The world is even darker at 4:30 a.m., which is the time I get up for the Palos Verde Half Marathon. We are meeting at 6 and the marathon starts at 7. Again, Marathon Woman takes over. No hesitation, no lingering in bed. Up, dressed, and out the door by 5:30. The sun is just opening its eyes, and the birds are singing the day awake. It’s actually cool to be up this early, and I have a brief fantasy of making a habit of it. Very brief. But the dawn is brisk and quiet, and the freeway is wide and empty, and I am happy to be driving toward this race.
The closer I get to Palos Verdes, the thicker grows the fog. It is strange to be driving, just past dawn, towards cliffs and hills you can barely see. I know there is water out there, but the dense, damp air obscures everything, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I came through it to some other place entirely. The signs don’t help. The ones I can see, large and yellow, are for yard sales. The marathon sign is small and white and implies parking where there is none. I drive up a hill and turn around, worried about the line of cars that starts to follow me, as if I know where I’m going.
“Lemmings,” is Anjali’s conclusion when I pull up along the edge of a road behind her. It’s a poor parking choice. We have to walk half a mile downhill before we even find the park, which means it’s going to be an extra half mile back up hill when we’re done. We somehow gather Beth, Verna and Gayle on the way down. Gayle recognizes me from a block away by my walk. “I’ve watched you walk a lot!” she quips.
The park is a festival of booths and picnic tables. We pick up our numbers and find the team. People are milling everywhere, warming up, stretching, lining up for port-a-potties before the rush, nibbling on snacks. There are marathon, a half marathon, 10K and 5K races being run today. The marathon starts at 7 and the half marathon (our event) at 7:30. So as soon as the marathoners take off, 1300 of us converge on the starting line. This is the only race the five of us will get to do together. I say as much, and Anjali goes into mock nostalgia. Then we’re off.
This is the race that, if we push hard, should tell us how we might do in a full marathon on a gentler course. I thought I would be pushing everything, but I am walking for endurance today, not speed. I need to see what my feet can do.
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.