This summer, my coworkers asked me to compete in a relay with them. In a manic fit, I said yes, with no exact plan for how I would go from running 0 to 10 miles in just a few months.
I began in vain, my first few runs turning into walks as mere minutes exhausted me. I would peek at my step tracker or the treadmill screen to see I had only made it another tenth of a mile, the end barely in sight.
Running articles for beginners tell you to up your positive self-talk. That may be useful for those tough hills, but I discovered that 'you go girl' only kept me moving for that one time I said it.
What did make me move was taking my brain down its own winding roads and forested trails. I jogged past old Tinder date's houses, imagining the crazy shenanigans that would occur if they came out. I listened to podcasts about Serial Killers. I worked on punchlines for jokes I couldn't quite get or book ideas that usually simmered like a pot of broth in my brain.
In the overgrown sauna of an Asheville summer, I began to like running. With more miles, the landmarks spread out and the challenge of running for a 10th of a mile stretched to a half mile, then a whole one. Then I moved here, leaving me unavailable for my planned relay (sorry, Coral and Angie!). I still loved running, but I went out to my new local park aimless, with no end in sight. So I signed up for a half marathon!
Now I'm not saying everyone should start their running career with a 13 mile jaunt. I was mostly in it because they promised me all of my favorite things: a medal, beer and a bowl of soup at the end.
But I really do believe that everyone can find a way to challenge your body and mental fortitude, which makes the nebulous goals we hold in other parts of our life more achievable. I ran this half-marathon, partly as a challenge, but also as a meditation on life. I didn't use my tracking app or keep an eye on the clock- I just ran. Here's how it went.
A lot of people have tutus on. I have never gotten the point of ridiculous costumes for any activity other than a costume party and those have their limits too... In fact, I will now announce to the world that theme parties are for people too boring to come up with interesting conversation topics.
Yeah, I know runners in costumes are being uplifting, but for whom? Just your friends who see you in a ridiculous outfit. A woman has a sign that says, "Run, Bitch!" Now that's my kind of motivation.
We start on an uphill as a windy rain whips around the curve. Fight Song comes on my playlist. Nike should be filming this. Or maybe sponsors that actually got me here, despite the odds: well tequila drinks I needed to work off, American Spirits and my stolen, mismatched socks from Nora's dresser.
I really want to uplift all women. But when this tall blonde braided chick with a funky red fur headband passes me, I can't help drawing some Tonya Harding comparisons. Watch out bitch, I'm about to Kerrigan your ass! The headlines that dance through my head entertain me all the way through a rainy mile:
"Woman kneecaps fellow runner: 'She had a dumb headband!'
"Run, Forehead, Run!"
"1990s called: They want their baby headbands and international sports scandals back!"
I've never appreciated all the trees we have here cooking up oxygen more. How do people do this in China? How did they have the Olympics there?
The Life of Pablo came out about two weeks before I started running and I've been listening to it on runs ever since. I hope you get better soon, Kanye, because you certainly made me better.
I grab a water and eat a salted caramel Gu energy gel. People should really be frosting cakes with this shit, it's so delicious and healthy. Or maybe it's just healthy because you're eating it when you're exercising extraneously. I miss the trash can opportunity, but don't want to litter, so I clutch my cup and the Gu package for a full mile. Carmel Gu coats my already clammy hand. I expertly thrust my trash at a young volunteer at the turnaround point.
"CAN YOU TAKE THIS FOR ME?"
Tall dudes just love to pass me. We get it, you have long legs and the power of the patriarchy. Give us this one thing for once.
FIVE TO GO! Holy shit. I'm going to really do this.
My mom's at the middle of the hill where 9 begins. She's snapping my picture, then shouts GO MOLLY at the top of her lungs! Some days, I'm embarassed by Maria. She's loud, abrasive and sometimes ridiculous: sound familiar? She shares so much on Facebook that Chloe and I often hesitate to tell her news. But this is one time that I'm so proud she's my mom, it brings tears to my eyes... Which then slows me down, because I have to hawk a loogie on the ground. Thanks, mom.
Kendrick Lamar always gets you through. Backseat Freestyle comes on and I am flying. I pass groups of friends, I could fuck the world for 72 hours. Can I submit the fact that I'm a white in Portland comparing her half marathon with a rapper's struggle to get to the top of the Compton game as one of the biggest examples of white privilege to at least happen on December 11, 2016? Thanks.
On the other side of the race course, there are people just reaching their fourth miles. They have walked the race and I can't help but admire them more than I admire myself right now, which is at an all-time high. I don't do a lot of things without the assurance that I will do better than average or excel. Yet these people aren't afraid of the suppposed humiliation of going slow. We all have different approaches to taking on challenges- so why compare mine, in running, stand up comedy, freelance work, or writing, to anyone else's?
Even with the Gu gel and water along the way, I'm a bit delusional. Work comes on and I begin comparing Sean's and my relationship to Rhianna and Drake's but without the friend zone. I have shit I want to do and he respects that. If I had a twin, I'm guessing Sean would still choose me.
That one mile that exhausted me in June? Piece of cake now. I breeze through and see the .1 to the finish line. Sean and Maria are to my left, snapping pictures and cheering. I fly down the slope and cross the finish line.
Holy shit. I did it. I just ran 13 miles. God, my body hurts.