“Veronica and I are trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging, it might be a soft j. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time.”
In my 20s and early 30s, I was a runner (or, more appropriately, a yogger). Never a fast one, but I put in my miles and did lots of races. Mainly 10K’s, with some 5K’s sprinkled in, and even one with a 7 mile distance (The Falmouth Road Race). In 2000 I decided to amp it up and run a marathon, a goal that I’d set for myself when I was a student at Boston University.
I accomplished what I set out to do. The training and the struggle, and actually reaching the finish line, made it one of the most rewarding things I’d ever done. But then, for no good reason at all, it took another sixteen years (that is, until today) before I ran another race with the word “marathon” in it.
In the 1990s my plan was to run the Boston Marathon, the ultimate race to aspire to for anyone who grew up in New England. However, this 26.2-mile goal was always a vague “someday” one. Someday when I’m a little older. Someday when I have time to train. Someday when I get the rest of my shit together that I can concentrate on such a long race.
Flash forward to the fall of 1999. I was living in Los Angeles writing scripts during the day, bartending in the evening, and partying until dawn. Somehow I had still managed to continue running and completing races, but it was mainly to keep myself in reasonable shape. It was never out the spirit of competition. There was one 10K in Griffith Park that I did so hung-over that after crossing the finish line I emptied all the contents of my stomach into a port-a-potty (should you ever find yourself in a similar circumstance, you should avoid this at all costs. A bush, a tree, in front of a supermodel . . . all better locations).
Serious runners (or even yoggers) do not do that.
It was sometime after the Griffith Park race, eight or nine beers deep at the Cat & Fiddle, that I announced to nobody in particular that I was going to run the LA Marathon. My friends were less than enthused. Mark S shrugged, Mark W probably didn’t hear me, I think Dave smiled, Bradleigh laughed, and Kristi gave me the most encouragement with a pat on the back and “good luck with that, Mikey”. Of course I didn’t blame them, as marathon running was as foreign from our world as joining the peace corps or moving to the Inland Empire.
For whatever reason, I was determined. My daily workouts went from three miles to five, then seven to ten, and soon I was running up that crazy incline of Beachwood Canyon Road. I was still partying with my friends in true Hollywood Style, but I would do my long runs before the festivities started. Looking back on it, between the smog and booze, it is almost impossible to believe I actually committed to a training schedule.
But I did, and I was strict about it. Although as the year wound down and Y2K became a reality, I realized I needed a little more time if I was ever to reach my new time goal. Just finishing was no longer enough, I wanted to complete it in under five hours.
The LA Marathon in March became the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon in June.
It was a hot day in the city that Ron Burgundy once called the greatest on earth, but I tried to block it out and kept moving forward. During my training I had never run more than 16 miles (when the program said you should max out at 18), so I wasn’t even sure if I would even get to the finish line. I remember getting to mile 21, which was in some residential San Diego neighborhood, so exhausted and sweaty but completely sure I could do another five even if I had to crawl.
Luckily it didn’t come to getting on my hands and knees, and I reached the end upright and somehow with a smile on my face. The extra training did me well, and I finished the race in four hours and fifty-two minutes. While my time was better than some and super slow compared to others, I remember feeling so overwhelmingly happy. Not only did I somehow pull off this crazy caper that I dreamed up in college, I completed the race eight minutes quicker than my goal.
The Friday after the marathon, I was riding such a high I said out loud to no one in particular at the Burgundy Room that I would run another one the following year. My friends bought shots to toast my achievement and wished me well in my new venture. I did seven miles the next day, and the Saturday after that I ran ten. I wanted to shave ten to fifteen minutes off my next marathon.
I’m not sure what happened.
The years kept coming, and while I continued to do 5 and 10K races in the early 00s, the thought of running 26.2 miles again never fully materialized in my head. By the end of the decade the weight I had gained made running a marathon an impossibility. Whenever I would look at the pictures from June 2000, it almost seemed like it was a dream I’d had.
In 2015 I dropped a bunch of pounds, and by June last year I began to run (yog) again at least three times a week. As the clock turned to 2016 I had increased my mileage significantly, and my girlfriend J’Nell convinced me to run the Hapalua Half Marathon here in Honolulu (she was doing it with her awesome gym and support group Kaia Fit). So I dusted off my old training plan from 16 years ago and figured I would give it a go. I had no interest in doing a full marathon, but 13.1 miles rated high on the Goldilocks Scale.
The week leading up to today’s Hapalua Half Marathon, I had a nasty sinus infection and wasn’t even sure I would be able to attempt it. But just before sunrise J’Nell and I both walked to the start line at the Duke statue in Waikiki, and we headed west with the thousands of other runners. I hadn’t exercised in any fashion in over a week, and the time off must have did me good. My normal foot pain (on long runs) was kept to a minimum, and my stamina (helped along by GU Energy Gel) held up throughout the course. I wanted to break three hours, and I was happy to reach the finish line at 2 hours and 46 minutes.
As I kept pumping my legs as fast as I could down Diamond Head Road towards the end at Kapiolani Park, I couldn’t help but smile at my sixteen-year journey from San Diego to Honolulu. Absolutely no negative thoughts went through my head. I surely could have lamented all the races I had missed, but I was truly just so grateful to finish the one I was doing.