Run a marathon, and you might just get your own fan club.
I’m running on the Golden Gate Bridge surrounded by thousands of San Fran’s finest. There’s a guy in a full body stars and stripes Lycra suit. A ripped dude running with bare feet. A woman dressed like a banana. And hundreds more huffing and puffing. Awkwardly for me, most of them are passing me.
I’m running the San Francisco half marathon and have just reached the halfway point on the bridge. I’ve been training in Dubai where I live and tracking runs with kilometers on my Nike+ running app, so 7 miles seems small compared to the 11K on my app.
A half is 21K or 13.1 miles. And you, yes you, can and should run a half marathon. In fact, sign up for B’ham’s Mercedes Marathon as soon as you read this! You’ll have at least five months to train for the February race, which is plenty of time.
There is nothing like a big race—even a 10K—to motivate you to get off your tuchas and train.
I ran the New York Marathon in 2003—the same marathon P. Diddy, or Sean Combs, or whatever his name was then, ran.
The New York race is unique in that there are fans along the entire 40K, from the beginning crossing the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island, through Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Harlem. I wrote my name on my shirt, as instructed, and the fans yelled encouragement the entire way. Hearing hundreds of people cheer for you is a bit disconcerting at first. Then you get used to it. Then you expect it. And all of a sudden, you’re Bradgelina avoiding the paparazzi. I said no photos, damnit!
The cheers reflected the regional accents: classic New Yawk accents through Queens (Yo, Trevah!), Hasidic Jewish accents through parts of Brooklyn (Treyferr). When the run enters Manhattan and turns north up 1st Avenue, the crowds are 10 people deep on each side of the road. Thousands of voices were screaming, “Trevor, Trevor, Trevor!” Naturally, I do my best Chariots of Fire pose running almost full out.
Organizers warn of the 1st Avenue effect as many wear themselves out preening for the crowds and hit a wall once they reach Harlem (“Come on Treva, you can do it baby!”). The race ends in iconic Central Park, much like Birmingham’s Mercedes Marathon begins and ends in iconic Linn Park.
The Mercedes Marathon is a glorious tour of Birmingham, lapping the convention center, cutting across to the Civil Rights district, past the Alabama and newly refurbished Lyric Theatre, up 19th to Railroad Park, through the heart of UAB, then up the one and only Highland Avenue twisting through the parks, emerging in hipster Avondale, past the Pepper Place on 2nd and then down Birmingham Green on 20th for the final sprint back to the park. It’s a veritable who’s who (or where’s where) of iconic local locations.
The entry fee is only $90 through the end of the year, and there are loads of training plans and running groups in the Ham for inspiration.
Do yourself a favor and don’t wait until your New Year’s resolution to get in shape. Once you start clocking miles, it gets easier and easier. And pretty soon you’re running 8 to 10 miles like it ain’t no thing. You can piss off your friends and colleagues by moaning about the miles you have to clock this week (never as bad as CrossFit complaining, though).
It feels great to be a runner. I’ve been running on and off since high school, and the periods where I’ve trained for long hauls have been among my healthiest and happiest. There’s a Great Wall Marathon in Beijing I want to do. I almost did a half in Cambodia that goes by Angkor Wat temple complex, but I blew out my calves trying to go “barefoot style” on the balls of my feet.
I’ve trained while traveling and am convinced running is the best way to explore a city. I did my long run pre-NYC while along the Vltava River in Prague and most recently clocked 16K in Cologne running up and down the Rhine River training for San Fran.
Finally, we’re in Golden Gate Park, and I can see the balloons marking the finish line. My legs, back, knees, and feet are aching. Signs instruct half-ers to go left and full marathon runners to go right—for another lap. I can’t image running another 13 miles. It will be the same scene in Birmingham as the full is merely the loop twice. Not to worry, it’s a rock star route. •
Trevor C. Hale, a Cullman native and UAB alum, had his best jogs ever on Birmingham’s Highland Avenue.