Race preparation a team effort

At one point last week, I had myself fooled into thinking I would participate in the News and Sentinel Half Marathon Saturday, then hop back over to the office and write my column for today’s paper. Fortunately, I know myself better than that. With any luck, yesterday I survived the race, did not get caught up in the parade, and took a glorious nap. It’s no good trying to write a column for Sunday’s paper about a Saturday event, on Thursday. Grammar teachers, look away. I’m safest sticking with sentences like “I was not attacked by Bigfoot on the course yesterday.” (If that happened, someone needs to go feed my fish today.)

What I can write about is the Herculean effort I saw from race volunteers working in our offices last week. The assembly line for putting together welcome packs was a sight to behold, with volunteers ranging in age from 11 years old to … someone who looked several times that age, but is probably in better shape than I was as a teenager.

Website glitches and misplaced checks added to the tension in an already controlled chaos, but I was assured it looks worse than it is, and most of those involved know the routine after all these years. The range of tasks required of some folks – from handling computerized registration to getting down on hands and knees to paint the finish line – let a select few demonstrate impressive flexibility.

Piles of T-shirts sprung up in the newsroom Thursday – neon T-shirts carefully sorted and laid out for distribution. It was a shock to the eyes against the normally muted colors of our office. A couple clearly ready to tackle any fitness challenge came in apologizing for their last-minute attempt to register, and the race staff was able to get them signed up. In fact, very little seemed to throw that bunch off their game.

I, on the other hand, was very much thrown off my game by a cold that crept up on me last Sunday night. I had attended a convention, which required fancy dresses in rooms that were air conditioned down to about snowsuit temperature. So a week before my first official half marathon, I woke up coughing and stuffy and generally feeling gross. I looked pathetic enough that I was used as an example to younger racers, when one of the organizers pointed to me and said something along the lines of “she’s twice your age and has a cold.” I’m not sure whether that was supposed to inspire to greatness or just inspire pity. In either case, it made me think “Well, if I have to strap a box of tissues to my head, and roll down the last hill, I’m going to finish this thing.”

Gosh, I hope I made it. I mean, I hope I make it. Or, I will have had made it … this is still confusing.

My poor brain has absorbed so many new things in the past several weeks. I did not know I could run two miles without slowing down, or that I would be getting in a couple of 13.1-mile practice trail runs to make sure I was up to the distance. I also did not know what would happen to my toenails. I will be apologizing profusely to the pedicurist if I ever work up the nerve to return to one.

I did not know I would start to enjoy – even look forward to – my training days (though those are still interspersed with lying-on-the-couch-and-taking-ibuprofen days), or that I would be excited about two other races in the fall. And I really had no idea I would be thinking already about next year, and ways to adjust my workout plan. Next year? This was supposed to be a one-time challenge. I was supposed to be sitting around this morning saying “Phew! Good thing I never have to do that again.”

I’m still not a runner. But, again, with any luck, this morning I can say I’m a half-marathon runner.

Pass the ibuprofen.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com