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• so nervous i could throw up

I only had 13 items on my checklist for things I had to do to get ready for the 2009 Eugene Marathon. But, if you’re a woman runner who is more than a little compulsive, each thing on the list is actually like 10 more things.

Shave is number 3 on the list. Actually thoughts are… Don’t nick, don’t nick, no one wants to see a bandaid leg on the run. Slowly. Looks good. Oh, might wear shorts, better shave higher.

These are the little things I worry about. Not if I’m going to make my time or not, I can save that compulsive worry for the actual run. I remember the first time I ran with a group. It was Joe Henerson’s marathon group and I was so nervous I had to use the bathroom like 6 times. And that was before I left the house. And I’m not talking about drinking too much water. Anyway, I get there and I’m worried that I’m going to be in the bathroom when everyone takes off and I’m so nervous I’m thinking I could throw up. Of course, I make my dream come true and I get out of the porta-potty and have to catch up with the runners who took off while I was cussing the fact that the Purrel had run out. But all of that is OK because this nervousness was responsible for my running claim to fame: getting quoted by Joe in Marathon and Beyond!

I joined Joe Henderson’s marathon training group in late February 2005 and planned to run the inagural Eugene Marathon in May. Though he had written dozens of books about running and taught running, of course, this was his first marathon group. And it was my first marathon. This was the only thing we had in common at the beginning of our 12 weeks together.

After the race, I had confessed my earlier nervousness and the catalyst for all my worry; I had never participated in any sport before. Never ran in high school, never tried out for soccer, basketball, volleyball, never swam, certainly never considered cheerleading, never even thought about entering the gym except for the mandatory PE classes I dreaded. The  same nervousness I had about shaving applied to the communal shower, how dumb I looked in shorts, how slow I was at any sport and how, most seriously and dangerously, I was a foul ball magnet. If I walked by a basketball court, the ball would invariably fly over the fence and bonk me on the head. Same with getting near a tennis court. Kids playing softball next door? You guessed it, over the fence, right at me. I didn’t hate sports as much as they seemed to hate me.

Race day was amazing. I still dream about that super-high I got at mile 17. After a few days of recovery, I emailed Joe my deepest gratitude for his great coaching, for always being there, smiling, at the end of every run with his clipboard, ready to hand out words of encouragement and congratulations, no matter how beat up I looked. I also told him that this was my first experience with any organized sport or training. Even though running is a solitary sport, just being in a group – training together – scared the hell out of me and pushed all my high-school-fear-buttons. He quoted me in his next article in Marathon and Beyond called Making the First Team and noted my emotional as well as physical achievement. He was also kind enough to mention that I was the only one on the team to get negative splits. Tcha! Now that made me feel like a runner!

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