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rain on green leavesSaturday morning, 5:30 a.m. It’s dark. It’s raining. Apparently it even hailed during the night. And my knee is tweaking. But by 7:00, we’re congregated in Redondo Beach to train. We’re scheduled to do five miles this week, but we are half the number we were the week before, and the Valley Team has already given up and gone home. So Bert the Coach says we’ll do a two-mile time-trial and then it’s up to us. Being the democratic soul I am, I think he means as a group.

We’re walking the “industrial loop” –  Aviation to Marine to Redondo Beach Blvd. to Manhattan Beach and back. That’s two miles.  So here I am – me, who shies at pain and change – with an ornery knee and new, unfamiliar shoes, up since 5:30, starting on a five mile trek in the rain. I’ve been training with a woman named Gayle, and we did our two-mile in 33 minutes.

“It’s your call” says Bert as we pass him, and the drizzle turns to downpour.

wet concrete“I didn’t get up at 5:30 to bail at two miles,” I say to Gayle, and we keep going. Half way around I realize my windbreaker is not waterproof. Then my left foot starts feeling squishy. But we keep going. It actually isn’t too bad, except for the squishy toes.

Mile Four. Bert gives us the high five, as if we’re done. But there’s still a half-mile and back to go to make it five.

“I’m not going home to say I did almost five miles,” says Gayle.

Marathon Trivia
Marathon races only date back to 1896. There were no marathons in the Ancient Greek Olympics. The longest foot race was a 5K. The first marathon was organized as part of the first modern Olympic Games.

We keep going. Soaked, tired, slower, and squishy. I’m getting a slight blister under my left toe, but we go the last half mile out, and now we have to get back. Slowing. Can’t stop at a stop light, or we’ll never start again. At least it’s not raining anymore. And a peculiar thing…there’s no one coming up behind us. We can’t be last…we’ve been doing a mostly 15 minute mile and were in the middle of the group.

“It’s not about being first” I tell her. But I still don’t get it…how are we last?

I find out when we finish. Everyone behind us had packed it in earlier, at mile four or before.


In 2005, I stunned myself by signing up to walk the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon on behalf of the American Stroke Association. This post is one of a series of reflections and Training Tales from that time. The whole series begins here.

Much thanks to Bette Marcus for the wet weather pix!