Friday, November 11, 2011

Running For Camaraderie, Health and Myself

Rachel and Tracy at the finish line

"In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, 'I have finished.' There is a lot of satisfaction in that."
-Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder
Almost two weeks ago, my good friend Rachel and I ran the Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.  This was our third half marathon – not to mention the many 10K and 5K races – which we have shouldered together. 
For the past five years, we have been running companions – so throughout the year – we lace up our running shoes and pound the pavement together a few mornings a week.
However, over the past month, we had to amp our training schedule into high gear in order to get some major miles under our belt.  So, once the race was done, it was so nice not to feel pressured by our early morning runs.
The half marathon ideal is great because we have a shared goal and it sure as hell is a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning when you know someone is doing it with you.  For me, I love to run and it is my Prozac.  I gear up for these races because I love the results and I get them by doing something I love.
But for many years, I was a solo runner.  I didn’t take to sharing “my running time” and planned many of Christmas cards, speeches, packing lists all while rocking out with my iPod.  To me, running solo is almost like meditating.
Yet, one week off, and I found myself missing my running buddy.  It made me realize that, for me, running is no longer just about me; I have grown accustomed to the camaraderie that Rachel and I have formed.
Over the years, I have run with other friends as well – Barbara, Gabby, Tracie, Eliza – and those have also been fulfilling to me.  Don’t get me wrong, here and there, I get a solo run in and, since I don’t do them very often, it feels good to get out and there and just go Zen with my iPod.  But ultimately, friends don’t let friends run alone.
Last year – Rachel, Barbara and I ran the Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon for the first time.  I thought that it was a great event.  The start line was cordoned off into corrals and the amount of pushing and limited space was slim to none.  The course started in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park and passed through trendy neighborhoods like Silver Lake and Atwater Village with the finish line at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.  It was really cool to see other L.A. neighborhoods that I don’t usually frequent.

The infamous Bret Michaels
This year, the course was pretty simple: starting in downtown LA and running down to University of Southern California and around the L.A. coliseum; returning back through downtown passing through the warehouse district and Japan town; and ending back at L.A. Live again.

A pseudo-highlight of this year’s race was that Bret Michael’s – reality TV star and formerly of the glam hair band Poison – performed a post-race concert.  We finished the race around 9:30 a.m. so, by the time we got some coffee and had walked around a bit, it was time for the concert.  We ended up a few rows back and had a close-up look at his male cleavage if you know what I mean.  I think we were a bit giddy with exhaustion so,after two songs and many chuckles, Rach and I were on our way.

However, right before we left, they stopped the concert and asked Brett Michael’s to make an urgent announcement.   They called a man’s name and asked him to report to the side of the stage.  The request seemed serious and dire and, only later did we learn tragic.
The next morning, I heard on the news that a 37-year-old runner collapsed close to the finish line and had been pronounced dead upon arrival to the hospital.  Rachel was the one who made the association that the concert announcement could have been in regards to the man.
Morbid curiosity I suppose, but I had to look it up.  The Orange County Register reported that Charles Riske, of Costa Mesa, died of an apparent heart attacked while running the half marathon.  He was only 37 years old and a successful business man.  The absolute saddest part of it all was that he and his wife were expecting their first baby in February.  I felt so affected by this tragedy.
I don’t know if he was an avid runner or not.  It didn’t state that information in any of the articles; however, it made me think about going the distance.
I have been running seriously since I was in high school.  As of today, I have completed one full-marathon, six half-marathons, and many other races of various distances.  I have never considered running dangerous to my health.
Rachel and I both don’t even consider ourselves serious “runners” because we don’t run too fast or too far; but reading about this guy who passed away while running in the same race as us, it made me think that we aren’t giving ourselves enough credit.
A half marathon – is only 13.1 miles – and not 26.2 like a full marathon.  But it truly takes dedication and perseverance to just get out there and go that far.  Not to mention the importance of a training regime to prepare not just your legs and mind for the long run, but your heart as well.
Even though we don’t feel as though we are doing anything significant since we have done it for so long, this situation made me look at our running in a new light.
I think all runners out there should give themselves a pat on the back for just getting off the couch and getting out there.
The phenomenon isn’t that we actually finished the race; it is that we had the audacity to start.

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