from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

some degree of understanding

The distance covered on the treadmill is the combined result of time and speed. This was a bit of information grasped in 5th grade physics class, but it was nevertheless a thrill to behold its effect in action after three decades. If I increased the speed, the mile just accrued much faster. If I increased the incline as well, then the consumption of calories increased correspondingly. I remember one day during that first week when I was after calories. We had just enjoyed our first grilling of the season. I had a Southwestern style burger (cilantro and salsa mixed in it), on a tortilla with melted cheese and refried beans, with sides of guacamole and sour cream. You get an idea of how I meant to lose weight. Perhaps, I thought, I should cut the intake down before the next ‘miling’ session. Robert called it 'miling,' since it was not running yet, but to call it walking didn't honor its purpose.

After the first four or five days (read miles) I was fortunately past waking up in the morning stiff as a board and dizzy with exhaustion. But I was still in the stage when after a quarter mile I had had enough, after a half a mile I was dying, and after three quarters I could breathlessly decide to hold on just a little while longer.

Friday, May 26, 2006

a week for each mile

I knew, of course that my calculation of 26 weeks necessary to master 26 miles was simplistic, a plain mathematical extrapolation that had nothing to do with fact. First, walking was not enough, I had to run. Way over my capacity.

More critical was the nature of the marathon – one can’t train for it without knowing anything about exercise. My boyfriend pointed out there is such a book as Marathon for Dummies, and I took some solace from this bit of information. Imagine, they thought of people like me. In the meantime a friend has told me there is even Sex for Dummies. A scary proposition, as she called it. Well, I wasn’t about to point the finger. We all need some help, one way or another.

When I get to the running stage, I thought during the first couple of weeks, I will buy the book, and acquire some useful tips as to how a marathon is done, so I don’t injure myself. I did not want to invest in the book just yet – what if this impulse just fizzled out? Then I would be $20 dollars short and have a useless book on my hands. For the time being I was safe. I was just walking.

Which raised the issue of time. Even if I would increase my daily exercise with one mile each week, given my then pace of 3miles/hour (at best) it would take me almost nine hours to finish the damn thing, not to mention the preceding training. Okay, so I needed an alternative plan, some exponential growth, some expert guidance, some sort of quickening.

It was sure it could be done. I just didn’t know how. I would find out, along the way. I was doing a mile each day. I had another 25 miles ahead of me and whatever time this entailed to figure things out.

Other people had done it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


During the first days, or even weeks, I went by an interim working model: if I start by walking one mile a day, and each week I increase my daily task by one mile, I will reach 26 miles in 26 weeks. That meant mid-September. More than six months ahead.

Here my mind bifurcated and the two strands ended up running against each other. On the one hand, six months seemed too long. Not that I wanted to run the marathon right away. I wasn’t in shape to do so (this, I know, is a glaring example of stating the obvious). But I could already envision myself, lean and taut, running the marathon, crossing the finish line. It was an image much more substantial than the interim 26 weeks the unfolding of which I could not fathom.

Monday, May 22, 2006

the issue of weight

I am 5’3’ and weigh 119 lbs. Not bad for my age but, having hovered near 112 lbs for years, I got used to a happy, light, slim feeling. At 119 that sensation eludes me. I don’t perceive that now I am eating more than 7 lbs ago. It’s either that I am getting old and my metabolism slows down, or it’s the car. I bought my first car 17 months ago. I know, I know, I am a late-comer to more than one kind of machine.

It’s empowering to drive the car. It’s almost a sensual experience. Sometimes, with my hand loosely on the wheel, I feel sexy just sitting there. The problem is I don’t take the time to walk or bike to all the places I used to walk or bike to before. It’s so much more speedy and convenient to hop in the car. I have become Americanized. I am not moving around anymore. And people, yeah, we all know, were not designed to sit still.

It’s not that I want to run the marathon to lose weight, but I figured while I was at it the weight loss wouldn’t hurt. I could see myself lean and mean like a pleasure machine, and was convinced things would work out to that effect. I have never counted calories, and I don’t plan to start now. But exercising would do the trick. Exercising is healthy without being extreme. Obsessive talk sprinkled with terms like vegan, carbohydrate, macrobiotic, organic, caloric, yoga, tofu, supplements, abs, soy – it just bores me to death.

My self-image is a bit blurry. Still not sure if for the future I see myself bohemian as an artist, or wholesome as a runner. In the meantime, I eat too much, I drink too much, I smoke too much. I must be out of my mind to think about the marathon.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

here we go...

How will I run the marathon if I cannot walk one mile? With this question on my mind I went almost three months ago to the exercise room of my apartment complex. The day was February 22nd. I had never touched a treadmill before, and although I poked around at the buttons I could not get any of the machines to start. Perhaps they were out of order.

Next evening an Asian girl was using the treadmill, and green numbers flashed on the screen in front of her. Apparently the machine was functioning after all. After she left I walked one mile. It took me almost a half an hour. I was surprised I consumed only 110 calories - I expected more. Nevertheless I went back home elated. Walking one mile was a doable, trackable business, and perhaps the marathon would be too.

I am 41 years old. That is stretching the truth just a tiny bit - or shrinking it, if you want. I will be 42 this summer. I never exercised in my life, aside from the occasional bike ride and a few splashing laps in the pool. I am not a runner. I don't like running. I smoke. I drink. When I went on the treadmill that first day I had not made up my mind to run the marathon. I was simply aware I won't be able to run the marathon if I could not walk one mile. That one mile nearly killed me. You were lucky you weren't there. It wasn't a pretty sight. But at least I finished it.