Usually the weather in September in Seattle is amazing. For enduring nine months of chill and rain, the gods reward us with beautiful, humidity-free summers full of brilliant sunsets and crisp nights. Today, unfortunately, was different. Misting rain was chilling the air, hiding the mountains and ruining BBQs.
My buddy Anthony was in town, a stopover as he geared up for a motorcycle ride to Alaska. He planned to stay for about a week as he ordered more parts for his 500cc Buell Blast. Each night we spent watching The Long Way Round, a true-life mini-series about Ewan McGreigore and a buddy riding motorcycles around the world. Anthony would draw out his course on a huge wall map he bought, making sure there was somewhere to stop every 150 miles for gas. We'd drink beer and reminisce about life back in college on the East Coast. It was amazing, but at the same time, I was also envious of Anthony.
You see, I had sold my Suzuki TL-1000 in the spring to help pay for jaw surgery. Because of my finances, and because I was still healing from the procedure, my summer so far had been vacation-less. I would have loved to take off with Anthony on an adventure through British Columbia, the Yukon, and on to one of the last frontiers, Alaska. But no, I sold my v-twin Suzuki earlier in the year, and anyway, I had work on Monday.
A desk and cramped office waited for me, along with what I assumed was a life of normalcy. Crap.
Despite the rain and temperatures hovering in the 50s (bone-chilling when you're riding at 60mph), Anthony decided to backtrack, and ride his bike down to Portland for the day. On his journey into Seattle, another biker had mentioned a museum outside of Portland that he "had to see" and a particular stretch of road that was perfect for carving turns on a motorcycle. Not wanting to miss out, Anthony took off mid-morning for a day trip on his motorcycle. While I, nursing my injured ego, stayed home. Shoot. I didn't realize I was just minutes away from running a half-marathon.
After Anthony rode off on his bike, I putzed around the house for a few minutes. I downed a bowl of cereal, then laid on my couch shirtless and watch a few videos on Hulu.com. After neither The Office, or Raisin Bran could satisfy my hunger, I decided to get out of the house.
I've run around Greenlake countless times. The 3.1 mile path is looped by thousands of Seattleites each day. Mothers pushing stollers, runners, and friends catching up, the artificial lake is one of the jewels of the city. Before I left my house I tossed on a pair of basketball shorts and a t-shirt, and laced up a busted pair of Target sneakers (brand unknown).
The gray and blue shoes had been used for years as cheap gym shoes, and the seams had begun to tear. I think I had bought them for $20 four or five years before and they look exactly what you would think a five year old pair of Target sneakers would look like. But, this wasn't a big deal. I had run or run/walked Greenlake many days before. I wasn't a runner, but it gave me a way to warm-up for weight training, a past love.
I drove a mile and a half down to Greenlake. Parked my 1995 Honda hatchback near the bakery and crossed the street. The cold temperature and light rain had kept most folks away from the normally busy path circling the lake. Without stretching, I started off on a lazy jog; baggy clothes flapping in the air.
I was never a runner, but would do a mile or two to try to keep my weight down, or to destress after school or work. My routine would be the same every couple of weeks. Head to Greenlake in the same outfit, at the same pace, (and usually) with the same struggle to finish. This time however was different.
As I rounding the last turn in the three mile run, I wasn't forced to walk to finish. Instead I thought "maybe I can do two", and passed the start to begin another loop. I wasn't running fast and my feet began to hurt as my shoes deteriorated. But, I kept going.
At half-way through the second loop, the rain started to let up, and I was happy for the reprieve. This was the farthest I had EVER ran... 3.5 miles, 4, 4.5. I just kept plotting along, and to my amazement, I didn't stop.
As I finished my second loop of Greenlake (6 miles!), I realized two things. First, I felt that I could go farther--that surprisingly, I still had energy to keep jogging. My second realization: my feet were suffering incredibly. The middle toe on both of my feet are the longest toes, and therefore were taking the brunt of the force as each foot slid forward in my crumbling shoes, smashing into the front. I was guessing that I'd lose my toenails when the day was done, but didn't want to stop to check.
Despite my feet, I kept chugging along. And this little train had more to go. As I started my third loop of the lake, I decided try to run the length of a half marathon, 13.1 miles, or basically four times further than I'd ever run before. That meant two and a quarter more loops around Greenlake, beyond the two I just completed.
Surprising myself, I kept going. Mentally, I kept envisioning the idea of an adventure and chuckled at the idea that we all have opportunities to test ourselves right before us. "Yeah, I guess so", I thought.
Soon enough, miles eight, nine and ten slipped by, and I was facing my final loop of the lake. Visually I was a mess. My arms were flapping, my nipples were brutally chaffed from my shirt (novice, I know. But this was my first time running) and my stride was falling apart into a stumble from one step, to the next.
Luckily, I didn't stop, and finished the 13.1 miles, just as the sun was coming out.
I had just ran my first half-marathon. No one noticed my feat (or swollen "feet"), but every atom in my body was firing. I was elated and energized, like I had discovered a winning lottery ticket that had been tucked under a couch for years. I didn't know that this power existed in me.
After I got water, I limped to my car, drove home and inspected my wounded feet. Sure enough, the nails on my middle toes were smashed and dark purple with blood. When Anthony got back from his day trip, I told him of my bizarre journey. After looking at my toes, he both congratulated me and questioned my sanity.
While it was a few days before I tried to run again, from this first experience, I knew it was something I could do and enjoy. Within a week I picked up a pair of real running shoes, size 12 Adidas Supernovas. They felt amazing and sparked my passion for running.
So, that's how I got hooked. What's your story? Add a comment below.