It's happening--and I don't really know why. I am either bored, feeling invincible after one hell of a crazy year or just want the T-shirt, but the reasoning doesn't really matter at this point. I'm signing up for a 5K run in September, and I ... am ... terrified.
My weight is laughable, the gym teacher made fun of me for "running" a 14-minute mile in middle school, and I'm a nervous energy smoker. But I've shifted some of that energy into late-night runs in the past few months, and it's kind of awesome, you guys. (Thanks, C25K iPhone app!)
Still, my stomach twitches a little when I think about what's coming in September, so I asked my co-worker, Tracy Swartz, an avid runner and half-marathoner, some pretty stupid questions to help quell my fears. Here's how it went. Thanks, Tracy!
Jessica: I couldn't run a full lap around the track in high school, and I still get winded climbing the Clark/Lake CTA escalator. Can I really do this after two months of shuffling my way through an iPhone app training program?
Tracy: A lot of the time, running is more mental than physical. You just have to imagine yourself crossing that finish line or imagine that you're being chased. Two months should be plenty of time to prepare.
Jessica: So when did you start running? What motivated you to do your first race? I basically just want to see if I can do it without barfing.
Tracy: I started running in 2007 out of spite. The guy I was dating dumped me for a girl he ran a half-marathon with. I thought, "This doesn't look so hard." I ran my first race, the Shamrock Shuffle, in 2008 and my first half-marathon, in New York City, in 2009. I beat her time handily. It was about that time I found a love for running and traveling. I've run a race in all 50 states, and now I'm working on running a race in every Chicago community area. I hope all this exercise helps me in the long run. (Pun intended.)
Jessica: I'm pretty confused about how eating and running can coexist. If I do my run in the evenings, what's the rule on how long to wait to run after eating, say, a hot dog?
Tracy: Eating and hydrating are definitely trial and error. I eat a Clif Bar before a run and try to drink a bottle of water. If it's a long run and I'm hungry afterward, I'll eat again. But I think you'll find that you're not hungry after a run. Something about a runner's high seems to work as an appetite suppressant for me. Now, beer is a different story.
Jessica: Will I get in trouble if my friends toss me a can of beer to guzzle, then crush it on my forehead as I cross the finish line?
Tracy: You probably won't get in trouble, but there are always photographers at the finish line. That's the moment where you have to decide whether you want pretty runners face, the ugly runners face or beer-to-forehead face.
Jessica: They take your PICTURE?! I recently Googled "Why does my face get scary red when I run" but still didn't feel any better about it after discovering that I wasn't dying. Have you ever seen any major health scares at a race? Do people barf?
Tracy: Oh yes, they take your picture. After the race you have the privilege of shelling out big bucks to see yourself panting, sweating and grimacing your way to the finish line. I've seen a few health scares. I was at a race earlier this year where a girl passed out just a few hundred yards from the finish line. The worst is when it is too hot and people get sick because they haven't hydrated properly. But for the most part everyone finishes safely.
Jessica: Do organizers discourage listening to music while you run? I'm kind of scared of not hearing what's going on around me, but I feel like I NEED Beyonce and Dave Grohl on this journey.
Tracy: Some races do discourage listening to music while you run, but that's not a typical rule in Chicago. It's important to be aware of your surroundings, especially because some races are run on the Lakefront Path and there are non-runners on the path while your race is taking place. Some of the best races in the city have bands that play while you run. No headphones necessary!
Jessica: Do you remember any big mistakes you made when you ran your first race?
Tracy: I bought shoes off the rack from Target. That works for some people but not for me or my overpronating feet. After my first Shamrock Shuffle five years ago, I couldn't walk for days. Also, I didn't own any shirts that wicked away moisture. The best thing about running races is the (sort-of) free shirts.
Jessica: One of my running friends once totally forgot about a race he was supposed to run in and considered going to pick up the shirt anyway, because "the shirt is the best part." OK, so you need good shoes and something to help your sweat evaporate. And what's the deal with all the bloody nipples? Chafing?
Tracy: The bloody nipple part is mostly a guy thing. Women should invest in a good running bra, though, ideally something that makes you forget you're a woman. There are sticks that look like deodorant but rub on thicker that will help ease the chafing.
Jessica: Definitely getting a T-shirt screen-printed with "Chafing is for choches."
RedEye social media lady Jessica Galliart is leaning toward the Firefly Run at Grant Park. Tweet her at @jessicagalliart if you have other suggestions or want to offer support or jabs! Give RedEye reporter Tracy Swartz a shout at @tracyswartz.
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