Wednesday, November 08, 2006

In the long run

The only famous person ever to come from the small town in Alabama where I grew up is Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and super-athlete/diva Terrell Owens. No, I don't know him personally. One of us is four years older than the other *cough*. But until recently, I did think that Amazon shouldn't be offering my book MAJOR CRUSH together with Erin’s book.

Better together!
Buy MAJOR CRUSH by Jennifer Echols
together with
DANCING QUEEN by Erin Downing!

Instead, they should be offering this:

Better together!
Buy MAJOR CRUSH by Jennifer Echols
together with
T.O. by Terrell Owens and Jason Rosenhaus!

Reading both books would offer readers a well-rounded view of what it was like to attend the high school of Terrell and Jennifer. Football player vs. marching band drum major. Athlete vs. mathlete. (Maybe Terrell was a mathlete, too, but I definitely was not an athlete.)

However, over the weekend, I changed my mind. Terrell and I, we are not so different after all. I became an athlete.

In August 2005, I was running two miles a day, as I had for several years. It wasn't the exercise I enjoyed so much as listening on my iPod to the "soundtrack" of the book I was writing. This helps me brainstorm. But I'd found that when I wasn't working toward a goal, it was easy for me to slow from running to walking and allow elderly people to pass me hollering, “Sucker!”

I went online and found the Couch to 10K in 10 Weeks training schedule. (Ten kilometers is 6.2 long miles. Converting from the metric system actually stretches out the distance. Bet you didn't know that, but it's true). This was just what I needed to jump-start my running. It so happened that the Vulcan Run 10K through Birmingham, where I now live, was scheduled about 10 weeks away. I vowed to run, not walk, the entire race.

And I did! I expended an enormous amount of energy. Then pooped out and did a whole lot of nothing for months.

Finally I dragged myself outside again and started Couch to 10K in 10 Weeks, culminating in the Birmingham Zoo Run 10K in May 2006. I improved my time by 9 minutes—mostly because I started at the front of the pack rather than the back. Fool! The pace was too fast, and after about thirty seconds of this, I thought I was going to die. I may also have sped up when we ran past the Fecal Pile. Or the camels, who seemed to be having a particularly bad day odor-wise.

Last Saturday, the Vulcan Run came around again. I'm writing with a deadline, so I didn't have time to put into following the Couch to 10K in 10 Weeks program to the letter. But you know what? By this time, I knew I could run 6.2 miles. And so I did. I also had some tricks up my sleeve for running my third 10K:

Start at the back. When you start at the front, it's intimidating for people pushing baby strollers or wearing heart monitors to blow past you. When you start at the back, no one can pass you, but you can pass anyone who starts walking. If they walk, they're TOAST, baby!

Take inspiration. I'm pretty sure the Vulcan Run course designers knew what they were doing. A Greek Orthodox church with a beautiful glass-tiled mural of the Virgin Mary is placed just where the course begins to go uphill—in case you get worried. The statue of Vulcan that presides over the city is visible just as you emerge from the hills and start to go down again. Also, I was gratified that Micol Ostow flew down from New York to cheer me on. Wait—that must have been someone else carrying a dog wrapped in a sweater.

Feel successful. I'm beginning to think I will never get my parade through downtown Birmingham like Taylor Hicks. Whenever I call City Hall to ask about it, they say they are having scheduling problems. Sometimes I get the feeling they are putting me off. So the Vulcan Run may be my only chance for people to wave at me and cops to stop traffic as I travel the Taylor Hicks parade route.

And most importantly...

Feel like an athlete. This is a huge change for me. Before, even though I'd run two 10Ks, I thought I was just dabbling in running. This time, I finally felt like a runner, and knew I wouldn't stop running this week just because the race was over. I experienced my first runner's high--I think. I may have just gotten dizzy after running 6 miles and trying to sprint the last .2. And I'm currently experiencing my first athletic injury, because one of my toenails is coming off. Hooray! I'm an athlete! I've made it!

So these days, I feel like I have a lot more in common with Terrell than I used to. When we're visiting relatives in our old hometown during the holidays, maybe we'll do lunch. Terrell, if you're reading this, let's set something up. Have your agent call my agent. ♥

1 comment:

Micol Ostow said...

Very very VERY cool! I started running 5 and 10ks a few years back and became addicted (alas, I've since lapsed). Now I can live vicariously through you.