Long Train Running: A Chicago Marathon Story | Chapter 1 — Ready, Set, Ouch
What was I thinking?
This is perhaps me at my most irresponsible. That includes that time I was accidentally the getaway driver for a convenient store robbery.
I had long considered running a marathon. Why not? I was once a gifted distance runner. Well, “gifted” is likely not the right word. Talented is better. I was a talented distance runner. And why not? I have the body for it. Long and lean. My distance running career began on the seventh grade cross-country team at Parker Junior High School in Flossmoor. I was one of the top seven runners on the team, which made me a contender for the conference meet at the end of the season. I’m a little competitive, so this was a nice carrot for me. This goal to succeed at running far fast stayed with me through high school where, I lettered my freshman year and was captain of the cross-country team as a senior. Wheeew! Check me out, right? Pretty badass, eh? It’s a real wonder why I wasn’t voted coolest kid in class every year forever.
But that was a long time ago.
I stopped distance running when I moved to Las Vegas. It was just too damn hot. And shady trails were in short supply. And like with most things, once the inertia stops, it’s hard to get it going again.
I moved to biking. I doubled down on that when I moved back to Chicago. But even then, nothing competitive or super challenging. Just the casual get-around-town thing. And yeah, thrice the Le Tour de Shore. I love swimming. I’ve had a few gym memberships where I made lap swimming my exercise modus operandi. But I hate gyms.
Every now and then, I’d go for a jog. Something quick and painless. Twenty–thirty minutes. A steady blowout of speed. Easy. Get the heart going. Move the joints. This dedication was fleeting.
Fleeting is a thing I can no longer afford. I’m running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Why? Because I’m forty. Because I haven’t run a marathon before. Because I need an excuse to get off my writer’s ass and move so I can live long enough to not die. Because I believe in the mission of Gilda’s Club Chicago and fundraising by running seems to be a pretty great way to get money out of your friends and family. So I am running as a member of Team Gilda.
But my god, I’m behind the ball on this.
Despite being healthy and never having suffered any serious injuries that didn’t heal themselves to an unnoticeable degree, I’m in bad shape.
There are eighteen weeks of training until the Chicago Marathon. I have eighteen weeks with six days of actual running in which to train myself to complete the marathon without ruining my body. That includes dying. As my wife likes to remind me, the first marathon ended with the only runner dropping dead at the finish line. Humans weren’t meant to do this sort of thing, she says. But they are. In 2016, 507, 600 people ran marathons in the United States. Most of them lived. Many of them, I’m sure, were first timers like me. Many did not letter in cross-country their freshman year in high school.
I can do this. I will do this. It’s for a cause. It’s for something bigger than me.
Now only if my body will let me.
My first official team training begins today (at the time of this publishing). This afternoon, I ran to the Nike store and dropped almost $130 on a pair of shorts and a shirt. Because gear makes a difference. And because Colin Kaepernick was in that one ad and it changed my life when I realized Nike is more, so much more than Chinese labor camps. It’s a six-mile run tomorrow. I only just received my schedule and training plan today because I was late getting all of my information to my coach. I saw that I needed to run a slow, easy forty-five minutes today. And so I did. And I felt great. Until twenty-six minutes in when my right knee began screaming, “Fuck you, David!” every time my right foot hit the concrete. Walking made it better.
But I’m not a walker. I’m a runner, goddammit. And I will not let a little thing like being injured before I even begin team training keep me from my goal. Which is to raise money for Gilda’s Club. And not die, I guess.