I was tagged by OrdinaryLife to list 8 things that you probably don’t know about me. I have never been tagged in this sense of the word, so I am all excited…and stuff. I have decided to break this into 8 entries, to milk it, and also to explain the items in more mind-numbing detail.

My first marathon embarrasses the hell out of me.

I had always been a good runner. It was an easy thing to do – all I needed was a pair of shoes, socks, shorts and a shirt. It was an inexpensive way to stay in shape and a sure-fire way to ease stress or calm down when I was upset. It was also an easy thing to do sporadically. I could NOT run for weeks, months even, and then pick it up very quickly.

Now although I was a good runner, I was never a fast runner. Track in sixth grade had shown that to be true. I would do very very poorly on the short races, but would shorten the loss a bit on the longer ones. Still, I never won a race, but it didn’t matter in the least to me. I liked that there was something I could do that made me feel like I belonged to some specialized group, if that makes sense.

I ran in high school a bit, but was not serious about it. I ran in college to stay in shape, but didn’t compete and did not run regularly. And, I ran after I had kids and needed desperately to lose the post-baby weight. I think this might have been when I fell in love with running. I loved the solitude. I spent all day working and all evening with the kids. There was no alone time, no time to call my own. However when I was running? It was all about me. I could run where I wanted. I could stop when I wanted. I could stay out there for hours running and nobody would ask me to do anything – and it was glorious. I began running almost every day when the girls were around 4 and 5 years old. It was, as I said, a wonderful escape from everything else going on around me.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this running, I decided to train for a marathon. I cannot remember when, or why – but I became obsessed with the idea of running in the Chicago Marathon. And I trained my ass off. I of course did all of the wrong things: I had never bought new running shoes. I was wearing the same ones I had in high school. I ran on concrete, never mixing in trails, grass, or even blacktop. I increased mileage based on nothing scientific or logical. I ran myself ragged if you want to know the truth. I loved it, but my body had a hard time adjusting.

In the summer of 1995, 4 months before the marathon I was training for, I developed a stress fracture in my left leg. It hurt to walk. There was no way to run without causing more pain than I could endure, so I had to rest it for a few months and start all over. I remember trying to contact a doctor in South Carolina that claimed he could fix a stress fracture in a matter of weeks. I figured we would be there on vacation anyway, so he could just make everything better while I was there… but the whole process sounded a bit sketchy (oh my god, the guy was strange, strange, strange) and it didn’t seem like it was worth the risk of ending up crippled. So, I bagged the marathon that year and set my sights on 96.

I recovered from the stress fracture, bought new shoes, and learned how to train without injuring myself. I started with small distances and built up gradually, alternating running surfaces, times, days. I took days off. I was very watchful of any overuse injuries and backed off when I could feel my body being taxed.

I ran the marathon in 96. I thought I was ready. I was certain that I had trained enough, and had visions of finishing in 4 – 4:30 hours. Oh, I am a funny one. I have no idea what I was basing anything on. I had of this date not run in anything other than a few short races – all of which had put me running around 8:30 minutes per mile. In short races. So – I assumed I could do that for 26.2. Let’s call this MISTAKE 1.

I did fine for about the first 12 miles. Around the half-way point, I started feeling sick. I had trained with a drink called XLR8, and yet had decided to drink Gatorade in the race. I could not imagine there was a difference…Let’s call this MISTAKE 2. I spent a lot of time feeling like I was going to throw up, and some time actually doing it. It was horrible. I considered not finishing, but couldn’t face dropping out, so I continued on, very slowly.

I finished in just over 5 hours, not last, but nowhere near where I thought I would have. It was a horrible feeling. I had anticipated doing so well. I had trained for two years (although I had not trained properly based on knowledge I have now), I had endured injuries, I had in my mind done everything I could to be prepared for the race, and had finished with a time I was embarrassed to share with anyone. I even told one person at work I had finished in a shorter time than I had (MISTAKE 3) …which was really stupid, since they PUBLISH THOSE RESULTS ON THE WEB PEOPLE! She knew what my time had really been, and I ended up looking like a punk.

My lack of preparation was very evident after the race. I was so sore that evening that I couldn’t walk down stairs without completely relying on the railing to help me (MISTAKE 4). I couldn’t get into and out of a cab without help. And I lost most of my toenails. Apparently shoes should be a little bit bigger when running to allow room for your toes in the “toebox” so that you don’t – oh, smash them continuously into the front of your shoe, causing them to bleed under the nail and then separate from your skin (MISTAKE 5)! Who knew?

I have run another marathon since - Austin - a few years ago. I finished with a much better time, although did not end up with anything stellar. I managed to avoid all of the previous 5 mistakes, and I came in around 4 ½ hours which I was quite proud of. I felt as though finishing without puking was an accomplishment, and I kept all of my toenails…so there was less that.

I am not training for a ½ marathon that takes place in February. And by training, I really mean – I am thinking about training, because…I have not run one single time since signing up for the thing. When thinking about this yesterday it occurred to me what happened the last time I was totally unprepared for a run (see above) and have decided that training starts TODAY.

Now, before I am done with all 8, I am going to pass on this lovely task to two other fellow friends. Why Me, and Cate, have at it!