Tuesday, September 06, 2005


It ain't the years, honey; it's the mileage . . .

It took three hours and seventeen minutes, but we did it. This weekend, my lovely wife and I traveled across the country to Virginia Beach to run our first ever half marathon. We'd been training for a little while - running the odd 5K and 10K here and there - but for Labor Day weekend, we ran 13.1 miles along the Virginia coast.

Was it for a cause? More or less.

It's been three years since my mother-in-law was declared cancer-free. She needed to celebrate, and we needed to be a part of it. A whole bevy of my wife's family was on hand, running the race: my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, down from their new home in Jersey; Steph's uncle, up from Florida; and my mother-in-law herself, driving up from Raleigh to the annual Rock n Roll Half Marathon.

Steph and I ran the race in lockstep. We'd agreed before we started that we wanted to start and finish together. While we didn't break any records, we finished - and like everyone in the party, we finished under four hours. It was a good, solid first half marathon for all of us.

Besides just being proud of it, though, I have two interesting (at least to me) observations from the run.

First, it truly is amazing how these things get into your blood. Back in Chicago, neither Steph nor I were runners. We might jog on the treadmill a couple of times a week, but it was to work off Friday night's pizza or Saturday's Thai food, not something we did for fun.

And after we finished the race on Sunday, we both thought this was the last real race we'd do. Maybe a 5K or 10K sometime in the far future. But nothing bigger than that.

By the time we were boarding our flight (back to LA via Dallas), we were already planning the next several races - starting with the Venice 5K in December, then maybe another half marathon some time in the first half of 2006.

More than that, we were strategizing. We already knew what we'd do differently for the next 13 mile race. We figured out how we could break the 3 hour barrier - run the race faster, smarter.

All of which is to say that it's in our blood. We'll be doing another one real soon.

Second, it amazes me the way that the half marathon is such a "Fred Astaire" kind of activity, when all along I pegged it as a "Gene Kelly" one.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, follow me . . . for just a second.

If you know your American musical movies, you know the difference between Kelly and Astaire, the two greatest of all time. And if you've seen them dance, you know the difference between the two men. Kelly looked like a top notch athlete all the time. He moved across the screen with a strength and grace that you, as the viewer, knew you couldn't capture for yourself. Clearly, the man had spent his life making himself this great.

Astaire, on the other hand, made it look simple. No matter what movie you see, Astaire seems to be saying, "Hey, it's not that hard. You could do this too. Just grab yourself a girl and glide across the stage. You can make your feet fly."

I mean, there's no question. Astaire was every bit the athlete that Kelly was. But he made it seem possible. You identified.

And that's what happened during the half marathon. As Steph and I made our way through the course, it became clear. This race wasn't just for the amazing, tremendous athlete. And even if it wasn't effortless, finishing the race was possible. We could run it, too.

The top runner on Sunday finished the 13 miles in an hour and three minutes. That I'll never do. That's the Kelly way. Amazing to watch. But I chose to follow Astaire this time around. Steph and I held onto each other, believed in ourselves, and made our feet fly.

that's good stuff my friend. congrats on catching the running bug and i really love your succinct and cogent metaphorical explanation on the difference btw fred astaire and gene kelly. that should be in a film dictionary, it just says it all so well.
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