From the Couch to 5K

luke-run-threeBy Luke Robinson

A few years ago I decided to delve into the world of an embedded reporter.

However, instead of heading into a demilitarized zone with our brave troops or going undercover to expose corporate greed, I elected to tackle something a little closer to home: I signed up for the Russell Forest Run near the shores of Lake Martin.

Signing up for this event was a bit of a stretch for me. Jogging and I have never been close friends.  There were those who were let in on the plan that did fear for my safety. If you have ever seen me, you know I don’t exactly have a body Runner’s World would call “perfection in motion.”

It is no secret that I am built like an anorexic centaur: A long torso with short, equine-thin legs. At times, simple balance while standing in line at Dairy Queen is a challenge for me. I was once offered several thousand dollars to pose for the cover of a Mr. Salty’s Pretzels box.

Don’t be too quick to judge me though. There was a time in my life that some people may have considered me an athlete of, at the very least, moderate ability. Of course, there was also a time when mustache-less beards were popular. But time marches on and I am fully aware my athletic prowess has deserted me like a politician’s promise.

Regardless, I made a commitment to run in the 5K. There was a 10K option, but that sounded pretty daunting. Like most Americans, the metric system is weird and scary to me. Once a metric denomination reaches double digits, I tend to cower in a fetal position until someone throws some American measurements at me.

In preparation for the run, I first determined the appropriate amount of training. According to the interwebs, a 5K is about 3.1 miles. I am confident in saying I have not yet run 3.1 miles collectively in my life. So with just a few weeks until the race, I concluded that training would really just be a way to be more miserable before the actual run. Then, before I could ask what the withdrawal penalty would be,  race day was upon me like black lung on a coal miner.

There I was at the picturesque Russell Crossroads meandering about with real runners from all across the country. This race was a much bigger deal than I realized. People were stretching and programming iPods and adjusting headbands; I was just thankful I didn’t wear my doctor-prescribed, Velcro tennis shoes.

When the run started I thought, “This isn’t so bad.” Of course, that thought passed before I made it past the cobblestone driveway (i.e.,  the .05 mile mark).

About one mile in, I felt like a weighted down Chevy Tahoe. I was big, bulky, slow and leaking fluid. Though my outer temperatures were soaring, my lungs were filled with Freon from the February air.

Various people ran past me— some were even walking past me —and I heard one runner yell out from the crowd, “Keep going Luke!…It gets better!” All I could pant in return was, “Can’t … talk … dying … a slow…. death.”

As I finally hit the turnaround point, I looked to see if someone was kind enough to have dug me an open grave. No luck.

But then something happened, reminiscent of when the Grinch’s heart miraculously grew three sizes. I had hit my runner’s high!

Well, it was really more of a strong buzz, but for me it counted.

Suddenly my legs were moving rapidly and straightforwardly. It was as if they were being self-propelled despite the rest of my body’s desire to lay face down in the Alabama clay.

  Then, like Shangri-La rising from the abyss, I saw that beautiful finish line. (To those two women I purposefully tripped right before crossing, I apologize; enough people had beaten me already.)

It was time for me to make my triumphant jaunt into the waiting masses. Trumpets blared the Chariots of Fire theme (in my mind) and euphoria washed over me like the hot shower I was dying to go home and take.

As I slumped into the golf cart which took me back up the hill to my car, I looked down at my tattered Nikes and curiously hairless legs and said, “Thanks guys … I needed that.” My legs didn’t respond, but I think they were cool with me.

The bottom line is that 5K’s aren’t about the race or the fellowship or even the running. They’re about proving to yourself what you are capable of. And I learned I am just barely capable of running/speed walking/regular walking about 3.1 miles before I vomit.

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