Here I am in the spot where Chuck traditionally takes a photograph of me after I've finished running the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon. Except this time I'm in street clothes with coffee and a stunning lack of regret about not participating.
So let me put an end to the suspense: I did not run the half-marathon. Even I didn't know if I would until about 4:17 a.m., when I approached Lil Latrell -- who drove up from Lawrence, Kansas and was now standing in the hallway outside of the Winnie the Pooh guest bedroom -- and said:
"I'm not going to do this."
I thought I'd waver more with my yeses and nos. But as it was, first I was a no, then I was a yes for almost an entire day, and then suddenly I was an emphatic NO. There are plenty of reasons that I didn't run:
1. I didn't train at all. And in my life I've already proven that I can run great distances without training to run great distances many times over. This is no longer an interesting thing about me. It's a little like saying: "Look! If I ride my bike no handed, I can run into that wall at 14 miles per hour and crack my skull open. I've done it tons of times." The "I didn't train and ran anyway" story only needs one piece of anecdotal evidence, and since I'm still talking about the time I came in sixth-to-last place at Twin Cities Marathon in 2004, most other opportunities to re-write another version will fall short.
2. In light of what happened on Saturday this makes me sound like an asshole, but it's a genuine reason that I decided not to run: I did not want to die. (I'm not saying the person who did die didn't train. I am saying that as a person who didn't train, I was upping the ante in a game of Battleship with the Grim Reaper).
3. The 2009 half-marathon really sucked. From the moment I woke up and coated my lungs with air the consistency of Rubber Cement, to standing in line to pick up my clothes at the end of the race -- a scene that rivaled "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome," I was miserable. I could practically feel my uterus trying to find an escape hatch from my running skirt. Water dissolved on impact with my tongue. I was sweating chunks or sand.
4. Vanity. Pure vanity. There is always this day a few months after the event when Lil Latrell sends me an email that the race photos have been released. I type my number into the website, and find about six extra unflattering photographs of myself walking, grimacing, contorted into something barely recognizable as a human being. Last year I had the added bonus of looking like a transvestite. A person with my legs -- like a retired male soccer player with a taste for booze and fake cheese and TV marathons and good books -- really isn't going to rock a spandex skirt with any kind of femininity.
But when I look back on 2010, the official reason I didn't run: Blame it on the chillwave. The Glow-fi. A sudden interest in a musical trend from the summer of 2009 that had me Googling, Myspacing, and greedily downloading until about 2 a.m. Washed Out, MemoryTapes, Toro y Moi, Neon Indian ...
So after I told Lil Latrell (I couldn't tell if she was disappointed, or relieved that she didn't have to listen to me repeat "Ouch" with every stride from Mile 2 on) I went back to bed for two hours. Chuck, Latrell's friend Lady Longlegs (who had road tripped with her) and I went down to about the 12 mile point. I ate a cheese danish. Drank coffee. Rooted for my slimy friends. Wandered to the finish line and caught the end of the men's full marathon. Wept quietly, as I always do when people do something impressive that may result in a loss of toenails.
Through this all, I did not once regret not running. Not when I saw Latrell's medal. Not when I saw the zombie shuffle of finishers on Superior St. on Saturday night. Especially not when I saw the T-shirts, which I assumed would be enough to make me mug a drunk runner at the beer tent.
The best part is that right now I can go crank out 13 miles on my inline skates with nary a wince. Running. Psh.