More years ago than I care to remember, I was actually pretty fit. I was eating well, getting more sleep and going to the gym on a regular basis. A big fan of the treadmill, I had managed to get up to jogging four miles on the thing … at once! For someone like myself, who is as athletic as Orson Welles in his Black Tower-shilling days (look it up), this was a huge deal. I had always envied those people effortlessly moving along the pavement as though their sneakers weren’t full of mangoes, and now I was doing it too.
As this extraordinary leap into the world of fitness was happening around March, I figured what better way to show off my newfound stamina than by signing up for the Irish Jog on St. Patrick’s Day.
My sister-in-law Danni, who will take two 75-minute hot yoga classes back-to-back if she has time to kill, was very encouraging, and offered to join me in my quest. I appreciated the support, and besides, I needed someone nimble nearby in case they had to run for an ambulance.
The big day arrived, and I donned my green T-shirt with pride. Hundreds of people were gathered near the Britannia Golf Course. This … this is what 5K culture felt like. What a sense of camaraderie and community – I was bursting to be a part of it all.
Danni was waiting for me near the start line. The serious runners were going to be the first to go. “Maybe I’ll tackle that next year,” I thought, already looking ahead.
The next group was the joggers. That was us.
After we had set off, the final section would be the walkers.
The route would take us into the area of the Britannia condos, where we would go in, to a point, then turn back, and finally head into the golf course itself before making our way to the finish line.
As we jumped off, I was determined to pace myself. I had built up my endurance on the treadmill but running on solid ground was different – it took more energy. That being said, it was hard to hold back when some people were moving at a faster pace. I was feeling okay, so I upped the ante a little, while still holding back that Usain Bolt magic.
By the time we had gone ‘round the horn and come back, about to move into the course, I was feeling on top of the world. “Doing great!” said Danni. “We’ve nearly passed the halfway mark!”
Really? This was fantastic – perhaps having others spurring me on was making it feel like a piece of cake. Could the New York Marathon be far behind?
Into the golf course we went, but not before I waved madly and gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to people I knew at the registration desk.
It wasn’t long before I realised that the path through the course was not as flat as the road. After all, there had to be gentle hills and dips among the greens to make it a worthwhile challenge for a golfer.
My feet were feeling a little heavier, and what were those in the distance? I squinted at what appeared to be leprechauns on the horizon. Funny … I didn’t see any rainbows in the area …
We were now well into the route and my breathing sounded, well, different. Danni, on the other hand, was basically floating beside me, clearly slowing her own pace to match mine.
“Wow,” I panted, “This seems a lot further than I thought it would be.”
Turns out that she had pulled the ol’ tell-‘em-it’s-shorter-than-it-is-to-keep-‘em-motivated switcharoo. That jog through the condos had not been 50% of the distance, and the leprechauns were runners ahead of us, soon to make their way back and past us to the coveted finish line.
It is an exaggeration to say that with my green T-shirt and now very red face, I resembled a bleeding grape, but you get the picture. We were now approaching a corner where my brother Michael was waiting to cheer us on, Heineken in hand. “Heyyyyy, well done!” he yelled, as I lurched past him.
This couldn’t be a 5K. It had to be at least a 9K, or 11K. Why did they call it ‘K’ anyway? If they went with miles, it would sound like a shorter distance. Why did anyone play golf? Hours, out in the heat, knocking a ball around … it didn’t make sense.
These were the thoughts racing through my addled brain as the finish line finally came into view. At this stage, I was huffing and puffing. My T-shirt was soaked with sweat. Every little incline felt like Kilimanjaro and at least two women had effortlessly jogged past me, pushing strollers with one-or-more children in them.
“Nearly there,” Danni chirped, looking like she had just finished a fitness fashion shoot.
This time, it was the truth. We were feet away. I summed up a last burst of energy and crossed the line, triumphant and purple.
I thought I would collapse at the end, but I didn’t. Just being able to stop the constant forward momentum was enough to make the difference. They were going to be drawing the random prizes soon, but I didn’t stick around – simply completing the course was prize enough for me.
I can look back on it now and really be proud of that accomplishment and I’m wondering if I should sign up for the jog next week. If I do, I’ll be happily taking my place among the walkers.