Running (or lack thereof)

As I’ve mentioned before, my dad is the Athletic Director for San Pedro High School–my alma mater’s hugest rival.  Despite attending Narbonne High, my brothers and I pretty much grew up within the PE department of Pedro, and the coaches and teachers became like a second family to us.  Because of the prestige we’ve gained from our father, and the fact that we all ran Cross Country in high school, we were invited to run in their Alumni Cross Country meet at our home course tomorrow.  I’ve heard that Valerie, Pedro’s best runner during my time, and my fiercest competitor, will be racing.  By “fiercest” I mean, friendliest and humblest non-teammate I’ve ever had the privilege to run against (and beat once…in the mile…at my home track…but that’s another story).
I probably would have ignored the pain of my recovering ankle surgery and negligently ran in the meet for nostalgic purposes, but as soon as I heard Valerie was going to be there, I opted to be a supporting observer.  Marissa humorously expressed my exact sentiment when I told her she could run, and that Valerie would be there, by replying:  “I’m not about to make a fool of myself.”  Back in high school, Valerie was a top notch runner, as well as the entire San Pedro Cross Country team, and while Marissa and I still run occasionally to keep in shape, we are nowhere near the racing speeds or endurance of our youth, and we’re betting that Valerie still is.
Without coming across as a braggart, I just want to state that Marissa and I were born with some raw talent in running.  As freshmen, we were the fastest on our team, and went to City Finals every year of high school.  We quickly overcame our competitor from Banning High, Juana, in our freshman year, and were living large until San Pedro’s team stepped it up and started producing some bomb runners.  We had some goodhearted coaches who believed in us and worked with us to the best of our abilities, but we just weren’t as dedicated as the San Pedro runners, and our high school’s running program was just not as well organized as theirs, so it became increasingly difficult to individually win meets.
I wish I could say that we tried our hardest, but looking back at my high school running days, it’s clear that we did not.  Our coaches continually told us girls to separate during practice runs, so that we’d be training at each of our ability levels, but we stubbornly stayed in a group so that we could chat together for the 5 or so miles.  As soon as we got a few blocks away from school, we’d slow down and plan out the order of a natural arrival, leaving in waves so that it would appear to our coaches and teammates that we weren’t actually running together the entire time.  Sadly, our coaches eventually caught on and would periodically monitor our runs more closely.
Also, on hot afternoons, or days that we just didn’t feel like running, us girls would run to my house (which was right off our route and only a quarter of a mile away) to gorge ourselves on granola bars and fresh oranges picked from my tree, all while jumping on our huge backyard trampoline.  It could be argued that we were still getting some sort of endurance training through the constant jumping, but really, it was purely a time for rest, relaxation, and sweet, sweet snacking.  Our workout was so minimal that we’d have to “sweat” ourselves with the water hose before we took off back to school to make it look like we actually did our run. 
I’m not saying we did this all the time, or even every week, but I can imagine what sorts of runners we could have become had we actually trained correctly.  We relied on our natural abilities to get us through our meets, and it’s amazing that we got as far as we did.  That said, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.  No, I never made it past City Finals to State Championships, and yes, San Pedro’s growing team eventually overtook ours, but I have some amazingly fun and silly memories with my cross country teammates that I wouldn’t have had I actually listened to my coaches and broke away from the pack during practices.  What other cross country team sings camp songs together while running for miles?  Instead of focusing on medals, we focused on friendships, and I’m thankful for it, because you know what?  I got both.  


Marathon Woes

I ran my first, and possibly last, marathon on March 21, 2010.  Running the LA Marathon had been a dream of mine since high school, but being a competitive athlete, there was no way I could take off the weeks needed for recovery afterwards; the race is always held in the heart of Track season.  After a college injury and advice from my trainers, I reluctantly stopped competitive running altogether.  Without the motivation to race, I gradually discontinued any sort of training.  I still ran here and there, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2009 that I decided to get back into races. 
I use the word “races” as a term, not literally.  I was not willing to re-injure myself and do any all-out competitions; I just wanted to get out there with other people who shared my passion and run the best that I could.  So that October, I got my cousin Marissa, her husband Alex, and my friend Danny to join me in our first half-marathon.  With limited time for training, and all of us just getting back into running, it was surprising how easy the 13.1 miles were!  When I finished, I felt like I could have easily kept going.  This spurred our interest in a full-length marathon, and we quickly began a training program. 
Despite numerous long training runs (the last four Saturday runs being 16-22 miles each), I still managed to hit that wall during the actual marathon, and I hit it at mile 16.  Basically, the thought of going another 10 miles was messing with my head, and I started to feel discouraged.  Luckily, I had my cousin by my side, and with Marissa’s support, I was able to get over that mental block.  We were doing this together, dammit, and nothing was going to stop us! 

Then something happened that I was completely unprepared for.  Somewhere during mile 19, I peed my pants.  Yes, you read that right.  I straight peed on myself, and I couldn’t stop it!  I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even tell Marissa what was happening to me.  It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to endure while running.  Small squirts of urine would seep out regardless of how hard I tried to keep it in.  Those who know me well, know I don’t drink a lot of water, even on runs, and I think that was my saving grace.  While my dark blue shorts slowly became saturated, nothing ran down my legs, and for that, I was grateful.  But the thought of having a dark spot in the crotch of my shorts gave me further motivation to finish the race.

My new goal was to quickly get to each water station so that I could create a façade of cooling myself by dumping water all over my front in an attempt to hide the ever-growing patch on my shorts.  And it worked!  When I was emailed my marathon photos, the first thing I looked for was my pee stain.  Fortunately, not even a hint of it could be seen!  Although I was mortified when it started, and worried that there would be photographic evidence, by the time I hit mile 22, I didn’t care if onlookers could tell.  I was the one butchering my body to complete 26.2 miles and they were just standing on the sidelines; judge away!

After 5 hours 4 minutes and 50 seconds, I crossed that finish line (relatively dry) with Marissa and Danny by my side, and it was one of the most intense feelings I have ever experienced.  Tears of pride, pain, and relief streamed down my face as I hugged Marissa and Danny.  We did it!  Will I do it again?  “Hell no!” was my immediate response for a long time.  However, lately, I’ve been contemplating running another.  Each time I think about it though, there’s a big question looming in my mind: Is it worth the possibility of urinating on myself to get a time under 5 hours? 

It just might be.