What are you doing Sunday morning? Because I have an idea. And I can pretty much guarantee Justin Timberlake is all for it.
Exactly three days after the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis Marathon, I returned to the sport for which I had sacrificed my soul, my favorite Brooks hat, and a new SPIbelt (total incurred losses: $46.50 plus current market price for souls). I made the return in high spirits, my optimism buoyed by three days of religious foam rolling and an abundance of burritos. I was even able to navigate stairs without any difficultly as long as I walked backwards.
So, you know, I had that going for me.
I decided this ideal rate of recovery would put me in fine form to race the St. Louis Half Marathon this Sunday. For those of you who have never run the St. Louis Half Marathon—affectionately known as the “Clayton Half” or the “St. Louis Track Club Half”—the race is both an ode to the city and an opus of the running community therein. The course winds through the most scenic streets of Forest Park and Clayton at the most beautiful time of year and is overflowing with familiar faces in the form of volunteers, spectators, and fellow participants. The whole event is familiar and neighborly. It is the Cheers of half marathons. It is everything a local race should be. It is, quite simply, the bestest. And—in the words of Judy Garland—it is “Right here where we live. Right here in St. Louis.”
Plus, there are no stairs. So I have that going for me, too.
Thus, last Wednesday, as I strapped on my shoes and headed out the door for my first run post marathon, I had the Clayton half in mind.
I think I’ll do six to eight. Nice and easy. Get my legs under me. Maybe I’ll hop on the track next week and get a mini speedwork session in before the race! I was a veritable Pollyanna.
I started running.
I ran some more.
A few more steps.
Ugh… ouch… ugh…
Every step hurt. My legs didn’t feel heavy. They felt pulverized, like someone had taken a cheese grater to my quads and calves. My muscles were shredded. I was damaged. I looked at my Garmin. I had gone 0.36 miles.
Hey, wait a second… I lamented as I crawled my three-mile loop (the hope of “six to eight” had become laughable). This isn’t the body I remember from Sunday. What happened to fit me? What happened to fast me? What happened to pre-Russell me?
It was like Back to the Future II—you know, the bad Back to the Future—when Marty goes back to 1985 and Biff has taken over everything and lives in a casino with Lea Thompson. Marty goes back home expecting to find his family (and Jennifer, who spends 90 percent of the trilogy sleeping on the porch swing). Instead, there are bars on the windows, he is mistaken for an intruder, and he is chased off the property by an angry gentlemen with a rifle.
That was me when I returned to running on Wednesday. I was Marty. My body was the bad 1985. And the hill on Russell was Biff.
So how does that affect my plans to race the Clayton half in just a few days? It doesn’t, that’s how.
I’m not gonna lie, I was surprised by how trashed my legs felt, even after a few days of rest and burritos. I emailed Coach Cary about the wisdom (craziness?) of trying to race a half two weeks after a butt-kicker of a full. Coach Cary knows the limits of my fitness as well as the limits of my head. I can always count on him for objective counsel.
I would go into it with the goal of warming up into it. Run the first half with your head, and let your legs loosen up and get rolling. Run the second half with your heart.
Or, as running guru Scott Douglas put it, “In the first half, don’t be an idiot. In the second half, don’t be a wimp.”
So that’s my plan, folks. Even Russell can’t keep me from running the hills of Clayton, because, as the song goes, I’m all about that race, ‘bout that race in Clayton.
And speaking of songs, I have a little tradition of listening to—on repeat, sometimes for days—a specific “race song” for each race that I do, whether it be a 5K or a marathon. There is never a deliberate search for my race song. No. To willfully seek out a race song is tomfoolery. Why? Well, as Abraham Lincoln said, “You don’t find race songs; race songs find you. Like a falcon.”
The theme song that found me for the Clayton half on Sunday?
Seriously, guys. This song is tremendous. And, yes, I will be listening to it in the car all the way to Clayton and singing it (in my head and my heart) to the best of my ability on race day. Through Forest Park. Up Forsyth. I’ll be walking on, walking on broken glass.
The song is almost divinely apropos considering “walking on broken glass” is basically how I’ve felt since race day. Well, not exactly walking on broken glass. It’s more like shards of broken glass are embedded in my quads and calves.
This leads me back to my original idea: What are you doing Sunday morning? I’ll be racing the St. Louis Half Marathon, brought to you by the St. Louis Track Club—which, I might add, has a huge fan in the form of Justin Timberlake. (See picture for proof.) You should, too. It’ll be fun. It’ll be gorgeous. It’ll be super St. Louis-y, like Budweiser and Cardinal baseball and toasted ravioli. Who cares if you’re a little stiff. A PR isn’t the point.
Besides, it’s what Justin Timberlake would want you to do.
Amy L. Marxkors finished 4th in the 2014 rungevity Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Marathon. She is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.