For two hours, I watched Sunday's New York City Marathon from my couch, riveted by the head-to-head race between Paula Radcliffe and her opponent Gete Wami. For two hours I watched them run.
If you would've told me a year ago that I would find a marathon interesting enough to watch on TV, I probably would have called you deluded. Long-distance running may be good exercise but it is a boring, monotonous sport — especially as a spectator. Wasn't that obvious?
Well, no, actually. I was - ahem - wrong. I was wrong because this year, I watched it as a runner, my foot propped up on a bag of ice (I'm suffering from Achilles Tendonitis), fascinated by how effortless five-minute miles could seem; in suspense when it looked like Radcliffe's legs were ready to collapse underneath her; and nearly jumping out of my seat when Wami surged ahead for a split second at mile 25 before falling back behind.
I was sucked in because last month, I finished my first half-marathon. After a decade of three-mile start-and-stop running fits, I got my ass to a long-distance race and finished it in 2:21:27.
The story about how I got there, I'll save for another day. But let's just say that I only ever wanted to do one — just to say I did it and move on. What I didn't expect, though, was that I would like the feeling of accomplishment I got each time I went further or faster during practice runs and shorter races; that I would like the physical challenge, even though I think of myself as cerebral; that I would experience a sense of physical accomplishment that had nothing to do with vanity. And so now, I'm planning on running my second half this January. And this time, I plan to do it faster.
The only problem, of course, is my left heel which has had me sitting out for the past two weeks and freaked that I'm going to lose the momentum that got me to the half-marathon in the first place. Especially, as fall turns to winter — the bitter cold is disincentive enough to stop running, forget about restarting.
I was freaked out, that is, until I watched the marathon and caught myself thinking wow, that was awesome. And suddenly, I knew that no matter what, I would get back out there as soon as I could. Finally, I get the whole runner's high hullabaloo.
And then I kicked myself (with my good foot of course) for being too hung over to make it to Central Park and cheer the racers at the finish line.