I am not a natural athlete. I joined a gym six months ago in a last-ditch effort to get the scale to budge. It was either that or strip completely naked in the meeting room.
With help from ’s very personable personal trainer, Mike, I started weightlifting, spinning and sweating to the music and CNN on treadmills and elliptical machines. All those endorphins must have caused temporary insanity, because a few weeks ago I signed up for the fundraiser 5K at .
The Saturday before the race, I headed to Oakland to pick up my race bib, timing chip and silky synthetic purple race shirt printed with Half Marathon/5K.
I love that I have a shirt with the word “marathon” on it! Who’s to know that I did a 5K and not a half marathon? I’m not telling.
My husband, Si, said I looked hot in that purple shirt. He didn’t know how prophetic that was.
It was supposed to rain and thunder that Sunday, but no such luck. The race was on! My daughter, Sarah, drove me all the way from Bay Street to Burbank at Central, where she let me off so the real athletes wouldn’t see I bummed a ride six blocks to get to a race. I felt just like a middle school kid getting dropped off by Mom on the first day, not knowing anyone.
How can it be that most days I seem to know everyone in Alameda? With close to 2,000 people in that morning, there was not one familiar face. Who were all these people? Where did they come from? And seriously, how did they find Alameda, for crying out loud? It’s not easy…
I was feeling more and more like a nervous schoolgirl when, to my relief, I saw my friend Ann. She is an athlete. She is cool. She runs half marathons and is incredibly nice to me, even to the point of doing a practice walk on Memorial Day to check out the course and calculate our times. Right now Ann happens to have a tweaked knee, which temporarily puts her closer to my speed level. Our practice walk time was 47 minutes, so Ann said I should shoot for a 45-minute finish on race day.
The participants crossed the start in batches, and with adrenalin kicking in I started off at a sprint. The theme song from Chariots of Fire played in my head as I passed walkers, and I didn’t even have ear buds.
I made it to the turn at Shoreline before I decided to slow a bit to catch my breath.
For a cloudy day, it seemed to be getting hotter by the minute. I thought about taking off my jacket, but my number bib was pinned to it. I was afraid if I pulled it over my head, I would lose the little perforated paper tab that entitled me to my free glass of champagne at the finish line. Plus, my iPhone was in the pocket. Although Sarah said I could carry it while running, she has more faith in me than is warranted. I decided to stay hot.
My cheeks were on fire when volunteer angels with cups of water appeared at my side on the bike trail. There is a God! I grabbed a paper cup while still moving and tossed it into the garbage can without breaking stride. I was so proud of my hand-eye coordination. I was an athlete!
At the turnaround point at Willow, I saw my good friends, John and Andrea Medulan, who were there cheering on their four adult daughters. I yelled that although I was pleased to see them, I couldn’t stop because I had a timer on my ankle. Then on the way back up Shoreline, I passed my writing buddy, Elizabeth, heading in the opposite direction. I wasn’t alone after all! I had people!
Before the bend to Crab Cove, two paramedics sat in an ambulance parked under a cypress tree. I waved to them and signaled a “thumbs up” yelling, “I’m okay! I know you guys must have been worried about me, but really, I am all right!” Runners on either side of me laughed appreciatively.
I am proud that I can maintain my sense of humor, even when I can barely breathe. You don’t see many Olympic athletes cracking jokes in the middle of their events.
I crossed the finish line, not at my goal time of 45 minutes, but at 40 minutes, 29 seconds. I placed 30th out of 52 in the 50-54 age group, 796 out of 1,263 overall. I won! They gave me a heavy silver medal on a bright red ribbon.
So what if everyone got a ribbon? I downed my champagne, headed out of the park and called Sarah to come pick me up again on Burbank Street. Si came along with her, and the three of us had brunch at the . I ate Eggs Benedict and Mexican hot chocolate, putting back all calories burned and then some.
I am considering running the half marathon next year, if Ann can talk me into it. But why bother, if I already have the T-shirt?
If you would like to donate directly to Girls Inc. of the Island City without getting sweaty, please visit their site.