Well, I did it.
On Sunday, I ran the half-marathon in the second-annual San Luis Obispo Marathon + Half. If you told me more than a couple of years ago that I would even enter a half-marathon, let alone finish one, I would have said you were crazy.
But there I was Sunday, crawling out of bed at 3:20 a.m., leaving home about an hour later and boarding a bus from Cal Poly to San Luis Obispo High at about 5 a.m. And by about 8:30, it was all over.
I participated in track and field in junior high and high school and did everything I could to stay out of distance races. Running 1,500 and 3,000 meters (they don’t do the 1,600 and 3,200 in Oregon) seemed like way too much work to me. That was way too far to run. And I suppose that seemed like too much effort, too. Leave those long-distance races to someone else. I was content doing the long jump and triple jump and running some sprints and relays even though my skinny build was better suited to distance running.
I was hardly an elite-level athlete then and certainly not one now. Like most of us after high school, physical exercise was something I didn’t have a lot of time for after graduating from college and entering the so-called real world. But a couple of years ago, I decided that the pick-up basketball games with friends on Sundays weren’t enough to keep off all the extra pounds added since college.
I was tired of people telling me during basketball that I was a big dude even though I barely stand 6 feet tall. And I was tired of being in the dentist’s chair and hearing him say that because I’m a big guy, I bite down with a lot of force and that sometimes puts too much pressure on my teeth.
I decided to turn to running to get into better physical shape and lose a few pounds. Short runs, usually less than five miles, became more frequent. A couple of local 5K road races were mixed in.
And then, last year, the mother of all craziness happened – a couple of 10K races run and completed.
Somewhere around this time, and after last year’s revival of the SLO Marathon, I said in The Tribune newsroom that I would run the half-marathon in this year’s event. By declaring it in front of witnesses, I would have to hold myself accountable and do it.
Training for the half-marathon didn’t go well during the winter as I was too concerned about sleeping in (I often work until 11:30 or midnight most nights) and how cold it was outside. In February and March, I picked it up, knowing that if I didn’t, it would be an awfully long half-marathon.
I had two goals Sunday – to finish the half-marathon in less than two hours and run the whole thing. I accomplished the first goal, finishing in 1 hour, 58 minutes, 40 seconds, putting me 537th out of 2,277 finishers. I didn’t accomplish the second goal, but I did run all but about 800 meters. Running 121⁄2 of the 13.1 miles was way more than I came close to on any training run, so I’m happy with that.
My goal now is to return to the SLO Half-Marathon next year and maybe another one or two before it. And then in a few years, run the full marathon in the SLO event. Not bad for someone who couldn’t stomach the metric mile in high school.
Ashley Conklin is the sports editor of The Tribune.