Saturday morning, with my cell phone slipping in my sweaty hand, the weight of it yanking the tangled cord of the ear buds, I stop on a street corner to GPS my location. I’m in my own neighborhood. It’s the sort with aging oaks and pecan trees angling over mansions with the occasional 1950s ranch house where the 1950s ranch houses haven’t been torn down to accommodate more mansions. Guess which kind of house I live in? So I wander around the neighborhood in the ambitious ensemble of running shorts plus coordinating tank top, gawking at the grand structures past the giant agave and iron gates, taking more than one wrong turn along the way.
By the time I find my street again, I’m sure I’ve walked over five miles. I’ve also stepped right into the path of a bird-shit bomb and slipped in a mud puddle in the home stretch. After I slide my grimy shoes off by the back door, I fumble with the key in the lock and schlep over the threshold to announce to Joe and Hannah on the sofa, “I just accidentally walked five miles! I almost passed out!”
Joe wants to know the route. When I tell him, he says it’s not five miles. But I insist. “I’m gonna look it up!” I say and drag the back of my hand over my temple. “Ugh, I’m sweating just like daddy,” I mumble to Hannah.
I mean after he goes on his runs. I’ve lost track of the number of marathons he’s completed. It’s his thing. And now we’ve decided it can be my thing too, only I’m the kind of runner who walks. The night before, Joe and I sat at my mom’s kitchen table with my parents and sisters and announced we were going to walk a half-marathon together in December. The San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, to be exact. It seemed like a great idea after a margarita.
“How far is that?” my mom wanted to know.
I looked at Joe.
He intentionally has not told me how far a half-marathon is, mile-wise. I could Google it, but I’m afraid to.
“It’s about a three-and-a-half hour walk,” he said.
And that’s probably a white lie, isn’t it. Don’t tell me.
At any rate, I know a half marathon is a lot further than five miles, and five miles just strong-armed me into child’s pose on my bedroom floor where I stretch one hand to map my route on my iPad playing MC Yogi and discover it was only three miles. If there was a marathon for maintaining child’s pose, I’d win.
* * *
Sometime in the middle of the night, I push at Joe’s shoulder and say, “Hey. I don’t think I can walk for three-and-half hours.”
“Yes you can,” he says.
“But what if I can’t? Can I just … stop walking the half-marathon?”
I imagine a marathon official scraping me off the asphalt, pouring me into a golf cart, and conveying me back to my car that unfolds into a movie theater playing a Rocky marathon.
Joe is silent for a few minutes too long, and then he answers, “You can walk for three-and-a-half hours. We have until December to train.”
If I haven’t mentioned it before, Joe is a retired Army drill sergeant, so he has it all figured out, how he can transform me into someone who can complete a half-marathon walk without buckling face down in a grassy ravine – with increasingly longer walking routes and little white lies about the distance.
“Besides,” he says, “we’ll all be there with you as a distraction.”
The “we” depends on how many people would like to join me in the half-marathon in December and wear matching shirts. Joe has promised we’d wear matching shirts. I’m thinking about what could be on the matching shirts while trying to shift into a more comfortable position in my bed. At the same time we decide walking a half-marathon would be a great way to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle, every joint in my body has apparently decided to age seventy years, which I’ve read may be a long-term side-effect of the kind of chemo I’d been on. In the morning, I unhinge myself into a few sun salutations and walk four miles on purpose.
* * *
By the time my friend Andrea comes to see me for the weekend, I’ve discovered liquid glucosamine with chondroiton at Whole Foods, which I throw back like a shot twice a day. That, yoga, and being active seems to help. When Andrea sets her bag down, she says, “I brought my shoes in case we want to go walking.” So I take Andrea along my four-mile route through the estates where we sneak pictures of landscaping and fencing designs we like and a World Cup flag hanging from a balcony. The pictures don’t turn out that great, but here’s Andrea looking awesome:
Along the walk, I tell Andrea about the half-marathon idea, which is still like announcing that Joe and I are going to establish a unicorn ranch on Saturn’s outermost ring. I tell her that I’ve been blogging about it but not publishing any of it.
“Because then you’ll be committed,” she says.
And then it won’t be a unicorn ranch. It’ll be real. I realize something, though, when we cross the street to my home – it is infinitely easier to walk a few miles with dear friends. It hardly seems like we’ve walked that far at all. So if walking a few miles is easier, surely walking whatever miles a half-marathon equals will be easier as well.
I tell Andrea my idea of restarting the blog count and focusing on training to walk a half-marathon, inviting guest bloggers to share wisdom and exercises and recipes and so on. I talk myself into doing it, actually doing it, committing. After I wave Andrea off later in the day, I think, Well … maybe not. School will be starting soon and I’ll be too busy and …. Then Joe sends me the confirmation email that we’ve officially registered. So here we go, team. Day one!