run when you can walk

I will occasionally make sweeping remarks about things I observe in life. Some people would call them generalizations. I call it modern anthropology.

So my latest “anthropological research” has led me to this observation: People in their forties at some point in their lives come to a fork in the road to deal with impending mid-life crisis. They then either 1) have an affair or 2) run marathons.

A few weeks ago my girlfriend, Michele, asked if I would consider doing a 5K marathon* with her.

“No, sorry. I don’t like running.”

“We can walk. Oh come on! It’ll be fun if we do it together.”

I considered the fact that presently, there are no great contenders out there for an extra-marital affair. Except maybe John Mayer….or Jason Statham. It wouldn’t be very secret though. I would wear a T-shirt publicizing it and then I would plaster it all over this blog and on all my social media (when I can figure out how it all works) if either man chose to be my lover. I would make my husband wear a t-shirt too – something like “John Mayer/Jason Statham is my wife’s lover.”

But Michele hadn’t given up on me yet.

“Catherine! You’ll get a cool t-shirt AND it’s for breast cancer.”

Now why’d Michele have to go and pull the Breast Cancer card? Breast cancer, she knows, is my touchstone.

While I’ve already made it clear that I suck at anything “athleticky”, I realise this is so not about me and is for good cause. Moreover,  Beautiful Bex and “Kentucky Girlfriend” would be pleased. And I can walk it.

So I agreed. And this morning, I actually did it!

I don’t expect applause because I realize people do this sort of thing all the time. I do however need to point out that today I consider myself an effing ROCK-STAR (!!) for managing to make it all happen.

To start, I remembered that I was doing the run in the first place. I am the type of unorganized misfit that shows up to luncheons the day after they happen—all dressed up with hostess gift in tow and wondering why mine is the only car there. At the wrong venue. Or I show up on the right date for flights at the wrong airport. Or I mix up flight duration times for departure times and miss flights.  I’m no longer permitted to have anything to do with booking travel.

Secondly, I didn’t lose the paperwork. This is huge for me. I got an envelope in the mail a few days ago which I almost threw away – were it not for the words “IMPORTANT: Your timing bands and numbers for the run are enclosed.”

Thirdly, I made it there on time. Just. I was the second-last (!) car in the car park. The guards at the gate were visibly irritated that Michele and I were pulling into Richmond Park 15 minutes before the run was set to start.

“The car park is up and to your right. You’d better get a wiggle on, Madame. The race is due to start at any moment and you still need to check-in.”

Michele was slightly offended that he’d told us to “get our wiggle on”.

She soon forgot all about that because I flew into parking lot, drove straight up to one of the attendants and said, “Excuse me, do you valet?”

“Catherine you did NOT just do that!”

“Michele, it’s for charity, he’ll get a nice tip.”

Driving up a little closer, I said it again, “Excuse me, there don’t seem to be any spaces left. Do you valet?” The poor chap looked confused by my question.

“My name is Estaban.”

I parked my own car.

Not five seconds later we were warming up with the hundreds of other women stretching to music blaring from speakers set up around the warm-up area.

It was overcast but mild and the overall atmosphere was festive and positively positive. Infectiously so.

The organizers ushered all of us to starting positions a couple hundred meters away. I positioned myself somewhere near the front.

“Ummm… Catherine. I’m not sure I’m too comfortable being up here with the pros. Maybe we should step back a bit.”

I looked around and realised that where were standing, we were surrounded by the stream-lined, athletic bodies of the serious runners (there were also 10K and 15K runners).  I saw taut bum after taut bum and more sets of taut thighs, calves and biceps then I’d ever seen collectively.

We stepped back and made room for the die-hards placing ourselves somewhere just ahead of the mummies with buggies.

The organizers blew the horn and off we went!

Despite our original intention to walk the entire thing, we (of course!) ran with great, big energetic strides for the first few hundred meters past the cheering crowds.  Michele and I smiled and waved at cameramen and babies and family members shouting out warm encouragement.

Once out of site though, we slowed down to a “slow jog” which really requires the same energy as a “brisk walk” where the operative word here is really “walk.” Ahem…

Also, at some point several minutes after the 1KM marker I regretted the three (?), four (?) or was it six (?) glasses of red from last night heralding in the weekend.

I won’t detail the entire race but I will say that Michele and I ran FAR more than we’d originally planned — especially when we passed the strategically-positioned clusters of “witnesses” cheering the runners on. At those particular benchmarks we made sure to look like female versions of Rocky Balboa– aka EFFIN ROCKSTARS.

It goes without saying that Michele and I practically sprinted through the finish line. We had to– there were even more witnesses there with cameras.

The entire experience was incredibly gratifying and waaay more fun than I ever thought it would be – so much so that Michele and I decided we will absolutely do one of these runs again. I may even actually RUN the entire thing next time.

I will be on a high for a long time. Or at the very least until tomorrow when my muscles tell me how I really feel.

Lastly, I have no idea what my time was because while I did remember to bring my race number, I forgot to strap my timing-recorder paper thingy to my trainers. I’d left it in the car back at the car park. You know, with Estaban.


*Note to those who run “real” marathons-please don’t get technical on me. I already know what the definition of a marathon is – I just like how much more important and sporty-sounding “marathon” is than “run”.


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