The Monumental Marathon 5k: Go, Me!

Totally just an achievement post.

Last week I was traveling, spending much of my days on a bus. In the evening I found a hotel treadmill or, one lucky evening, a great trail by a river. I wanted to lift weights, but hotels don’t always offer weights. But all hotel fitness centers have a treadmill.

One night on a treadmill, I bumped up the speed to a jog. And when I was able to maintain that pace for a solid five minutes, I felt ridiculously proud of myself. (I know, I know. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll even laugh with you.)

Where I’m going with all this is, while high in a fit of optimism and fitness enthusiasm, I stumbled across a tweet warning of the imminent closure of registration for the Monumental Marathon. I hadn’t even known it was happening, but it offered a 5k. I signed up.

What you need to know is, I don’t run. Oh, I have friends who run, of course. I have friends who run regularly, who run marathons, who do triathlons, who run triple crowns of progressively longer races in three days. I had a pastor who was an Ironman competitor. But me? I don’t run.

I do walk. I walk fast. And I walk for a long time. Pursuit predation*? I’m your worst nightmare. One year a friend asked me to fill the graveyard shift for her 24-hour Relay for Life team, and I put Anna Karenina on my headphones and walked laps for hours through the dead of night. I wholly lost track of how many miles I covered, but it was a lot. I can walk.

But I don’t run. But I did decide to push myself, to walk/jog if I could.

A waist-high pile of clothing about 20 feet long, on a sidewalk.

Discarded clothing at the start line, being gathered for donation.

I signed up late Monday night. On Tuesday, registration closed. On Wednesday, the weather forecast updated, predicting 28 degrees for the event. I panicked. My evening walk while traveling had been in the 70s, and while I own plenty of cold weather gear for much colder temperatures, most of it isn’t designed for athletic movement. I was less worried about keeping warm while moving, more about the waiting at the start, and I knew I wouldn’t have anyone to hand off a jacket to. (All discarded clothing items are collected for charity, informed the event literature.) But I cobbled an outfit together and braced myself.

I asked a runner friend for advice. “Are they serious about this generous minimum course time? They aren’t going to shoo me off the course? I’m not a runner, you know.” He reassured me, despite my observations that this event had warnings about doping and other indicators of Serious Participants. The only race I’d ever done was a fundraiser for International Justice Mission organized by a church, very small and friendly. Nothing at all like this.

Friday was Halloween. I went downtown to pick up my race packet. I have never felt so simultaneously inspired, intimidated, and fake all at the same time. The convention center was packed, full of people with runners’ bodies, all sporting fancy gear and getting group photos in front of the professional backdrop. It seems the Monumental is a pretty big deal, one of the biggest marathons in the world and a qualifier for both the Boston Marathon and the Olympic trials. I felt slightly outclassed, to put it mildly.

I bought myself a new pair of headphones to boost my morale. After all, I’d made myself a special 5k playlist.

CON JOB facing out on a shelf at Indy Reads Books

Finding your book on a bookstore shelf never gets old.

Then I went to the Indiana Landmarks annual “Silent Halloween” party to watch Douglas Fairbanks and other silent stars accompanied by a live organist, and then I went to the NaNoWeen NaNoWriMo kickoff party (at a bookstore where I happily found Con Job facing out on a shelf) to start writing at midnight. Then I went home, slept four hours, and headed out into the dark and freezing weather.

The races started downtown. The 5k circled the downtown area, while the marathon ran through various historic areas of the city. It’s called the Monumental because that’s what Indy has — after Washington, D.C., Indianapolis has the most monuments and memorials of any city in the country.

The wind was pretty bitter. The MC promised the marathoners as they started that at least at some point on the course, the wind would be at their backs. And it wasn’t just cold, it was wet cold, which is worse, and it was a fairly sudden change for us after an unusually pleasant October. I had no idea what the wind chill was, and I was probably happier that way.

At last the 5k participants lined up. I fell in, looked around and realized I was with people who were going to be Seriously Running, and moved further back. I needed some walkers near me! Or joggers; I can match the pace of many less-speedy joggers. But not runners.

crowd in front of the Indiana State Courthouse, some with signs designating various school groups

Signs at the Courthouse finish trying to gather the IPS students. Like herding cats on a course of laser pointers.

I ended up in the midst of hundreds of IPS kids, running in school groups of all ages. This was hilarious. The race started, and we all headed over the start line. The students set a decent pace; kids have lots of energy. But they weren’t really in race mentality. I mean, there were a lot of us, packed pretty closely together, and the kids were… being kids.

“Oh! My shoe’s untied!” Kid stops abruptly in the midst of the running pack and bends over. Comedy ensues.

“Oh! My friend’s over there! Or even behind me! I should run directly to join him, cutting in front of everyone between us or running backward on the course!” Comedy ensues.

Or my personal favorite, right in front of me: “Oh! A penny! I should stop and bend over and and pick it up!” Comedy ensues.

So the first mile really just felt like live action Super Smash Brothers. But eventually we started getting some space between each other, and I was able to hit my stride.

My new headphones were awesome. The cold weather was even okay, once I was moving. And I made good time, once I was able to move. I even ran a little bit — but not a lot, because I wasn’t sure exactly where I was on the course (my GPS had glitched when I started it), and my runner friend had warned me to go slow, and I didn’t want to burn out.

Laura grins at the camera while holding up a race medal.

My first race medal!

But I ran at the end. I pushed myself at the last, and I finished in 39:42. Which isn’t bad for having mostly walked, I think.

I actually had fun. More, I was actually proud of myself, for pulling it off in the cold (my favorite spectator sign read, “Hurry up, we’re freezing!”) and on such short notice. So I quickly signed up for another 5k in December. I did it Saturday night, before I could feel sore on Sunday.

And I’ll probably invest in some cold-weather athletic gear before then.

*Pursuit predation is a kind of hunting in which you run very fast away from me but never get to entirely relax because I’m always somewhere behind you, coming slowly but steadily, always coming, and you keep running ahead but I’m always coming, until finally you die and let me eat you just to make it stop. Or something like that. Anyway, when they make that horror film, that’s my best chance of being a movie predator.

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