What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Don’t be fooled by the tiara.
I am honestly the least coordinated person I have ever met.
It’s not just that I’m clumsy (think Zooey Deschanel, at her most doe-eyed, on roller skates and two Vicodins). It’s also that my body just does not operate under my control.
For example, I’ll be giving a presentation at work, cool as a cucumber, when suddenly my right hand will rise toward the ceiling like I’m a particularly lissome manatee caught on the end of a desperate fishing line. I’ll glance up at the hand, panicked, before casually raising the other one to match.
“I’m making a point!” I hope my sudden transition to First Position conveys to my company’s higher-ups. “I’m being ZANY!” This happens to me like once a month.
I’m also slow, sad, and prone to week-long bouts of anxiety where I literally have to consciously think about each breath I take or I will forget to actually take in air and pass out everywhere. As you can imagine, this becomes problematic if I’m trying to move more quickly than an assisted living facility amble.
Yet despite all this, I somehow managed to run 13 miles this weekend. In a row. Without stopping, crying tears of blood, or stress vomiting. And believe me, if you want to? You totally can, too.
Ugh, I know. I’ve totally become one of Those People. This week, I went on a date with a lovely girl who was thinking about running a “half,” as we runners casually refer to them.
“Oh, yeah!” I chirped, apparently channeling the worst person in the world. “It’s actually totally doable!”
“I don’t know,” she mumbled. “I mean, I can’t really…run.”
“Oh, sure you can!” I beamed, Rob Lowe-ing all over the sidewalk even as a tiny, screaming part of my consciousness tried to stuff a proverbial Lululemon tank down my own throat. “You can do anything you put your mind to!”
Like murder me, for instance. Because I’m also an obsessive perfectionist, I read an approximate frillion tips for my first race in the week leading up to Day of Many Blisters. I’m sure that with a little Googling, you can find them too.
With those in mind, I have a few extra ways to overcome the part of your brain that just wants to lie on the settee eating ice chips and listen to Benedict Cumberbatch read depressing Victorian poetry as your smug-ass friends pound out the miles on the pavement.
1. Succumb to the Hilarious Race of Your Choice
No matter how many times you listen to “Chariots of Fire” and beam soppily into the distance, your first half-marathon is not going to be pleasant and/or dignified. You’re not going to come out on top. So you might as well be able to get a feather boa or some shit at the end of the finish line. I chose to run the “Run Like A Diva” race, mostly because my mean co-worker made me and I am easily swayed by the presence of shirtless firemen giving me free alcohol.
The advantage of choosing this race was that it was mostly attended by women in their mid-40s who were too busy dying their own private deaths to do anything irritating during the race itself like try to Pump! Me! Up! It was also, as I said, full of the promise of champagne.
The disadvantage was that judging by the pre-race festivities and Morning Dance Jams Pump-up, the race organizers all seemed to think we were SUPER into shopping! And boyfriends! And being DIVAS! We were all straighter, whiter, more boring RuPauls! And by God, if they’d let us forget it! If only Gatorade came in chocolate! Am I right, ladies?!
Spoiler: 100% of races are either Super Serious Affairs or circuses like these. Runners, as far as I can tell, are not so good at self-deprecation. Ultimately, it’s just more fun to get into it.
Sure, you can make a big old frowny-face in response to the question, “Are you going to get a 13.1 charm for your Pandora bracelet?” If you didn’t, I would get concerned. But turns out when a race is super desperate to make you their bestest girlfriend, you can shout things like “I AM A BEAUTIFUL ANIMAL” and “BOW TO YOUR GOD” at the cheering passersby at mile twelve and they will be totally into it. Which is pretty sweet.
2. Just Pony Up for Some Decent Gear
Yes, you can run the entire thing in a pair of Kohl’s tennis shoes and cotton tights you stole from your friend in your sophomore year of college. But you know what’s gonna happen?
Running means chub rub, guaranteed and to the extreme. The friction created from my inner thighs swishing against each other didn’t just rip a hole in my tights -- I then got a three-inch blood blister there, causing me to run the last half of the race like I was competing in Brokeback Marathon. And to think that bowleggedness could have been prevented with some synthetic material and a stick of Body-Glide.
Ultimately, I tried to look at the whole running debacle as an investment. It’s cheaper than a gym membership, after all, and good equipment only costs about as much as 20 days’ worth of burritos.
As fun as it is to stab a giant blister with a sterilized needle eight times, it’s probably worth it to get some fitted running shoes.
3. Nobody Talks About How Goddamn Boring Running Is, So Plan to Entertain Yourself
When people reminisce about races, it’s always full of rambling about how there’s “nothing like that adrenaline rush” and how addictive the endorphins are.
“Nothing like that runner’s high!” they enthuse. “Just carries you to that finish line!” Maybe my brain is broken. But I respectfully disagree.
I ran, continuously, for 154 minutes, and I felt every single one of those fuckers like a nail in the back of the neck. My friend, who ended up finishing the race a full 40 minutes before I did, suggested beforehand that I develop a mantra.
“What about ‘the faster you run, the quicker you’re done’?” she trilled.
I was…skeptical. Still, I tried Kay’s advice for about a second before throwing it over in favor of my backup plan: gay erotica on tape. Believe me, nothing distracts you from the fact that you have just run seven miles and you have six more to go more than a calm British voice intoning, “He gripped Merlin gently, listening to the other man’s moans and wondering how long they had until the sun rose on their cursed union.”
Yesssss. How’s THAT for a mantra? Okay, it may divert blood away from important places (legs, resolve), but my steamy Captain America/Iron Man listening material totally propelled me through the doldrums of those hours. I also highly recommend Childish Gambino’s album “Camp” and/or NPR podcasts.
Pick your poison, just so long as it captivates your brain without taking over your legs. Anything to try to manufacture those endorphins that your body clearly missed the memo on producing.
4. You Can Totally Fudge on Training
Yes, training for a race basically means giving up your social life two or three nights a week. But you know what? If you don’t actually run five miles every other day for 12 weeks, it’s not going to be the end of the world.
I’m relatively convinced that the people who make those About.com training plans are also those professors in college who used to try to convince you that you couldn’t write the final paper the night before. Of course you could. It might not be as high quality, or as ultimately satisfying, but it could certainly be DONE.
If you’re intimidated by the pace or scope of the training programs you find out there, just take it slow. Nobody’s expecting you to beast out six miles off the bat while screaming the opening lines from “Infinite Jest.”
So Livestrong says you should run 12 miles before the race! Livestrong is not the boss of you. If you need to take a weekend off to rest your ankles or to do acid at Coachella, I promise that you’re going to be okay. You don’t need to throw in the entire sweaty towel right then and there.
5. Think About How Smug You’ll Get to Be Immediately Afterward
Here is a non-comprehensive list of the people I informed that I had run 13 miles without stopping: -Parents, both my own and others’ -Cute barista at Philz -An unfamiliar seagull, largely in jest -CEO of my company -CFO of my company -Train conductor -Housemates, via text -Housemates, in person -The entire Internet
People are so NICE to you when you’ve tortured yourself for three hours. For the 24 hours or so after my race, I flipped my hair in a self-satisfied way so often that I started to get a crick in my neck.
My friend brought me a bouquet of flowers. I ate six fried potatoes and a burrito without breaking a sweat (or leaving the table). For an attention whore like me, this was pretty freaking great.
I mean, sure, for three hours my entire body was the color of a rotten beetroot and I had a salt patch shaped like Rutherford B. Hayes’s moustache stuck to the side of my lip. Whatever, we all have bad face days.
And considering the bragging rights that ensued? Totally worth it. Crotch-blister and all.