Today I ran a half-marathon in Central Park. It was unpleasant, comically bad, horrible to the point of just being funny. When I finished I was soaking wet - my clothes, my body. Maybe it was from sweat, maybe it was the intermittent rain, maybe it was from the hoses they had spraying water along the way. As I crossed the finish line, collecting my celebratory water, gatorade, and popsicle, my feet squelched in my shoes and I grimly looked forward to a lengthy battle with foot mold. I ran into James, who ran it as well, and he looked like he had been hiding in the bayou and breathing through reeds for the last three weeks - we were all filthy and wet and grimy.
The actual course was two loops around Central Park, plus a bonus mile. I tried to stay positive, but "You can do it!" eventually became, "You have to do it. You can't tell people you failed. Don't humiliate yourself, don't shame the family." Cowed, I pressed on, availing myself of the rest stops and trying, honestly to not throw up for the last five miles. My mantra, besides "Don't shame the family," was "Make it a burp, make it a burp."
In the humidity and dampness, trying to jockey for position among improbably swift old people and apparently bionic professional runners, I tried to distract myself. "Wow, you're in law school. What do you think of that?" and "How does it feel to be engaged? To L?" But I was only fooling myself - I spent the entire race thinking about how far I had come, what percentage of the race I had completed, whether I had to repeat this section of the course, what hills were coming up, when the water station would appear, how quickly I could comfortably run, what my mile time was.... It was horrible, like computing obscure baseball statistics for two hours.
But the point is, I did it and I am proud of myself. It was as painful as the Great Saunter back in May, but it wasn't as pleasant to endure. After this race, my catalog of injuries includes: a painfully sore knee, blisters on my right foot, and chafed and bloodied ankles. The backs of my socks and sneakers were bloody when the race finished. Think about that. It was like the Passion of the Listless Runner out there. No good.
And yet -- doing it gave me a sense of satisfaction I rarely find nowadays, a sense of physical pride; I took one of the best naps ever afterwards (the most fun I've had in my bed alone); the rest of the day was nonchalant and pleasant; and I will sleep like a rock tonight. I think, after the pain fades away, I will look forward to doing this again in Staten Island in October.
And also: I have another reading coming up in three weeks, on September 19. I have to learn how to write again. Topics to discuss: the engagement, law school, the southern trip, Six Flags, this race. I have to learn to write.