Let me tell you a story.
Several years ago, I worked at Southern Wine & Spirits in Florida alongside Ben Block. Ben was a fellow member of the Windows team, and we managed stuff like storage, VMware, SQL, and a bunch of other applications. Ben and I shared the pale, flabby skin that marks so many of us IT geeks. (We both still have it, by the way – this isn’t an inspirational story about getting skinny or tan.) We ate bad food, worked long hours, and sat in office chairs the whole time. Oh, sure, we’d get up every now and then and move servers around, but we’d huff and puff afterwards.
We were different in one key way: Ben did marathons.
He didn’t brag about it, but the subject would come up when we talked about our weekends or our daily routines. He had a training schedule consisting of short runs during the week and longer run/walks on the weekends. Miles. Tens of miles. Looking at him, I simply didn’t believe he could actually finish a marathon, because he was a pale, flabby geek like me. He was quick to point out that he didn’t run all 26.2 miles, but still, it’s 26.2 miles. Driving 26.2 miles takes a long time, let alone running or walking it.
Me, on the other hand, I hated running. I hate pretty much any physical activity, actually, and I’ve always been that way. I never participated in any high school sports – I tried out for the tennis team once, but gave up after the very first workout. Sweat and pain? Are you kidding me? Why on earth would I subject myself to that? I didn’t understand how exerting effort could possibly bring joy to anyone, and for the record, I still don’t understand it. Thing is, though, I don’t want to die young of a heart attack, and I knew I needed to get into better shape if I wanted to enjoy a long life with Erika.
One day, I looked at Ben, looked at myself, and thought, “If Ben can finish a marathon, I can jog a 5k.” I started by downloading a couch-to-5k podcast in iTunes that was designed to get people like me – well, like us – up and moving. The first week’s episode was around 30 minutes long, and it alternated between one minute of running and three minutes of walking to recover. The next week increased the running time, and the week after that increased it more, and after several weeks of movement, I was able to jog for 30 minutes straight without stopping.
I did my first 5K with Erika watching. It was a night event tied in with a park’s Christmas lights – we got to jog through a lit path. When I finished, Erika took a picture, and I was smiling not because I was having a great time, but because it didn’t suck. No, it wasn’t enjoyable, but it wasn’t miserable either, and I was proud that I was able to pull it off.
I did my first (and only, so far) half-marathon last year with a bunch of SQL folks. Right after I finished, I swore I’d never do it again, but by the next day, I was thinking I not only could do it, but I should do it. Continuing to schedule an event a year is the only way I can manage to keep myself in shape. The instant I don’t have an event coming up, I stop jogging, and when I stop jogging, I start gaining weight. So it’s time to schedule my next event – not run, not race, just an event.
I want you to join me in the Disney Half Marathon this year.
Your finishing time doesn’t matter. I don’t ever think about how long it’ll take me to complete a distance, and I don’t want you to either. We’re not in a race against each other – we’re only racing against our deaths. I don’t really care about you personally, but you keep my blog metrics high. I can’t afford to lose readers.
You won’t be alone. Yanni Robel was the one who first pushed me into registering, and she’s running it. I talked to my old friend Ben at the SQLCruise party this week, and he’s in too. I bet within a couple of weeks, we’ll have several SQL and technology people signed up for this event, all with varying running speeds and experience, and we’re all going to motivate each other to keep up with our training. And we’re going to have an excellent way to finish.
The Disneyland Half Marathon is 13.1 miles through the park in Anaheim, California. Runners are serenaded by marching bands, get their pictures taken with characters along the route, and just generally enjoy beautiful scenery. It sure beats pounding pavement through boring city streets. I did the Disney Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13k (8 miles) through Disney World in Orlando, and I’ll never forget it. The Halloween race started long after dark, and in the corral before the race, Disney DJs played a killer mix of foreboding (yet somehow exciting) Halloween-ish songs like There’s Something Going On by Frida. Along the way, Disney park staff dressed as zombies stalked us. These guys know how to put on an event.
Sign up to do the Disneyland Half Marathon right now.
I didn’t say sign up to run it. I want you to finish, dear reader, and for folks like us, that means alternating between running and walking. Our goal isn’t to win: our goal is just to beat the Current Us who gets winded going up a flight of stairs.
Sign up right now and schedule your travel. Space books up quickly, and you’ll want to spend the day afterward in the park too. We’ll all be hobbling around, soaking up the sights and the glory, and sharing our stories. We’ll be wearing our finisher’s medals, because yes, that’s really what people do. It’s something to be proud of, and the first step is the hardest: register now.
The second step is to buy The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer. This book is going to change the way you think about running. No, it probably won’t be enjoyable, but it’ll be doable and comfortable.
The last step is to leave a comment here and let your fellow geeks know what you’re doing. I’ll be setting up an email list to help keep everybody motivated, and I’ll add your email address.
Let’s do this. Let’s build a story we’ll be proud to tell.