I’m getting married soon.  A couple of months ago, shortly after finding myself engaged, I looked in the mirror and said, to no one in particular, “There is NO WAY I am getting married with this body!”  I quickly figured out that the best solution for me to change my general body shape from “pear” to “somewhat less of a pear” would be to begin running for exercise.  To call what I do “running” is a bit of a stretch, but the word “jogging” evokes memories of people wearing pastel outfits and headbands while discussing the latest episode of Dallas, so I’ll stick with “running”.  Running for exercise was a great idea, but I quickly found out that one of the major problems with running is that, unless you’re being chased, it’s easier to stay home on the couch.  I needed motivation.

So, I discussed my problem with my friend Dave (who looks remarkably like Clark Kent from the show Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), and we decided that a great way to get motivated would be to sign up for a road race.  When we signed up, I had to resist the strong urge to sign myself up as “Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago.”  I’m not Scott Sarian, either, so we signed up for a 5k race in Wakefield, MA rather than the Boston Marathon (to see Sarian’s article about running the marathon, click here).  Then, since I’m not someone who enjoys doing things by myself and because I wanted motivation to actually show up for the race, I asked a bunch of people to run the race with me.  For some unknown reason, a good number of these people actually agreed to run, including the Megger, my friend Dan, and my roommate Jen.  My friend Dave also found a bunch of people at his work who were willing to run the race.  This was a complete shock to me.  I figured that most people would rather be flogged than run recreationally.

Not only did a bunch of people agree to run, but my friend The King bet me an ice cream that he would not only run the race, but that he would finish ahead of me.  I do not have the time or space to go into the special relationship that exists between myself and ice cream (no, this is not a weird fetish), but suffice it to say that there were no longer motivation problems for me to prepare for this race.  From that point on, I ran almost every day.  

Sometimes I would run during my lunch hour, but that was difficult because when I was done with the run, even after showering, I would continue to sweat for a solid half-hour (being pear-shaped is no picnic). It got to the point where I had to bring in a shirt to wear AFTER my shower and BEFORE I could put my work shirt back on.  This sort of thing has always been a problem for me.  When I was in college (and in relatively decent shape), I used to ride a bike for a short distance to the restaurant where I worked, and upon arrival I would have to stand in the walk-in freezer for about 15 minutes to avoid sweating through my work shirt.  Anyway, you get the picture, I’m a sweaty mess.

Throughout my training, I would email The King to tell him how much I was running and to ask whether or not he was running much.  The King is in much better shape than I am, so I figured that my best course of action would be to talk as much trash as humanly possible, then lose gracefully.  But I decided to run every day, just in case I could somehow eke out a victory, despite the fact that I have the foot speed of a glacier on a cold day.  As the race approached, my hopes rose because II heard rumors that The King had been sick with the same cold since May, and that his training regimen involved large amounts of time on the couch watching Ken Burns documentaries.

Other people had different ways of approaching the race.  The Megger is not in need of a serious body adjustment, so she only ran enough to be sure that she would finish the race.  This was also the method employed by my buddy Dan, who ran about 3 times in preparation for the big day.

My friend Dave hurt his foot, and rested it for 5 weeks before the race.  Understand, if I rested my foot for 5 weeks, I wouldn’t be able to get off the couch, but he seemed to think that the race would be no problem (after all, he is Superman).  

My roommate Jen joined a gym and began to take spinning classes, and she was running fairly regularly.

The day before the race, I went to Newbury Comics and bought some Sponge Bob t-shirts, one for me and one for the Megger (FYI, my shirt is red with a picture of a running, yet angry, Sponge Bob).  My reasoning on this was that at least I would be able to look back and say, “Horrible race, but at least I had a great t-shirt on that day.”  At least this way I could humor myself that the people pointing at me and laughing would be doing so because of my shirt.

Race day finally arrived.  It was a beautiful fall day.  I got up nice and early and felt really good.  My roommate Jen, on the other hand, bagged out on the race.  I knocked on her door, but I heard her croak something about a freak concentration of gravity which was gluing her to the bed.  My theory is that she was simply frozen by the fear of the remote possibility that she would lose to a large man in a red Sponge Bob t-shirt. 

We got to the race and met The King, who was wearing a bright yellow t-shirt with black writing and sort of resembled a short, Italian yield sign.  Despite his outfit, he was confident that he would soon be enjoying a homemade ice cream sundae.

When the race began, I ran next to my friend Dan, a little ways ahead of the Megger and some of our other friends.  The King and Dave took off and were soon far ahead of us.  Watching the short yield sign-looking King bob around through the crowd of people, I remember thinking to myself, “If he keeps that pace up, he’s going to kill me.”  I looked at my friend Dan and said something about what a nice day it was.

Suddenly, I was airborne.

Apparently there had been a rise in the pavement, and I hadn’t raised my foot high enough to clear it.  Before I knew it, I had tripped and was flying through the air, doing my best Superman (Dave) impression, although I doubt that Superman ever had a look of surprise on his face when he started flying.  Unfortunately, I’m not Dave (Superman), and just as unfortunately, the gravity party at Jen’s bed had apparently broken up, because I soon had an abrupt meeting with the pavement.  I popped up from the ground and continued running while I did a quick damage assessment.  One scraped and bleeding ankle and some minor scrapes on my shin.  Nothing bad at all.  The bad news was that the Yield Sign had gained even more ground.

Dan and I were running a comfortable pace as we passed the 1st mile marker, where the official timer shouted “Eight Fifty!” as we passed him.  I hadn’t known what to expect, so I was happy with the 8:50 time.  Just ahead of the mile marker, however, was a troubling sight.

The King (Yield Sign) was walking!  He looked like a beaten man.  I tried to be sporting and get him to run with us, but he waved me away.  He told me that he would meet me at the finish line.  Dan and I ran on, and I assumed that The King would turn around and walk back to the start/finish line.  From that point on, my goal was to defeat Dan, which I figured wouldn’t be so hard, since Dan had barely trained.

It was hard.  Dan ran with me step for step.  The second mile of the race was at least 4 miles long.  At one point, on the 4th mile, I asked Dan, “Where the !@#$!@#$ is the second mile marker?”  We eventually passed the 2nd mile marker, but by that point I kept waiting for Dan to pull away from me, because I could feel myself slowing down, and breathing was becoming a conscious activity.  It was funny, Dan and I talked during the first mile, but by the end of the second mile all conversation had ceased, once I discovered how difficult it was to say !@#$!@#$ while gasping for air. 

We chugged along for the entire third mile, neither one of us having the energy to speed up at all (I was, in fact, considering a leap into traffic, if only for the long rest in the comfortable bed that would be involved).  Then, to my shock, Dan told me that he would need to stop and walk.  I wanted to beat him, but not with him walking (one of those per race is enough), so I asked him to start running again at an extremely slow pace in an effort to finish.  He agreed, and we had ambled along at that pace for about 4 steps when Dan let out a mighty belch and, apparently feeling better, immediately sped up.

We kept up that pace for the rest of the third mile.  At one point, I passed an ugly little kid who pointed at my shirt and yelled, “HEY DAD, LOOK AT THE FAT GUY WITH THE…”.  I can only assume that he was going to say “Sponge Bob shirt”, but with my blinding speed I was past him before he could get the words out of his ugly little head.

Finally, the finish line was in sight.  Amazingly, I still had some energy left, so I began sprinting towards the finish.  I passed Dan and a couple of women, and then, just before the finish line I passed another woman.  I hope she didn’t think that I was sprinting just to beat her in some sexist “I can’t lose to a woman” way, but if she did think that, tough noogies because I beat her NYAH NYAH NYAH!  I finished in 147th place and my final time was 28:50.

At the finish line, I met my friend Superman (Dave), who had finished about a minute or so ahead of me (after not running for 5 weeks).  We all moved up and began to cheer on the other runners as they finished, including the Megger, who had a great race and finished strongly.  We stayed for a while and cheered people on until, eventually, The King rambled past the finished line at the 32:35 mark to claim 175th place.  To be honest, I think it was a great time considering the fact that he had walked a good distance, and I’m glad he pushed himself and finished the race instead of giving up.

He immediately demanded a rematch.  I pondered the idea over my delicious hot fudge sundae.

For the official results of the race, click here

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