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It’s Easter Sunday, and training is optional. Some people are having a group yard sale for fundraising. Some are meeting the coaches for 8 miles. I’m heading out to Griffith Park for a 10K. It’s not quite the full eight miles (actually only 6.2), but it will give me a taste of a real race and a sense of what it will be to walk without Gayle, who is training for Kona.

Griffith Park is the largest municipal park and urban wilderness in the

A trailhead in Griffith Park beginning at the ...

A trailhead in Griffith Park beginning at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

U.S., and at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, it is quiet, lush and beautiful, except for the herd of rubber-soled creatures that has come to walk and run among the oak trees and wild sage. It’s strange to show up at something like this by myself, but here I am, race bib pinned to my sports bra and water pack strapped on my hips.

“Do you know how weird it is,” my brother said to me, “to hear you say, ‘It’s an optional training day, so I’m going to do a little 10K?’”

My challenge today is to energize myself without Gayle. The sunshine and scenic vistas only carry you so long, and I have no one to talk to. People seem to be in pairs or groups; the solo racers are serious and single focused.  Two women in front of me are walking very close together, and I finally realize why: they are both plugged into the same iPod. Behind me, there are women walking with strollers; one man is training his dog to walk races. The runners are long gone, and for large stretches, it’s just me and the road.

With Gayle, I walk and talk. It lets me monitor my breathing and keeps my mind engaged. So the question is, how do I do that for myself? The answer: Singing! “You’ve got to walk that lonesome highway by yourself,” gets a few lyrical and rhythmic variations and keeps me going for awhile. Helen Reddy (remember her?) reminds me that “I am Woman,” that “if I have to, I can do anything.” But the best looks I get are when stern-faced runners pass me, or I pass slow grimacing walkers, and I am smiling and bouncing and singing the songs from Godspell. “When you feel sad…or under a curse…” The only trick is to keep my feet walking and not start a soft-shoe on the asphalt.

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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.