So what does one do on National Running Day when one can’t run? Well in my case, I gave it the old college try. Running was not planned that day, but with so much internet posts about it, an attempt would have to be made. It would have been preferable to do it outdoors of course, but I had to keep it on the treadmill so as to soften the blow on my brittle muscles and joints. Slowest speed possible: check, 1 percent incline: check, legs and ankles ready: question mark. Keeping my strides as light as possible, the treadmill belt moved underneath me while I kept anticipating a jolt of pain which never came. I kept going, and jogging, and slogging until I reached 45 minutes and figured that enough was enough. I had kept my National Running Day obligation for another year, albeit indoors on a treadmill. A purist might say that shouldn’t count, but having been unable to run in any way shape or form for several weeks, I’ll consider that a run. Who knows when I’ll be able to do it again or at all?
In keeping with a birthday tradition of doing a long run which in recent years have now turned into a long walk, the day after National Running Day, I did a trek around my neighborhood. I didn’t venture too far because in case my joints and muscles failed me, at least I was close to home. Believe me, even when I woke up that morning, I was undecided on whether I should do it or not, or which direction to go (drive to the beach or El Dorado Park, or walk down Del Amo Boulevard going east and see how far an hour and a half will take me?). Instead, I kept it around Bixby Knolls and mostly in the Virginia Country Club area where I did my training for the Los Angeles Marathon a couple of times maybe a decade ago. Meanwhile, I had been thinking if it was it time to give up on this annual exercise. The reason why I had doubts was because the mental toughness I developed while training for marathons is no longer what it used to be. Why would I want to do 3 hours or more of this workout when 30 minutes to an hour on the stationary bike or a treadmill hill walk would suffice? Well, mainly because I wanted to prove to myself that it's still doable in spite of my ankle and thigh/hip problems.
Armed with my cellphone, keys, wallet (in case I had to pay for a cab), some cough drops to keep my mouth moist, and listening to KIIS-FM on the radio-equipped phone, I stepped out into the June gloom and started walking in an unhurried pace. While I moved, I contemplated on what I was going to do. Shall I keep it to 2 hours, the time I used to do when I was still running, or walk for 3 hours regardless of what distance that took me, or go for the usual 12 miles regardless of how long it took me? Last year it took 3 hours and 11 minutes to cover that distance.
The first hour felt easy mentally, the second hour almost felt likewise until I reached 1:45 when it felt like time slowed down. On the third hour, I tried not to check my watch too often, and that helped a lot. During the walk, I saw a lot of houses being remodeled (the economy must be getting better), gardeners mowing lawns and trimming bushes, squirrels scampering up trees and crossing overhead electrical wires from one post to another. In Los Cerritos Park, there was a smattering of walkers and other exercisers doing their thing. In the middle of the walk, my phone rebooted for no apparent reason so I had to reset the radio station I was listening to. The first cough drop lasted for an hour and 57 minutes and the second one lasted until I finished the walk. It was mostly a no rush walk of about 16 minutes per mile (I didn’t want to pressure myself with pace) until the last 30 to 40 minutes. As I was getting close to 12 miles, I picked up the pace and thought that I should go for something extra and try for a half marathon instead. Well I did manage to do a GPS based half marathon to celebrate my 56th birthday when the sun never emerged from the June gloom. The pace was faster than last year's 12 miler because there were no hills. After 3 hours, 17 minutes, and 33 seconds, 13.11 miles at 15:04 pace, and 2 bathroom breaks, I had done what I set out to do even with the initial doubts. Not only did the walk prove that I was still capable, but also that I can finish a half marathon without a training plan. That was the plus side. On the minus side, despite the distance, the workout didn't really hit the pleasure areas of my brain like running would have done. But I already accomplished the pleasure the previous day when I ran on the treadmill on National Running Day. Thus ends this year’s edition of my crazy traditions. Same time next year?
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