There are T-minus 22 days left before my big run. At 5:30 a.m. on September 1, I'm taking a huge leap of faith that my battered body and "old" legs will carry me over a 13.1 mile course through Anaheim. I can only hope that there is enough Magic at Disneyland to make the feet pick up and step back down enough times to get me from start to finish. I repeat... ugh.
Before you tell me that I'm not "old," I will first remind you that I said my legs were old, and then I'll explain. I started playing basketball when I was in the 5th grade. That does not consider, count or include the countless playground games played before 5th grade, nor does that consider, count or include the usual running around and daily activity of a very active kid (with cousins to chase around on a regular basis.) Basketball in the 5th grade (and various camps during the summer) was in addition to gym class and was followed by basketball in the 6th grade. There were try-outs and a tournament and the winner of the class tournament got to play against the teachers. Because I was in Mr. White's class and we had Anita Jurcenko, our team won the tournament and got to play the teachers. For those of you who did not grow up in Jefferson, OH and have no clue who Anita J. is, just think "superstar" or quite possibly, the Michael Jordan of girls' high school basketball in Northeast (or perhaps even the entire state) of Ohio. To say that she put her mark on the sport in the early 90s is an understatement. But I digress...
In Junior High, I was a 3 sport athlete - volleyball, basketball and track. I ran, I jumped, I ran some more. Daily practices or games or meets and lots and lots of exercise. Transition to high school and four solid years of 3 sports. This amounted to essentially a year 'round beating up of my legs, from August (pre-season for volleyball) through June (post-season for Track) and then through the summer (open gym for basketball.) Injuries ranged from twisted ankles to bone spurs behind my kneecap (still there) to "patella femoral syndrome" and "jumper's knee" (or are those the same things? I don't remember.) Recruited to play hoops in college, off I went with my knee brace and ankle braces in hand.
Officially, college basketball practices cannot start until the end of October. "Unofficially," your attendance was noted from Day-1 in the big gym and if you weren't there, seniors gleefully broke down your door. (Or you just did not make the team or get to play.) August and September open gyms made way for October practices and games, season through March and then spring work outs. Two more years of abuse on the ol' knees before one gave out. Luckily, no torn ACLs or MCLs, and no reconstructive surgery, just massive bruising and pain that no one could explain. Just an orthopedic doctor telling me that he could scope the knee, clean up the bone spurs and relieve the pain but given my then-current rate of activity, I'd be back to see him in 5 years. A lack of decent insurance might have played into his apathetic view of my recovery, but I had no surgery at the time. That fall, I switched to volleyball. Different movements, less pain, still bad knees.
Throughout that time, consider the constant movement and pounding that my knees took every day in practice. (Of course, this is nothing compared to the pounding that pro athletes take, but now you might understand a little bit more why many of them are wandering around with canes or need assistance getting in and out of chairs or cars.)
Fast forward 17 years since graduation, years which found me playing lots of beach volleyball (working in sand is so good for your vertical!) and indoor leagues and most recently (within the last 2 years), back to volleyball and basketball after taking a brief hiatus to have kids. The wear and tear on my knees over the last 25 plus years has started to take its toll.
So for some strange reason, I decided to run a 1/2 marathon. Something I've never done before. Yes, I ran track in high school, but I rarely ran more than a 400 meter dash at once. (Coach Locy convinced me to run the 800 once. I won that race but never ran it again. I hated it.) The idea of running miles, one right after the other, frankly turns my stomach. Not because I don't like running, but because I don't like running long distances... because it can be so boring. I thought the Disneyland one might be a way to get around that boredom factor. After all, I'm running down Main Street U.S.A., right?
The race information includes a training program which has 2 short runs each week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and a longer run on the weekends, alternating each weekend between a steadily increasing distance and a "maintenance" distance. This past week, I was on vacation. It goes without saying that I missed both the Tuesday and Thursday short runs. Yes, I walked ALL over Chicago, pushing a stroller with a 2 year old most of the way, but no runs. Saturday, I was supposed to do a long 12 mile run. Did not happen. I came home on Monday and on Tuesday I did my short run. It hurt like hell. I was supposed to run again last night, but the cold I brought home from Chicago (don't ask) decided to manifest itself in a pounding headache. The idea of pounding feet was not pleasant.
This Saturday is supposed to be a short run and I anticipate getting that done. But I'm starting to panic. Next Saturday is supposed to be my last long training run, 14 miles. But I did not do the 12 miler last week to build up to it, and I am signed up to run a 5K next Saturday (the Foam Run - should be fun.) But like I said, I'm starting to panic. Am I going to be ready to do this? We have friends traveling from Australia to run this race with us (the whole crazy reason I even signed up for this thing...) and I don't want to let them down or embarrass myself.
Ugh, ugh, ugh.
In my mind, it all works out. In my mind, I am able to run the entire course without having to walk (although by no means setting any records), and I finish to the cheers of my little girls and hugs all around. (And after all, isn't visualizing the result you want half the battle?) I tell myself that my short training runs still do good, even if they aren't the full distance I have to run. I tell myself that the start of the race through Downtown Disney will distract me to such an extent that I'll be on mile 2 or even mile 3 before I realize that something hurts. That is what I tell myself.
We will see what happens. Like I said at the beginning, I still have 22 days. That should be plenty of time to convince these old knees to take a few more steps, run up a few more hills, a few more laps around the track - if for no other reason than in the end, I will get to run through Sleeping Beauty's Castle on my way to to the finish line.