"

I ran by the parking lot where I parked my car, turned to cross over the bridge that I crossed over before, and headed to the finish. I ran the final 150 yards in the gutter instead of on the cobblestone street and punched the stop button on my Garmin 205 watch as I crossed the finish line.

29:57!! I did it! I got my lazy @ss of the couch and ran 3 mile faster than I had ever run in my life.

I bought two St. Pauli Girls to drink while I waited in the 30-minute long line to get my two free James Page beers. I then drank those two brews while I waited in 30-minute line for my free bratwurst. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to rate that morning as a 8.5 or 9. I reached my goal of running a race when I was sure, in the past, that I would never do that again. The only improvements I could wish for were a shorter beer line and warmer post-race weather.

I came, I trained, I conquered. I was a Runner!

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