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My first Half Marathon

Sometime last October, I began running.

Apparently, aerobic activity can promote neuroplasticity, which seems helpful and relevant. (However, broken feet are less helpful, though more relevant in the moment.)

Starting with no training or clue, I ramped up to five runs per week via a custom schedule of specific distances, intensities, and rest days.

At first, knife-stabbing cramps tended to materialize after a few kilometers. After the first couple weeks, they disappeared completely and surprisingly. Distances grew longer and easier, from 5K to 8K, then 12K. My appetite expanded ridiculously (and it was already much more than people usually predict).

San Francisco’s Embarcadero is as beautiful as fun to run at sunrise. Though I would have never imagined, this finally converted me from incorrigible night owl to bright-eyed bushy-tailed morning person.

Counterintuitively, running days resulted in more energy and productivity than rest days. Baseline physical and mental health improved beyond expectation, and I wondered why I hadn’t tried this earlier.

This was great fun for a while, so Nicole and I signed up for our first half marathon on Valentines day.

However, I probably overdid the training. After the first few hundred kilometres, my “running shoes” expired via frog boiling in which all appeared well… until some typical morning run where my foot suddenly gave out. I could no longer bear weight without the left foot seeming sliced in half lengthwise.

I moped home in a car. The doctor took some X-rays, but couldn’t find anything wrong. So off I went icing for a couple days.

Couple weeks later, the foot seemed better. Walking was possible, then some running again. But then after 13K in Santa Monica, again with the slicy knife-foot mode.

A different doctor glanced at my original X-rays and promptly pointed out stress fractures in two metatarsals. Interesting. Confirmed by a new set of X-rays, they recommended I stop running for awhile lest I grant this scenario more permanence.

Now began the running withdrawal.

Getting around town was less convenient as I couldn’t even ride a bicycle, nevermind a motorcycle (gear shift and broken feet are not the most compatible.) But in any case, I was busy with other stuff in January, like recording.

Rather abruptly, February appears. The limping waned, and my foot seemed more foot-like.

This time I treaded carefully with some light excercises and stretches, followed by a minimal one mile jog, followed by still more stretches. Acceptable. I increased distance gradually, and managed five consecutive light running days before resting. This wasn’t quite the correct training plan, but perhaps better than nothing.

Suddenly, the day of mandatory romance was upon us. After a ludicrous pasta binge the prior evening:

Though we begin together, Nicole, due to being more awesome, leaves me in the dust. I focus only on finishing with intact foot.

The first half was a gorgeous path winding through Golden Gate Park, around the panhandle, past the Japanese Tea Garden and the De Young, through various gardens and ponds and waterfall, the windmill, and finally the ocean.

The second half of the course was a rather monotonous stretch of Highway One down to the Zoo, then back up the exact same road.

Every step here was now a new personal distance record. With each kilometer, intensity and difficulty increased non-linearly, body crying ever louder for a break, to keel over and pass out, because why would you even.

One aspect of running I particularly enjoy is the opportunity for meditation and introspection. With the cyclical running gait in synchronization with breathing, it’s interesting to note and experiment with minor joint angle and posture differences, and how gently feet can contact and push off the ground. There must be some most free, most efficient movement of limbs – or at least some movement least likely to re-injure a questionable foot.

Towards the end, I somehow began passing everyone I saw from the first half. In the last kilometer I sprinted with everything left. Exhaustion tingled my face and spine, vision grew white around the edges.

At 2:05:13, I cross the finish line, a kid places an adorable windmill medal around my neck, and I collapse into friends and lovers and flowers. Not too bad, I guess.

Conveniently, I didn’t rebreak my foot.

Valencia, Spain. Feb 2016

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Last Update: 2017-05-22 00:00 UTC