It was the first weekend run for the AIDS Marathon Training Program. Time to meet my fellow runners and be put into a pace group. I made nice with a cute redhead because that is my wont; we'll call her Aeon Flux. She was just as intimidated as I was about running a marathon, so I was glad it wasn't just me.
When we were told to segregate into hypothetical pace groups, I guessed 15:00 (per mile), and since Aeon didn't really know how to guess, I told her to stick with me. Standing and waiting, we became acquainted with a guy we'll call Odin, who had accidentally locked his keys in his car. See, I do okay in situations where A) everyone knows each other or B) no one knows each other. It's when you get into situations where C) everyone knows each other but me that we get into trouble.
After some introductions and motivation, we divided into groups. Since Aeon and I pretended to know what we were doing and Odin had no idea, he stuck with us. In this first run, we were supposed to run at our own pace. Odin and I quickly left Aeon behind, and I found that I was somehow able to go farther than ever before without resorting to walking. I realized that my "training pace" had been two or three times too fast; I didn't know we were allowed to train at what amounted to a light jog! After my calves began to burn (and Odin left me behind), I gave myself permission to walk, and walking is evil, because you start using different muscles, which means the muscles you were using now have permission to cry out in pain.
Not long after I made the turnaround, I saw that Aeon was not far behind; I had looked back several times during the run and not seen her. I was running when we passed each other, and she remarked in awe that I was still running; I assured her that there had been walking involved as well. I switched to walking soon after, but then Aeon came up running behind me, so we began to run together because A) if we finished together, we would end up in the same pace group, which would be good and B) I couldn't let her pass me after being behind me for the entire first half! I think I ran the entire last mile, despite my feet hurting like hell and slowly becoming numb. Aeon said I was doing really well for someone whose feet were hurting so much. I told her I was an "ignore the pain" sort of guy. That or "redirect the pain."
Coaches were waiting for us at the finish line to give us our time. When one of the coaches calculated our pace group, she first asked, "Are you together?" It took us both a few seconds to realize she meant together, which was amusing. We cheerfully said no. I wasn't sure what that had to do with anything, really, since we had the same time, so we would have to be in the same pace group regardless, right?
We were put in the Joan Benoit Samuelson group, which trained at 13:00 per mile. I remarked that that was two minutes faster than I had guessed, and the coach noted that it was a minute slower than what I'd done; we'd clocked in at 12:00 per mile. This meant we got to run three minutes and then walk one minute. Odin had finished a little before us and ended up in the 13:30 group.
We stood around and recovered. Aeon let me have a swig of water, which was nice. Initially, I thought Joan Benoit Samuelson was the name of our instructor or something, but as I looked at the groups, I saw Jeff Galloway's name on the list, and then I remembered that the groups are named after famous marathon runners. And I saw Alberto Salazar on the list! Ha! I tried to explain to Odin and Aeon why it was awesome, but neither had seen Sports Night. Woe!
We signed up for our group, which included Aunt May, who had run a marathon before; Liu Kang, who had trained for a marathon before but had injured himself before the race; and Ororo, who totally endeared herself to me by, after we appointed her group secretary, telling us to call her "girl Friday."
After we got a talk from the coach, Aeon went to her mom to call AAA on Odin's behalf, and I asked Ororo to take a picture of me running to put on my donor page and on a flier at work. She thought it was a good idea, so I took some of her too. Aeon and Odin were back, so I asked if they wanted pictures too.
Ororo said, "Oh, but you guys all know each other, right?"
We laughed. "No," I said, "we just met today."
I think I'm going to like training in a group like this. You get a lot of support, and it provides a lot of motivation.
You know what else provides a lot of motivation?
Seriously, every time I run, and it hurts, and I think I can't do it, I want to quit. I just want to give up. It seems impossible. But so many of you have sponsored me! So many of you believe in me. My required goal is $1,800, but I think I can easily make it an even $2,000. I know a lot of people on my flist hate Rob Thomas and think he's a total douche or whatever, but he donated $250. I was floored. When you get support like that, you know you can't let people down; you are going to run that marathon, dammit. But to be honest, I would rather have all of you donate as little as $5 than have some of you donate $25. Not that I'm not appreciative of substantial donations, but I'm not not appreciative of small donations! I want to see a whole shitload of names on my donor page. I want to see all these people who have got my back. Because I got new shoes so my feet won't hurt, but that won't stop the rest of me from hurting, and I need you guys to keep me going. And to keep the San Francisco AIDS Foundation going. You guys are the ones who are really helping people. I'm just doing the legwork. Literally.
As a collective, we AIDS Marathon Training Program runners are attempting to raise $1,000,000 for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and I want as many of you to be a part of that awesome goal as possible.