Put on shoes, step on porch is my brother’s mantra for getting himself going on a training run. That’s all you have to do, he says — put on your shoes, go outside, take a couple steps. No matter how long the run is, it always starts that way.
When I had my second heart attack in 2012, a mere three weeks from the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon I’d been training all summer for (and logging nearly 400 miles in the process), I asked my doctor — and I was completely serious — if I’d be ready to finish my training after the required post-surgery seven days of restrictions. (Runners will understand this — when it comes to the end of the training season, nothing — nothing!! — gets in the way of your scheduled runs.)
Spoiler alert: He said no.
So I asked him if I could run the marathon in three weeks.
Yeah, he said no to that too. He said not in three weeks. He said not ever.
I’ve written about this before, so I’ll skip over the weeks of pain and pouting to the day in mid-December when I impulsively signed up for the Polar Dash 10K (and the Get Lucky 7K and the Minneapolis Duathlon, and Women Rock 10K and Monster Dash 10 Mile because the series came with a nifty five-medal frame and a discount).
If I can’t run far, then I’ll run often. So there.
A couple weeks later I came up with this fab idea — I would run one race every month for the whole year. Take that, heart disease, and shove it where the sun don’t shine. I’ll never outrun you, but you won’t bench me either.
I finished the 12th race on New Year’s Eve, just under the wire, and 2013 ended as it began: running, in the freezing cold, with my husband.
Looking back at these pictures — most taken with my phone, at the finish line, trying to catch a bit of the background and still achieve a flattering selfie — I count five races run alone, and seven with others. There were two relays (a full and half marathon), two 10Ks, a 10 mile, a duathlon (5K run plus 16 mile bike), a 7K, and five 5Ks (one of them a trail race).
Four were really cold — the Polar Dash (-10 below on New Year’s Day), Get Lucky (unseasonably 10° at the start, in March), Drumstick Dash (unseasonably 15° with a nasty windchill in Milwaukee on Thanksgiving Day), and the last race, the Hopeful 5K, at least reached 0°. (The Jumping Jack Frost — that’s the one with the glow earrings — was a perfectly comfortable 25°; great winter running weather.)
Four were really, really hot. The heat index forced the August 25 Minneapolis Duathlon to abandon the second 5K (it was supposed to be 5K-16 mile-5k) What? 90° plus 80% humidity isn’t safe you say? Compared to that the Women Rock 10K a week later was cool runnings at only about 80° air temperature and considerably drier. The Fargo Marathon relay (May) was hot and sticky too, as was the August Hearts Healing Hearts 5K trail race; the sun was so hot on the rain-soaked mud you could almost see the steam rising.
Some were big, established, popular name-brand races. Some were tiny fundraisers or put on by road warriors who just love the sport. All moved me in some way — the first 5K that the boys, Scott, and I ran together (Drumstick Dash), the sea of thousands of powerful women ahead of me on the Women Rock course, or running up an endless mud hill for the Young Adult Heart Foundation, because being sick when you are young is just so damn unfair.
It’s not unusual for me to cry during a race or a long run. I’m sure it has something to do with releasing stress or endorphins or pushing yourself when you think you can’t.
But maybe it’s the group of women, in their matching crazy socks and homemade tutus, running their first race together, all in a row. When one slows down and says “you go ahead, it’s okay,” and they answer “hell, no! We’re doing this together.” Or my friend, in that same race, glowing with pride (and possibly a little heatstroke) — damn right she finished that 10K, and it’s been a while for her, too.
Or maybe I cry because my cousin, after finishing her 6.5 mile leg of the Fergus Falls relay, decided on the spot to run with me the rest of the way. Or because my friend ran that 7K so. very. slowly, since I was just seven days post-(yes, another) surgery. Or because the 14 members of the Run with Heart team not only put in the 400+ miles of training and finished the marathon, but raised $35,000 for heart disease, too.
Or perhaps I cry because I suddenly realize I’m running fast, and it doesn’t hurt. That I can, because I am, so I keep going. Or because I actually finished the 8-mile training run, Scott slow-jogging alongside me, and I hadn’t run that far since . . . before, and sometimes I wondered if I’d ever do it again.
Or maybe it’s simply this, from the back of someone’s shirt in the Fargo relay:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” — Timothy 4:7
Put on shoes. Step on porch.