The Men’s World Cup of Kicky Ball Round of 16: a Goober’s Guide

(This post is a happy post in a time of sadness, yes.  I have about a dozen drafts of angrysad, but I wanted to put up at least something that isn’t awful? Rage against the dying of the light? Anyway.)

AWWWW YEAH, SOCCER.  OR FOOTBALL. OR KICKY BALL.  I’m sticking with kicky ball.  It’s like “shooty hoops” but my friend Steve came up with it and I’m so pleased.  But, anyway, would you like to watch some soccer?  Would you like to be a citizen of the world? Would you like to wake up at 7 AM on weekends?  COME JOIN ME.

This is a great time to jump in – no games today, and the knockout round starts tomorrow!

I’m obviously a bit late for this post, so forgive me for writing this now, but boyyyyy howdy do I love me some World Cup soccer.  So if you have nothing personally invested in the winner but like to watch people with incredible thighs run around and hit things with their heads, here is your introduction.  I am not fact-checking. Deal with it.  (okay I am but most of this is my feelings so FACT CHECK YOUR FACE)

We started out with 32 teams divided into 8 groups of 4, and the top two from each of those groups (stay with me) moves on to the round of 16, which is now.  Therefore, if you want to tune in, now is a good time!  Every game is a knockout game, and NO TIES ARE ALLOWED.  THEY PLAY TO THE DEATH AND/OR THE BEST OF 5 PENALTY KICKS, UNLESS THEY BOTH MAKE THE SAME NUMBER, AND THEN IT’S A LITTLE MORE COMPLICA- you know what? They play to the death.  That’s it.  Till they’re deadsies.  That’s the rule.

LET’S DIVE IN

Continue reading “The Men’s World Cup of Kicky Ball Round of 16: a Goober’s Guide”

Baby’s second Broad Street Run

Awwww yeahhhhh got to do this race again this year and it was fun as heck.  For those of you not In Tune with the Philly Happenings (aka me any time before like, 2011), the Broad Street Run is a 10-miler run through Philadelphia on, you guessed it, Broad Street.  You run south on this street for 10 miles.  It is very difficult to get lost, so I appreciate that mightily.  It is also a net downhill race, with maybe 3 very slight inclines, so it is bae.

I ran this race last year as well, but it unfortunately rained literally the whole time, and I was soaked and cold by the end.  However, it was still super fun, and shout out to Bryan for putting me up last year and waiting actual decades for me to finish and also hooking me up with what is possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten, a caramel budino from Barbuzzo.  He texted me that he hoped I PR’ed both on time and number of dogs pet and that is one of the nicest things anyone has said to me ever.

This year, my wonderful in-laws put me up, and Andrew drove me there and back.  The “back” was particularly crucial, as I was The Sorest.  Like, earned-a-new-step-badge-on-my-Fitbit sore.  Anyway friends and (new!) family are great, and there’s been plenty of races like this where I would have been in much rougher shape without help, and just *heart eyes for dayz*

Anyway, here is Broad Street By the Miles

  • Mile …0?  Negative 1? Idk, before we started
    • So I made pancakes the day before for me and Andrew, and I made more than I could eat (a difficult feat) so I brought three of them with me, plain, to the start line, and ate them out of my little plastic baggie.  And you know what? 10/10 would do again yes good.  My tummy is usually the thing that gives up first on long runs (tummy first, then legs, then lungs) and I didn’t start feeling even a little gross until like mile 8 so this worked v well
      • Also I saw a couple other runners looking at me
        • I know u jelly of my pancakes
          • I know it jealousy and not “that girl is eating unadorned pancakes out of a plastic baggie”
            • I know dis
    • The longest time I spent before the race in one spot was waiting for the bathroom, which is obvs pre-race CRUCIAL but also strugs because the lines were really long and I was in front of two boys who were Not Having It and it was still kinda chilly and just, meh.  AND THEN
      • OH GOODNESS
        • I was maybe 4 people from the front, and this woman cut the line.  Just dove right into a Port-a-Potty and didn’t say “it’s an emergency” or ask or ANYTHING and I legit thought there was gonna be a murder.  Like, this was Red-Wedding-level breakdown of the social contract, and there were people yelling “WAIT YOUR TURN” and “SHAKE THE THING” and this one woman took a picture of the line jumper’s bib number when she came out and posted it to like Instagram or something with #rude #broadstreet #pitchforks #walderfrey I’M KIDDING oramI
          • No but she really did post the pic to some form of social media, this girl did not come to play
  • Mile Actually 0
    • We, of course, got to listen to “Gonna Fly Now” (still pumped) and there was a banner hanging over the start line, which a lot of people jumped up to touch, but I have like, no ups and it would be a very Me thing to do to try to jump up and tap it only to trip over my own life and fall and twist my ankle 6 inches into the race
      • So I Opted Out, and then the best thing happened
        • THE BEST THING, GUYS
    • I am jogging along, getting passed by everyone, y’know, how it do, and I start hearing laughter behind me, and not like, just one person chuckling, like, the whole race was laughing
      • I then hear a “swish-swish-swish” sound and a guy in one of those T. rex suits runs by, head bobbing, with a race bib on and the little arms going, and I LOST IT
        • I am v v basic but oh my word do I love those stupid T. rex videos so this was like the funniest thing that could have ever happened to me
        • Shoutout to Scuzzo for describing the sound as ‘the tell-tale swish of a T. rex’ and if you need me I’ll be on the side of the road laughing
          • He was really quite fast and I lost track of him after the first mile but BUDDY YOU ARE MY HERO
  • Mile 3.5-ish, Mile 5-ish, Mile 7-ish
    • Dogs
      • These are the spots where dogs happened
        • DOGS
    • I met Callie and Macey and Tenner and pet them and Macey’s owner gave me a granola bar and when I walked up to Tenner he put his super fluffy head directly between my knees for pets and his owner yelled “CUDDLE BREAK”
      • IT WAS AMAZING
        • DOGS ARE AMAZING
          • JUST
            • DOGS
  • Mile 4
    • This would be where one of the musical acts was a screaming heavy metal outfit and I was just v confused
      • To be fair, I felt pretty good around mile 4 (this is the first time even in my life that I have run a longer-ish race and not blown up because I went out too fast for me and then had nothing) but this was still strange to the max
    • Like, a half mile later, we had a rock band with a lady in a sundress singing “Sweet Caroline”
      • Just because I feel more Rammstein than Neil Diamond 4 miles into a run does not mean I need Rammstein
        • This was not as bad as the acoustic guitar dude at my half marathon strumming out some Dashboard Confessional but it was still a bit of a weird endorphin twist
          • Just kinda wanted to run over and be like “don’t be angry bud there’s dogs and a T. rex somewhere up ahead”
    • DU HAST idek
  • Mile 8
    • Some dude standing on the median started yelling “it’s a slight downhill, you should be jogging at this point”
      • If you remember, Dear Reader, mile 8 is when my stomach was definitely like “uhhhh actually don’t?” and I was certainly tired and while I was walking briskly and drinking some water I was not up for jogging or being told what to do by some guy
        • “You should be jogging at this point”
          • YEAH SURE, COACH, I’ll GET RIGHT ON IT
            • CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, SHUT UP
              • Like for serious I love 99% of the spectators at any given race but what on earth makes you think it’s a good call to yell at exhausted runners doing their best
      • This just slightly edged out “you’re almost there!” yelled by someone when you are 12% done with the race
        • *Westley voice* we are men of action, lies do not become us
  • Mile 9
    • And then I went and broke my “don’t tell people how to run their race”
      • But oof this one made my heart hurt
        • This one girl, and I swear this was at mile like, 9.2, already taken off her bib because she was saying she couldn’t make it
        • Me and two other girls talked her into finishing
          • Now normally I would not do this, like if you were limping at mile 5 saying “I’m hurt, and I’m done” I would not fight you, but she just said she was really tired and didn’t think she could finish
            • All three of us were like GURL NO
              • CAN YOU WALK FOR 15 MINUTES? BECAUSE THEN MEDAL
              • I’m still conflicted because I don’t wanna push anyone to do something they feel like they really can’t finish but aw bb you have been moving forward for 2+ hours and if you do a little more you get a medal and pretzels and cheering
  • Mile 9.8
    • The race ends at the Navy Yard
      • There are ships at the Navy Yard
        • I was BLOWN AWAY by this fact
    • I think that last year because I kept my head down in the rain and was p uncomfortable I didn’t notice the ships (seriously all the pictures from the race make me look like an extra in the Two Towers who is about to get Uruk-hai’d)
      • THERE ARE SHIPS
        • THEY ARE BIG
          • MUCH SHIP, VERY WATER
  • Mile 10.05
    • MEDAL
      • I do these races for the medal, let’s be real
        • And it’s really sweet when family is like “DID YOU WIN? YOU GOT A MEDAL!!!” and I’m like “yeah I won at not dying”
  • Mile oh God who knows
    • So you can chill and wait for buses and stuff, but I was all “nah I can totes walk to the subway” which I could and then I was all “sweet I get to sit down” and then BOY HOWDY trying to get up was uh, not easy.
      • I then walked outside to go catch a trolley back to my in-laws, and I’m walking in front of a hotel, and another Men Say Things to Me happens
        • He yells out “congrats!” and I say “thank you!” and then he says “can I have it?” and points to his own chest where the medal would be
          • What I said: “haha, no, I worked too hard for this!”
          • What I meant: fuck you, a little, buddy?
            • Like, he’s joking, but it’s not funny, and why on Earth would I give you my finisher’s medal, and I’m tired and not able to move quickly, so I am nervous that you’re going to do something to me and I can’t run away, and I’m worried that *you* know that I’m tired and can’t run away, and just, GAH
              • Don’t say things! To women! On the street!
  • Mile in the car on the way home
    • I ate all my pretzels
      • I didn’t eat the Nutrigrain bar they put in our bag – a guy on the subway asked for food and I had a lot of food but idk if he’d want like, the banana or orange that were just chilling in my race bag?  So I gave him the bar, because that was one of the actually wrapped things so he wouldn’t be grossed out by my just handing him fruit
        • If I messed this up and y’all know what I could have done better or differently please lemme know
    • I drank like actual gallons of water wowowowww
    • I made Andrew fetch me things because I am a princess
    • I wore the shirt around the house once I got home, and then on a walk on Tuesday, because if no one knows you did the race like did you even run, bro?

ANYWAY this race was a blasty-blast 10/10 would run again if I make it through the lottery GONNA FLY NOW

Baby’s first trail race

The race: the Swamp Creek Stomp

The distance: five kilometers

The official time: civilizations rose and fell while I was out there

Heyyyyy there friends.  SO. One of the things on my list of things I wanted to do this year was to run a trail race.  I’ve run a few dozen road races at this point, and a couple of them have like, touched dirt, kinda, but I’ve definitely never done an actual trail race.  I knew this one was gonna be a tough one, partially because trail races just inherently are tough, but I also log a vast majority, like 95%, of my miles on the treadmill or pavement. The one trail I do use is packed dirt and has no tree limbs or large rocks or creek crossings and y’all, I knew I was woefully underprepared but I DID IT.  I was also concerned that the race did not actually exist, because it was on April 1st, and like, that would be a very jerk move to be like “LAWL THERE’S NO RACE GO HOME, SUCKERS” and runners are generally chill but WHAT IF.

Anyway

I drove myself there on Saturday morning, and I knew I was nervous because I was doing the thing that I do when I’m nervous and driving which is to sing hymns, so it was 8:15 AM and I’m chugging along belting out “For All the Saints.”  If you’re not familiar, it is an absolute banger and really gets the crowds going.  Ball so hard.  No, I don’t know why I do this, but I do, and it’s like “Lose Yourself” but for slow awkward Catholic girls in terms of pump up music.

I just made myself laugh picturing myself playing for the Yankees and asking for this as my walkup music oh my word

ANYWAY

I get there and there are tbh not as many dogs as I was hoping for but other than that everyone is friendly and the race organizers are playing “Eye of the Tiger” as every race within a 100-mile radius of Philly is obligated to do (still love the song keep up the good work fam).  The race announcer tells the 10k people that they had to make some adjustments to the course because we got like, feet of rain the night before and the course is a mess and one of the creek crossings is literally too high to be safe so I’m sitting there like “aight, mud.  Mud is happening.  It cool, I got this, I got my high socks on and garbage bags in my car for later, I ain’t scared, leggo.”

I DID NOT GOT THIS

The fun part about being a back-of-the-pack-er is that you get to follow everyone else and kinda see where to go and on road races, who cares, it’s not like they’re beating down the pavement and it’s no good to run on when you get there.  NOT SO WITH A TRAIL RUN.  I almost ate it crossing the actual start line because of mud, and within the first quarter mile we were 1. in the woods 2. in ankle-deep mud.  A girl lost her shoe.  Her dad fished it out and tried to retie the laces and oh my goodness watching him try to untie and then retie cold wet muddy laces with cold wet muddy hands was like if you filled up rubber gloves with JELL-O and then had to use them to practice your Boy Scout skills on exceptionally tough spaghetti.  Homie was there for a while.

The runners before me were confidently placing their feet in the mud and then lifting them up and not??? falling over???? which??? how?????? I had to walk a large majority of the race simply because moving any faster would have been disastrous.  Y’all remember that fight in motor oil from the Transporter movie?  I was every bad guy without even a Statham to look at.  The 10k runners had two laps to do and a good two dozen of them lapped me.

After a while I got into a bit of a not-terrible rhythm, grabbed on to some trees when necessary, my fitbit made some noises, I embraced the cold squishiness in my shoes, and IT’S THE EYE OF THE TIIIIIIGER.  Then I actually checked my fitbit to see how far I’d gone and it was like, 90 feet.  Nine feet.  None feet, possibly, because it had tracked the walk from my car to the starting line.  “Trail race” was a misnomer, as was “trail run.”  “Trailslog.”  But I was Doing It.  I was Making My Dreams Come True.  I was Leaning In, not because I wanted to but because hills [also, quick aside: Lean In and trail running are related in that they’re apparently really only applicable to white women??? Why you gotta be so white, racing, why].  And then, we had one of several creek crossings.

Okay

Y’all remember in Homeward Bound, when Shadow can’t get out of that mud ravine and you felt your entire being collapse in on you even though you’d seen the movie like 80 times and he’s exhausted and old and covered in mud and gets *so close* to the top a bunch of times but can’t hold on

That was me, trying to get in and out of the creek.  There were ropes, and people to help, but there was basically no grip on the banks, so hands went in the mud, butt went in the mud, dignity went in the mud.  There was a dude behind me who was also about to use the rope to climb down, and he was all “you can go first” and I was all “no you, good sir” and he was all “no it’s okay, I’m gonna be a while” and I was all “that’s exactly why I was offering to let you go first because samesies” and at this point the race’s Rope Watcher Guy is laughing at us both for being fainting delicate flowers.  We both did it, though.

And then there was another creek crossing.  A 10k runner came up behind me and straight launched himself from one bank to the other because idk we had like Olympic decathletes up in this woods and apparently the Oregon Trail has a cheat code for rivers called “just jump the sumbitch.”  I personally, decided to caulk the wagon and float it and lost

  • One set of clothing
  • One wagon wheel
  • My pride (drowned)

There were rocks and stuff in the creek, y’all, I ain’t about that turned ankle life.  So I did the rest of the race with mud on um, places and my long sleeves were wet at the wrists because I had to put my hands into the creek to not fall over and look even worse than I already did oh GOD, WHERE IS THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY WHY ARE WE NOT THERE YET.

I am 90% sure I got kinda lost – I know GPS trackers aren’t the most reliable and hills will mess them up but when I’m well into 4 miles for a 5k I’m thinking I messed up.  My hands did that thing where they get super puffy after a while of holding them at my sides, and the sun actually came out and I’d been out there longer than my 10k PR and like, what.  So tired.  The most tired.  I napped like a beast when I got home.

Once I got to the end, I was able to run probably a third of a mile over some relatively dry gravel and grass.  At this point, I was very aware that I was the last, actual last, 5k runner out on the course, because the two girls who were behind me quit and hopped on an ATV back to the start, so I suppose I beat two ten-year-olds?  I’ve never actually DFL’ed (dead effing last) a race before, but I’m almost glad I did – it was new and humbling but also meant that I actually finished, which was great.  In the last section, one of the guys giving directions saw a 10k runner about to pass me, and they yelled “don’t let him beat you!” and I yelled back “it’s okay, he’s lapped me already” and they laughed and runners are just cool, yo.

I got me a shirt and soft pretzels at the end (additional bonus to Philly-area races: always got them soft pretzels) and then somehow got back to my car and removed what layers I could, put trashbags down on the car seat (garbage sittin on garbage bags HEYOOOO) and drove home.  Absolutely would and will repeat, and hopefully I will get the mud out from under my toenails Some Day.

The Best and Worst of Fitness Music

BEST OF THE BEST

Weights class
“Dirt Off Your Shoulder”
I mean, this song is basically UNFF for four minutes.  It’s got a pretty slow beat, which makes it ideal for slow picking up and lowering down of weights.  I don’t lift like Real Dudebro or Dudechick lifting, but the couple of weirdly-named classes involving weights (usually Shred of some kind?) will frequently use this song and you just feel SO. GOOD.  Also forever thanks to Hov for adding in the line “ladies is pimps, too.”

Races
“Rocky’s Theme”
I know, it’s cliche.  Doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.  Especially for Philly-area races, playing this song at the beginning (or end!) of any race basically makes you feel like you can knock down brick walls and just basically Hulk-Smash everything and anyone.

Spinning
“Sandstorm”
Don’t argue with me when I’m right.  If you’ve never been, let me tell you that spin class is about as close as you can get to clubbing without actually clubbing.  Neon outfits, dark rooms, loud music, people shouting “woooo!” for no reason, and everyone’s really sweaty.  Now picture someone putting on Sandstorm in that context and what reaction you’d get.  Exactly.  I could be THISCLOSE to dying and falling off my stupid bike, but if the instructor puts this on and says “we’re doing sprints let’s goooo” I will sprint as hard as I can. WOOOO!

Zumba
“You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray
DUDE.  A random 25 minutes into a class I took about a year ago, the instructor dropped this song in between a hip-hop remix and a salsa-influenced hip shaking.  IT WAS INSANELY AWESOME.  For me, of course, the song could have been titled “You Can’t Do the Moves” but it’s the most high-energy, unrelenting, straight-up fun song to dance to.  I got kicked and probably kicked someone else and turned the wrong way and it just DIDN’T MATTER because everything was just GREAT.   

Yoga
A ukelele version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Just the chillest, happiest, most pleasant song to listen to.  Yes, I might have fallen out of tree pose 3 times on each side and got dizzy during extended side angle and this girl over here I would have sworn dislocated her shoulder doing that move but it doesn’t matterrrrrr smiiiiiile.  Everything’s greaaaaaat.    

WORST OF THE WORST

Spinning
“Cotton-Eyed Joe”
Yeah, this happened in a class.  It was towards the end.  And let’s be real, if you put this song on at a wedding, I will jump around like a goofball and aggressively get everyone to join me until my left leg falls off.  HOWEVER.  If you do this during an hour long spin class I will want to get off my bike and punch you in the face.

Where did ya come from where did ya go, where did you-
COME ON, KEEP IT UP, GOOD WORK ANOTHER QUARTER TURN

I will full turn your head around and I’m going to find Cotton-Eyed Joe and end him as well. 

Yoga
“Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Again, don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE this song.  I will lose my mind if it comes on in any context.  I will belt out lyrics and probably not even laugh because ~*~emotionzzz~*~.  But if you just asked me to revolve my Warrior and then TUUUUURN AROOOOOUND comes out, I will burst out laughing.  You don’t want me to giggle-snort my way through your vinyasa flow class?  Don’t play this song, Bright Eyes.

Races
“Hands Down”
Yeah, this happened during my half marathon.  Every mile or so, the race had set up a musician/band, and many of them were just DJ booths or acoustic guitar players.  This was fine, until I got to like, mile 7, where a male acoustic guitar player (whatever you’re picturing in your head, you’re 100% spot on as to his appearance), who was belting out Dashboard Confessional’s “Hands Down” and pouring his heart into it.

BRO.  I APPRECIATE YOUR SKILL BUT I HATE YOU SOOOO MUCH RIGHT NOW.  I am streaked with salt, barely over half done with this thing, and you’re playing like The Most Emotional Song for People Who Graduated High School Between 2003-2008 and I will cry in the middle of this stupid race.  Is your goal to pump us up to finish or to leave us in tear puddles on the sidewalk?  My friend put this the best possible way: “Hands down/this is the wooorst half marathon I can ever rememberrrr”

Weights class
“Give Me Everything”
Pitbull, I appreciate you, but no division of your beats in this song will allow me to adequately raise and lower a weight.  I will either frantically try to keep up with the instructor (who magically has ten pound weights in her hands and I could have sworn our choices were five or eight) and pull something, or I’ll look like Today’s Weights Class will Be Conducted in Rapidly Hardening Amber.  Play slower music, or don’t judge me for my “Chariots of Fire” slow motion impression.  You know you jelly.

Zumba
Literally any 3/4 song you’re deciding gets 4 counts
Dammit, people, beats mean things.  And I realize that humans are not triangles, and if you’re trying to balance out both sides of the body with moves, a 3/4 song will mess your ish up.  But YOU PICKED IT, and you can’t just make up a downbeat.  That’s how girls who played in way too many ensembles get killed.  Trying to track your left foot when it’s arbitrarily landing on beats 1, 2, and 3 of the measure is not fair and I will fall over.  (If you’re gonna make some snarky comment about how if I’ve played so much music I should be able to track some mixed time signatures you can KINDLY LEAVE.  I’d show you out myself but I’m still dizzy.)

Anyone have favorites?  Nonfavorites?  Comment and let me know!

So you want to start running but you’re scared

So guys.  I recently got a cortisone shot in my knee, and while I’m really, REALLY hoping that it helps and I can do things again soon, I am also simultaneously terrified because I do stupid things like “read the comments on an article about running injuries” and so now I’m sort of convinced that cortisone shot = your knee is all messed up and we can’t really fix it so we’re gonna stick you with the pointy end.  Prayers and good thoughts, please? It currently hurts like hell.

AAAAAAaaanyway.  So you wanna start running.  First of all: good choice.  A+.  So proud.  Runners are cool and nice and goofy and I am one and you can call me up if my shot works and we’ll do 5ks together.  Your life will be enhanced.

Step The First: Get Some Stuff
Not a lot of stuff, of course (this is running, it’s pretty basic), but there are some things you should have.

The first is a good pair of shoes.  This can mean different things to different people (barefoot! Asics! trail! cool colors!), but just figure out a pair that you like, that doesn’t blister or pinch or hurt in any way, and that you’ll be using pretty much only for running.  This doesn’t mean you can’t wear them to go to Zumba or whatever, but these are your running sneakers, or at least your “athletic activity” sneakers, not your “I do all my stuff in them” sneakers.  You’ll wear them out faster and they’ll be unfun.  Especially if you picked out a pricey pair.  There are plenty of tools online to help you pick out a good sneaker (Runner’s World has a pretty fun one), or you can go into a specialty running store and ask them to fit you.  Replace them before they fall apart.  Some people log like a thousand miles before they replace theirs, but because I’m pounding a bit more weight into mine, I’ve replaced them every 300 or so.  You do you, though, boo.

The second general set of stuff is Don’t Die stuff.  In this category are visibility things and an ID.  No, neither are necessary, but please just do it because I am a worried mother.  You should always carry ID with you when you’re going out on a run, and it’s not a bad idea to tell someone when you leave and when you think you’ll be back.  You can carry your license, which is better than nothing, but it usually doesn’t have the right contact info on it, plus srsly how much would it suck if you lost it? I have a RoadID bracelet with my name, emergency numbers, and my blood type on it: your license doesn’t tell someone who to call in an emergency.  They’re like 20 bucks and you’ll look super fly so just do it.  If you’re not gonna do it just try to be smart about going out.

Visibility things are also important.  If you’re gonna be running at night or even at dusk, get something shiny as hell that will make you look like a traffic cone to oncoming cars.  I see at least one runner a day prancing around in all black after the sun’s gone down and GAH.  Obviously if a car hits you that’s the driver’s fault but it’s a really good call to wear something shiny.  I have a reflective and neon yellow belt that goes on over whatever I’m wearing, but whatever highlighter + rave item you choose is awesome.

Step The Second: Sign up for a race
SET YO’SELF A GOAL, SON

No but really, the second you’re good to go, sign up for a race.  Pick something two or three months out: if you’ve got no running experience, a 5k is a good call.  Runner’s World has a Race Finder feature on their site, and while it will occasionally not have a race listed, it’s a pretty good comprehensive list.

How do you pick the race?  Depends!  Is there a charity you’d like to support?  Pick that race!  My first 5k was a fundraiser for ovarian cancer research, so that race felt even better knowing my money was going to a great cause.  Is there a theme you’d like to try?  My half marathon relay was at Hershey Park and therefore Hershey-themed, and a friend is signed up for a chocolate-themed 5k. Are crowds scary?  Find a little guy, especially in the off-season!  Are crowds awesome?  Find a huge one!  Worried about pace?  Check with the race director, but 5ks rarely shut down till everyone’s finished, or you can look for stuff that’s “walker-friendly.”  Need support?  Make your friends do it!

Seriously, a race is the best motivation ever.  I will almost certainly never ever ever win anything ever at a race (unless everyone in front of me suddenly turns into cats and are therefore disqualified), but when you do a timed race, you get an official baseline of where you’re at.  I keep track of my slow-as-snails PRs (personal records), because it’s freaking AWESOME when you do better than you did last time.  And, if you’ve never raced before, your first 5k is an automatic PR.

Try to not be scared.  If you’re not, awesome, keep that up, but I know showing up at a race for the first time can be intimidating.  Don’t let it freak you out!  Runners are so nice, and often the front of the pack will stick around to cheer the back of the pack to their finish.  Also, if you like “Eye of the Tiger” they’ll probably play it, so there’s that.

Step the Third: Go Slower Than You Think You Need To
Slower than that.  Nope, even slower.  Take walk breaks.  Yep, seriously, right now.  I know you’ve only done two minutes, it’s okay, take a walk.  Really.  It’s okay.

You can totally use a running program to help you ease into this.  Couch to 5k is one of the most popular, and with good reason: it allows you to improve your fitness at a pace that should keep you from getting injured and also keep you from giving up.  Many people who attempt a running program go out too hard, too fast, and too far, and end up burning out in a week or so because everything hurts.  I don’t blame them: your first run is gonna hurt a bit, but while you will feel some moderate soreness, you should not feel like a truck hit you.

If you’re not using a program, just take it sloooooooow.  Use a treadmill and set it to a walking pace, but jog instead.  If you start to feel super out of breath, take a walk.  The standard for runs is called “conversational pace,” and this means exactly what it sounds like: you could chat with a friend without dying.  If you can get out a sentence or two, you’re good to go.  If you’re struggling to say even two words, slow down.  You’re overdoing it.  Obviously, if you continue with this, you’ll do some speedwork where you will work at that intensity, but your average runs should be chatty.

Don’t get me wrong: you’ll sweat and breathe hard.  But if you want to be able to do it more than once or twice, don’t kill yourself doing this!  Nice and slow.  Bring a watch with you each time you do a loop and mark your progress.  Write down your treadmill stats.  Add a little bit each time, whether it’s an extra minute or  just a “I’ll run to that stop sign.”  See what you can do!

I’ve also gotten asked about a dozen times how long it took me to “like” running.  And it probably took about 6 weeks. When I say I like running, this is not some macho PAIN DON’T HURT or some transcendent “nothing can touch me when I’m soaring above the road with the eaglessss” shenanigans.  For me, runs take effort, every time.  But after six weeks or so, it changed from “ugh, okay, let’s try this again” to “oh my goodness I get to run today I wonder how it will go?  And I get to go farther tomorrow!”  If you try this for two months or so and still hate it, feel free to peace out: there’s no reason to continue doing an exercise you hate when there are so many options.  Again, you do you.  But if you like it, call me up and we’ll hang.

Baby’s first half marathon by the miles

I think it’s probably impractical and somehow breaking social rules, but if I could, I would totally wear my finisher’s medal for the next several days.  At least until my soreness wears off.  It is quite heavy and has a bottle opener incorporated into the actual medal, so that makes it even more impractical to wear it around.  I am wearing it as I type this. #yolo

The race I did is called the ODDyssey, and yes, they spell it like that on purpose.  It’s got a costume contest and has optional challenges during the race and just generally doesn’t take itself too seriously.  I’d totally recommend this race to anyone: it was large enough to have pretty great support on the course, but small enough that you weren’t pushing people out of the way.

So, here’s a race recap by time and miles.

Night before: read this month’s Runner’s World which is about Boston, cry like forever (I do not recommend this strategy)

5 AM: Alarm goes off.  I immediately reconsider every life choice I’ve ever made in my sleepy haze.  Maybe I don’t wanna run this morning, bed looks soooo good…

5:30 AM: Out the door because I was a good little girl and pinned my bib on the night before and laid out all my clothes and packed my fuel belt

5:45 AM: Dunkin for iced coffee.  This has become a bit of a prerace tradition for me, even though basically everything that is smart in the world is like “caffeine is TEH WORST dun drink it before a race or u’ll diiiiie” but it empowers me so whatevs.

6:10 AM: Pull into a parking space that is a tad bit far from the finish line (spoiler alert: I hate myself for this later) but will allow me to actually leave the race location without waiting for like an hour to get out

6:15 AM: Force-feed myself an apple

6:20 AM: Get on line for porta potties

Roughly a year later: actually get to USE portapotty

6:40 to like 6:55 AM: Attempt to not panic and get a bit more water in me

6:56 AM: Make friends with girl who asked “so do you see any signs for corrals?  I saw one that was for a 9 to 10 minute mile but I’m at like ‘try to finish, no time goal, my emergency contact information is on my phone screen, got my inhaler’.”  My kind of girl.

6:57 AM: Taking notice of all the people in costumes (this was a costume-optional race), notice a guy wearing very, very little.  Realize he is dressed in the Borat swimsuit.  Attempt to figure out where he pinned his bib and then realize he has a bib number belt.  Overhear a woman say “okay, he wins the costume contest.  Just give it to him.  Then make him change clothes.”

7:00 AM: Panic because I’m still holding on to my crappy water bottle and don’t see a place to ditch it.  Decide to hold on to it for a while.  “A while” turns into like 7 miles but whatevs.

7:04 AM: Lady who did the National Anthem: you killed it, way to go

7:07 AM: Race starts,shuffling towards the start begins, I actually remember to hit “start” on my watch, I am the smartest woman alive

Transition to mile estimates because I frankly have no idea what time it was for most of this

Mile 0.2: Cannot stop grinning because oh my GOODNESS I am running a HALF MARATHON I am THE COOLEST EVER

Mile 0.4: Smile fades a bit because I get passed by this guy who is pushing a lady in a wheelchair, and he is wearing a tux.  Dialing back my dreams of Olympic glory.

Mile 0.5: Guy jumps in blatantly banditing the race.  He is wearing a rainbow tutu and a rainbow shirt and has Pride info pinned to his back.  He gives everyone high-fives and hugs if they want them.  That is how you correctly bandit a race, everyone.  We all ain’t even mad.  Go on with your bad self.

Mile 0.7: So this happened.  This dude was chatting with a group of ladies that he didn’t know (who had matching sequin headbands, you go ladies), and was basically bragging about his exploits in the running world and “when I ran New York, I…” and just generally acting like he was awesome, which was awk but whatever.  He then jogs like fifteen feet ahead of them, turns back, and while running backwards, says “what’s with all the heavy chicks out today?”  I KNOW.  WHAT THE FUCK.  The ladies basically chose not to engage, replying with “well it’s Philly!  and we’re awesome! so we’re out today!” and things like that, and I really can’t blame them.  They saved their energy for the race they were running.  But like, dude? What went on in your brain that led you to conclude that was a good thing to say?  Andrew came up with the best response when I told him this story: “what’s with all the assholes out today? Mostly in your general direction, really concentrated over there…”
Also, not that it matters, because that is a messed up thing to say regardless, but the dude was not like in Steve Prefontaine levels of shape.  Had a little belly going on.  Made it extra strange.

Mile 2-ish: first aid station comes up.  I always feel like I’m letting them down when I don’t need water at that time.  Like “um, no, I’m good, but I’m sure your water is very delicious and refreshing! I’m sorry! It’s not you, it’s me!”

Mile 2.4: see two girls running while carrying a shield and an axe and wearing Viking helmets.  I love everything.

Mile 3.1: realize if this were a 5k I would have PR’ed!

Mile 3.11: realize that I should not be aiming for a 5k PR because I have ten miles left. Oops.

Mile 4.0: take my first Shot Blok like a good little runner, walk for the first time

Mile 5.2: tiny little uphill and I whine like a lot, but so does everyone around me so it’s all good!  Right?  As long as I’m not the loudest!  Right? Also MORE SHOT BLOKS

Mile 5.9: actual salt is streaked on my arms. This has not happened often and I thought I was dying and then I realized I was not.  Good story I know.  I just thought I was growing scales for a minute.

Mile 6.55: Loudest dude ever was manning the halfway point.  Totes fine with it because he was like “KEEP GOING, DOING GREAT” and I live off of that stuff.  I had like ten minutes of leeway at this point to make a sub-3 hour half so I was both excited and nervous

Mile 7: I somehow miss this mile marker and am convinced for a while that I am actually going backwards along the course because “no no there is NO WAY I haven’t gotten to mile 7 no no no”

Mile 7.2: I realize the father and son(?) in front of me are banditing as well, or may have just been out running and got swept up in the course.  I am not mad until like three miles later when he, his son, and another dude decide to run-chat and do the thing people do on sidewalks when they block the whole damn thing at this spot with trees on one side and gates on the other.  No, I am not going much faster than you are but move or I’ll cut you with my bib because I have one and you don’t.  Yeah, I’ll fight your 12 year old son.  I can take him.  Maybe.  (I’m an adult, I swear.)

Mile 8: oh JESUS THANK YOU MILE MARKER

Mile 9: this is the farthest I’ve ever gone in one shot.  I regret not having gone like 40 miles in one shot so this feels like nothing.  It does not feel like nothing it feels like EVERYTHING

Mile 9.5: yes please with the water, aid station; my stomach is doing its thing where it is hungry so it decides to tell me it is nauseous.  No, you jerk organ, I am just low on blood sugar, so shut up and take your Shot Bloks.  Eat them.  Digest them.  Get your act together.

Mile 9.6: Can I buy stock in Clif? I love them so much right now.

Mile 10: just a 5k left!  Oh God, I’m one of those people who says stuff like “it’s just a 5k left!” and actually means it.  At least I said it inside my head!  Oh, wait, the person in front of me said it out loud to her running partner.  I’m safe.

Mile 10.2: Aid station peeps are cheerfully announcing that the aid station in two miles has Gatorade.  I would share in their enthusiasm if they said the next aid station had rocket backpacks, or stretchers, or Jeremy Renner.

Mile 11: Two miles left.  You can totally do this, and you’d better.  This was the point at which I basically started to run for a minute and walk for a minute because I was pretty sure my knees were going to actually crack at this point.  Every step hurt. But basically this was “if you ran this far and don’t finish…oh HELL no.”

Mile 11.3: Somewhat separated from basically everyone, and I realize my compression shorts are swishing.  (whaddup thighs touching hey bigger runners you feel me? yeahhh) I realize they have probably been swishing for 2 hours.  Has everyone heard me swishing?  Am I one of the “heavy chicks” that jerk guy was talking about? Wait that’s a terrible thing to think?  GAH INTERNAL TURMOIL

Mile 11.31: I am running a half marathon anyone who has anything nasty to say is basically on the level of Joffrey Baratheon, the First and Jerkiest of His Name

Mile 12: One. More. And a tenth.  Don’t forget the tenth.

Mile 12.3: a hill.  An effing hill, now???  Seriously?  Ugh, guys, this last mile probably took me like 20 minutes to finish.  I looked at my watch and realized I was not gonna make it under 3 hours, so my goal was adjusted to just “finish the thing.” And also “make a recommendation that the last mile of a half marathon not contain a 40 Degree Hill of Death as its last thing.”

Mile 12.9: This lady who looks like she finished like 90 minutes ago and is now cheerfully going for a bike ride with her finisher’s medal around her neck is all “you can do it!” and in my head I’m all “I hate you for being done but love you for cheering me on!”

Mile 13: I can run this last part to the finish without dying.  This is a doable goal.

Mile 13.1: VICTORY! Also exhaustion.  Dude with the medals stop texting and give it to me or I will fight you.  I will fight you with all the stamina of a newborn and all the strength of overcooked linguini.  Come at me, bro.

Mile 1,000: I parked my car about another half marathon away and my legs only marginally work.  It takes me forever to walk there while sipping my fruit drink, and once I’m at my car I collapse and call my dad.  He answers the phone, “are you alive?”  Excellent question!