Penny’s Blog

Bye-bye, recliner

Posted on: July 13, 2009

I have begun my career as a remedial athlete.  (I was going to call myself a penguin or a filly, but those guys actually run, and I’m not running yet.)  I have done two races in the past month.

The Sole Sisters took part in the event we’d been training for, the local 5K Race for the Cure, on June 13. Huge crowds (more than 23,000 people running or walking), festive atmosphere, music, support, remembrances. What a great first-time race experience.

The race course wandered through some residential neighborhoods, and folks had set up boom boxes, powerful fans, or “hooray for you!” signs at their front curbs. There were sprinklers to run through, and youngsters offering squirts from their squirtguns. Susan and I walked together, not in any particular hurry, and crossed the finish line, holding hands, at something over 50 minutes.

Susan and Penny before the race

Susan and Penny before the race.

By the way, the Sole Sisters raised over $12,500, placing us in the top 10 out of 700+ teams.  Thanks to all those who donated!

Devoted runners have said that if you want to be sure to keep up your training, you should always register for some upcoming race. So after the Race for the Cure, I signed up for Four on the Fourth, an annual four-mile race in Carrboro.

Quite a different experience, the Four on the Fourth.  Almost all the participants in that one are runners. The race organizers told me it would be okay to walk—after all, the entry fees are going to charity, so the more racers the better—but I looked at past years’ results and saw that most people finished in 45 minutes or less.  I made my goal to finish the race in under an hour.   I had trained only a couple of weeks, and hadn’t yet done 4 miles in less than 1:04, but hoped that race-day excitement and adrenaline would carry me through.

My goals changed on race morning.  It turned out my first challenge was not chickening out at one of the many potential chickening-out points.  But I got past the hurdles—getting up, getting dressed, driving to the site, getting out of the car at the site, going to the starting line…

Within 10 minutes after the race’s start, most of the runners were so far ahead of me as to be out of sight. There were just three of us walking, shuffling, or limping at the tail end of the pack.  By the 2-mile mark I had modified my goal from finishing in an hour to just finishing, period.  If we hadn’t had RFID chips in our race bibs, tracking each runner’s whereabouts, I would have been seriously tempted to sit down in someone’s yard and call it a day. But I didn’t want the organizers to see my blip on a screen and say, “Number 407 is down! Send the medics!”

In the final 50 yards or so, my two fellow limpers/walkers put on a final burst of speed and ran to the finish line.  I had no will to run, so I walked to the end, and finished last.  Way, way last. Very conspicuously last.  Two Sole Sisters were waiting for me at the finish line to give me high-fives.

Hey, somebody had to be last.

Hey, somebody had to be last.

It was an overwhelming and humbling race—it’s been a long time since I risked (and achieved) appearing so vulnerable, unskilled and un-suave in a public arena. The humiliation of being last has now receded, and I’m able to feel some pride at having done the race at all.  As Susan likes to say, “Hey, while you were out there coming in last, there were a lot of other people at home who never got off the couch.”

Next race, I’ll allow more time to prepare, and adopt a more realistic training schedule. But there will be a next race, friends.

During the months of cancer treatment I spent many an hour in the old green recliner in my living room.  I told people that I planned set the thing on fire once treatment was over.  Several weeks ago the recliner, sensing that its days were numbered, collapsed. It’s now sitting on my porch (adding to the white-trash ambiance) until I can get it taken to the dump.

No looking back.


1 Response to "Bye-bye, recliner"

Penny, it’s been a while since one of your posts made me cry. This one did, more than once. In a totally good way. Congratulations on everything you are doing. Keep being who you are.

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