Running With a Smile

Every year I attempt to set a “fun goal” to go along with all the I-really-should-do (fill in the blank) ones.

This pleasurable practice has led to such memorable moments as viewing a live moose in the wild and meeting more than one famous author. But there have been memorable missteps, too, like my misguided ambition to attempt a 5K race despite the fact that the only running I’d done since the age of eight involved chasing my toddler sons.

I began to suspect my 5K target might be a mistake when my husband handed me a lovely card containing $25 and a map. The $25, he explained, was the entry fee for the Great Bay 5K Race in October and the map showed the race course, which he said we should drive after brunch at a restaurant along that very same Great Bay.

I panicked. Having the race map in my hands meant I might actually have to do this. It skyrocketed into terror when I realized that six months hardly seemed enough time to prepare to run 3.1 miles -- even under my training program ( that was supposed to take only nine weeks.

I wasn’t sure whether to blame my lack of athletic or math skills for my poor progress. The first week called for three days of alternating 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. Along with taxing my limited math abilities to figure out when to walk and when to jog, I feared a full collapse after only two minutes. I decided then that first I probably should train to begin training – and thought I had achieved a major milestone when I progressed from running one minute and walking 10 to running three minutes straight after a few weeks.

At this rate, the idea of running 3.1 miles began to seem like an impossible dream, although my spouse insisted it was an “achievable fantasy.” But I couldn’t help but note that last year’s winner completed the course in 14 minutes and 36 seconds. I don’t think I could drive it that fast.

So I suggested spending the $25 race fee on brunch before checking out the course. All confidence disappeared when we viewed the route. My husband tried to reassure me by pointing out it was fairly level and the only hill had a lovely name – Orchard Hill, which he noted wasn’t the same as “Torture Hill.”

I began to hyperventilate. “I can’t do this – my chest hurts,” I whined.

“But we’re still in the car,” he said.

In an apparent attempt to inspire me, he promised that running a 5K would earn me top billing in our annual holiday letter. “I’ll even take your picture in the T-shirt before the race just in case… ” he said, his voice trailing off when he saw my reaction. “So your hair will still look good,” he quickly added.

“Well, maybe you should take my picture now in my running gear so we’d have a 'before picture.' Wait, I don’t have any running gear. What the hell IS running gear?”

The conversation deteriorated from there. “What if it’s really hot on race day?” I asked. He grimaced. “I guess you’ll have to train all summer.” “What if it rains on race day?” “You better train in the rain.”

“This is one crummy gift,” I grumbled.

Then it struck me: My husband likes to write mysteries. He kills people on the pages for fun. “Maybe I’ll have a heart attack because you planned this all along,” I yelled. “When they're putting me in the ambulance, I’ll be pointing at you.”

“I think you need an attitude adjustment,” he replied.

When I related this tale to my oldest son, his jaw dropped. “You’re going to run a 5K on Oct. 27?” he finally said. “Will you be done by Halloween?”

He ignored my glare and continued, “Are there hotels along the route? Maybe you can run it in stages like they the Tour de France. You could run a mile a day, call it the Tour de Great Bay and even get bracelets made up, you know like Livestrong.”

“You mean more like Live Long Enough to Finish the Race?”

"Exactly," he said. "What are you going to do about your glasses, by the way?"

"Wear them, of course."

"But you'll be sweating so much that you might have trouble keeping them on," my husband interjected.

"I'm going to sweat?" I said. They looked astonished.

That’s when I decided to revise my fun goal for the year to WATCH a 5K. At least then I probably won’t have to worry about my glasses falling off.

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