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A Hiker Who’ll Become a Runner for a Day

LAST UPDATE: I finished the race! I did it. I completed in 3:00:19, which was definitely not my target, but I’ll take it. I started out very strong, but by mile 9 lost some steam and watched the 2:45 pacer whizz past. I kept up through mile 11, and then had extremely painful charlie horses in each of my calves, which forced me to walk the remaining 2.1 miles in. I’m sure the photo of me at the finish is a great one. Still got my finisher medal. Would I do another half? I don’t know…maybe next year, just to beat that three hour time. We’ll see.

UPDATE: I ran my final “long” training run a week ago–one week before the race–10 miles (taper? what taper?). It actually wasn’t bad at all and I felt very confident and happy with my progress. I felt as though I had this Half in the bag. Then, the next day, my hips and knees were hurting badly. I shrugged it off as post-run soreness and figured I’d be fine by Saturday. Well, as I write this, it’s Friday, the race is in the morning, and my right knee is still really hurting. I have a feeling it’s runner’s knee because it feels fine when I’m using it (i.e. running or walking), but at rest or sleeping it hurts pretty badly. Now, I am completely freaking out about the race tomorrow.  How am I going to possibly do 13.1 miles on with this pain? What’s going to happen when I’m finished? The very last thing I want to do is permanently injure myself, but from most things I’ve read I won’t. I know many runners have pushed through the intense pain and gone on to finish their best race. But, everyone is different. Am I making a terrible mistake? Someone pease talk some sense into me or cheer me on. As of right now, I plan to do this thing, whether it’s running or walking it. I’ll let you all know how it goes 🙂

In exactly two weeks, I will be participating in my first-ever half marathon. It’s one of the biggest marathon events around with something like 15,000 participants. It covers some neat (and usually off-limits) areas at the Air Force base right near my home. I am super excited. Unfortunately, I don’t feel in any way ready. I won’t go into the circumstances of how I ended up getting signed up for this race, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now. The opportunity came and I decided to do it.

I am NOT a runner. I am a hiker. I have hiked easy trails and difficult ones. I have hiked 26 miles in a single day in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve hiked 13 miles at a local state park in under four hours (including scenery watching, backtracking for a lost piece of gear, and stopping for lunch). Three months ago, I hiked a good sized-chunk of one of the most rugged sections of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Some of those extensive hiking trips were back when I was in absolutely terrible shape and had no conditioning. I know distance. I know leg pain. And, I know how to push through it when there’s no other option than to just keep going.

For some reason, though, running 13.1 miles on pavement has me intimidated. Like, really intimidated. That should be much easier than a rocky, steep trail, right?

I have completed races before, including a 5K and a 10K I ran/walked three years ago. I finished both events–one in the top of my age group and the other right in the middle. The problem is, I really don’t enjoy running. I’d much rather walk or hike. I’ve been “training” by walking 2-5 miles every day for the past several months, but I haven’t done any long runs or extensive endurance training for this. Will I regret it? Probably.

I’ve got most of the philosophical stuff down. “No new stuff on race day”. Got it. “Hydrate heavily before, during and after the race”. Got it. “Wear loose-fitting clothes”. Got it. “Be able to run without walking for at least 10 miles”. Ooooh, don’t got it. Walk it? I can do that with my eyes closed. Who said I can’t walk it, anyway? No one.

I think what intimidates me most is the thought of being in a race with other people who treat running like it’s their job. In a 5K or 10K, there are hundreds of other walkers, but in a half or full, it will be mostly runners. I might be surprised, but that remains to be seen. This IS considered a “walker friendly” race, with a finish cutoff of six hours. I intend to come in WAY under that with a goal of three hours or less. I know I can do it, but my body might not. Ha.

I may run this thing. I may walk part of it. I may walk most of it. I’m not doing this race for a PR or to try to prove anything crazy to myself. I’m doing this race to get my finisher medal and prove that this 42-year-old guy can do it. I have nothing to prove and nothing to lose. I  know it’s going to hurt. A lot. But I also know the feeling of crossing the finish line and getting that medal and an ice-cold beer. And, you know what? I can’t wait.

Everyone say a little prayer for me. 🙂