Three years ago, I faced major surgery. I wondered if I’d ever be able to exercise vigorously and live the way I had before or be confined to light workouts walking on a treadmill or worse for the rest of my life. That question was forever put to bed yesterday when I crossed the finish line at the Rock N’ Roll half-marathon in downtown LA.My time was just under three hours.
The morning started around 5:45 for me. I woke up and slipped out of bed trying not to disturb my wife and our two golden retrievers who were stretch out at the end of the bed. I quickly got dressed and grabbed a bowl of cereal, mini-wheats, my favorites. It felt like my last meal. I had a dangling fear that I may be biting off more than I could chew, that I might…well keel over and expire right there in the middle of Figueroa as other runners pass me by. It was still dark when I buckled into my car. I kept thinking how crazy I was to do this. I tried to come up with a viable reason not to do it but I couldn’t come up with any. I drove through the empty streets wondering what the race would be like, nothing I thought was even close to the reality.
I arrived at the South West parking lot and got in line behind a few dozen other cars waiting to get in the underground garage. I kept testing my legs, knees and calves to see if I had any pains, something that might be a problem while running but I was fine. My yellow media pass got me right into the parking area without any problem. I pulled in a spot in the P2P6 area. I wanted to remember where I’d parked so I kept repeating it as I changed into my running gear and attached my numbered bib. The bib was the only way to identify me if I collapse during the race which was of little comfort as I kept wondering if I should have told my wife I was running. It was too late now, I reasoned with myself so I headed for LA Live to connect with the BTS Marathon team and my crew Josh Silver and Justin Rosenberg.
I soon realized how insanely crowded the event was. Thousands of runners in gear and Halloween outfits. All ages, all types, men and women ready to do their thing. I briefly connected with Josh and told him I meet him with the team near the start. I never saw him again. In fact I didn’t see one Beit T’ Shuvah runner until the end of the race. The only time I saw anyone was at the halfway point when I saw Justin taking pictures as I passed by and Stephanie, Lexy and a few others yelling and screaming their support around the six mile marker.
As I lined up with my corral #11, I could see how many people were crazy enough to abuse their bodies for 13.1 miles and it blew my mind. There were men and women dressed up as ballerinas, wonder women, zombies, Smurfs, digital icons and all sorts of other strange characters. Running 13.1 miles is hard enough but running in a banana suit? C’mon.
After a good twenty minutes our group was finally ready to start. The countdown rang out over the crowd 10,9,8,7…and so forth. We were off. The first three miles went by rather quickly. There were cheerleaders and rock music at every mile checkpoint to keep everyone’s spirits flying high. I kept looking for good position to run in but we were all crammed together in a narrow area until the first turn to our right. By the time I reach the three mile marker and ran under the inflatable “heavy metal guitar player arch” I was in a smooth groove. For the next six miles I felt as if my head and body were separate entities. I was moving well yet I still had all these thoughts swimming around my head like “Where are the Beit T’ Shuvah runners?’ “Can I run a twelve minute mile pace?” “Why did I do this?” “Will I be able to finish?” “Am I going to be sore tomorrow?” and on and on. I smiled at all the grade school cheerleaders yelling on the sidewalks. “Keep Running Runners!” When I reached the nine mile marker it seems like we would turn around in front of the Spring Street Bridge and head back but that was not what happened. The course took us right up the bridge and over to the other side. I started to feel my legs getting heavy and I thought now might be a good time to walk a little and conserve my strength. So yes, I walked. I wasn’t happy to walk but I did. I also wanted to make sure I was ok and not too wobbly or ready to pass out even though I felt fine. It was a “Woody Allen Jewish Moment” for me. I stopped to take a picture at this point and notice how the result was foggy looking and I wondered whether my mindset had affected the picture, because it captured the mood perfectly. So I walked and jogged all the up the span of the bridge until I reached the top of the bridge and the eleven mile marker. My feet were killing me. and I was cursing myself for not buying running shoes. The padding in the toe area was obviously insufficient so my toes were taking a pounding. As I turned around to head home I was now facing downtown and the skyscarapers rising out of a tangle of smaller buildings. It was a beautiful site and I could now see how far I had come and how close I was to finishing. I felt energized and my feet hurt a little less as I plodded across the bridge. Once I hit mile twelve I ready to push towards the finish line. The last real obstacle was the tunnel coming into the last turn which turned left onto Figueroa. The tunnel was echoing with loud music that was almost deafening and it was dark especially with my sunglasses on. But I made it through and onto the last stretch towards the finish. As I ran towards the finish line I was amazed that I wasn’t tired at all and the only pain I felt was in my left foot. The closer I came to the finsih the louder the music and the announcer became urging everyone onward. I finished with a slight kick making it just under three hours. I saw Justin at the finish line taking shots as I cruised past. I grabbed the first bottle of water I could find and doused myself with it. My fears about dropping dead or not finishing were gone and I realized I had achieved a “bucket list” event in my life. Later on the “Shuv” team gathered in the parking lot near LA Live and sat down to swap stories. It was a great achievement for us all.