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I know I said you would receive a race report shortly after my half marathon.  It has now been two months, and nary a peep have you heard from me.

Race reports are hard to write, y’all.

In a nutshell, the race was okay, but it wasn’t great.  I finished 10 minutes slower than I anticipated, but I finished in good spirits (unlike the last half marathon).  The last three miles were the worst, and I started cramping up at the end.  But here’s why race reports are so hard:  There has to be a very careful balance in a race report between funny, insightful, inspirational, and whining.  If I complain too much, it looks like I’m soliciting sympathy.  If I make it sound lovely, I’m lying — and to be frank, you don’t want to read that.  So all of this back and forth means that I kept thinking about what I was going to write, and then just ended up not writing anything at all.

Anyways, but now I’m back and I’m going to tell you about the 4 most annoying things that customers say to me.  Now, before you get all excited, this will not be what it sounds like.

  1. “I know I don’t look like a runner.”  This is usually said while gesturing towards their supposedly fat, non-running body.  Listen folks, I’m tired of people who feel the need to cut themselves down.  There are plenty of people out there that will do that for you.  You don’t have to do it to yourself as well.  What does a “runner” look like anyway?  Most of the people who come into the store aren’t rail-thin.  I certainly don’t “look like a runner.”  And yet, I work at a running store.  And when you come into my store and dismiss your accomplishments and self-shame your body, you are really shaming everyone else who doesn’t “look like a runner.”  A runner looks like you, like me, like your neighbor, like your grandpa.
  2. “I’m not really a runner.”  This is said by at least one person a day at the store.  When I ask them what they mean, they usually respond by saying that they only run 3 days a week, or only 3 miles at a time, or whatever the case may be.  My response: “If you go out the door and you are moving in a forward direction and you aren’t walking, then you are running.  And if you run, you’re a runner.”  There is no special “club” or card that you need in order to be considered a runner.  Again, please stop dismissing your amazing accomplishments.  I’d be willing to bet that your friends, family, and neighbors who don’t run at all consider you a runner.
  3. “I’m really slow.” This is said to me usually in conjunction with one of the previous comments.  When a customer tells me he’s not a “real” runner, and I tell him that, indeed, he is, he responds with, “Well, I’m really slow” as if this somehow diminishes his “runner-ness.”  What is most amusing to me is that when I ask what his average pace is, his response is  “10 minute mile” or “9 minute mile.”  Well, I’ve got news for you buddy: that is a lot faster than many people run.  You are fast.  And besides, as I always say, whether you run a 7 minute mile or a 12 minute mile, it is still A MILE.
  4. “I just run 5Ks.” Or the alternative, “It’s only a half marathon.”  True, you are not running 26.2 miles, or a 50K, or competing in an IronMan challenge, but JUST 5Ks?  JUST a half marathon?  Please, please, please, take that “just” out of your vocabulary.  It is not JUST a 5K.  It is 3.1 miles!  That’s longer than most people can run.  13.1 miles is just as challenging for you as that 50K is to someone else.  When you come into my store, we are not running a competition for the best, or fastest, or longest runner.  You run?  Great, let’s get you taken care of so you can be the best runner YOU can be.

There are dozens of other examples that I could give, but they all boil down to the fact that people put themselves down FAR too much.  I ascribe to the HAES movement (Health at Every Size), which says that I can’t tell how healthy (or not) you are just by looking at you.  In fact, believe it or not, that really skinny guy that you think “looks like a runner” may very well be a chain smoking crack addict.  I believe running isn’t about losing weight (though it may have that added benefit), but it is about your TOTAL health.  That means not only your physical health, but being happy with how your body moves, celebrating the astounding accomplishments (yes, it is an astounding accomplishment that you ran 2 miles, because last year, you couldn’t walk up the stairs without getting winded), and clearing out the clutter in your mind.  There is something so freeing about being outside, enjoying the scenery, focused just on you and no one else, not worrying about the dry cleaning that needs to be picked up, or the kids’ Christmas program costumes you have to make, or the floors that need to be scrubbed.  When you are running, it is just YOU.  You are the HERO in the moment that you lace up your running shoes.  I don’t care if you run 1 mile or 31 miles, YOU ARE AMAZING.

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I’m not one to get weepy, but even the toughest runner can get a little emotional when she crosses the finish line or volunteers at a race.  Add in 24 hours of work in the last two and a half days, and I was bound to have a hard time keeping the tears at bay.

Friday started with several busy hours at the store followed by setting up for the Med City Expo until 9 pm.  We left the Civic Center with a lot of work yet to do in the morning, so I ate a little something at home, got ready for the next day and then got to bed.  Excited about the Expo, I had a hard time sleeping.  The alarm went off much too early at 5:45 am.

We arrived at the Civic Center at 7 am to finish setting up for the day.  We had a giant booth space to prep with over 3,000 runners and their families expected to start arriving at 10 am.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

And arrive they did.  Starting at 10 am and not letting up until at least 2 pm, thousands of customers walked through our mini store and got introduced to TerraLoco.  Our mini store at the Expo was a huge success, and would have been the best part of the day if it weren’t for the 5K.

Around 2:30 pm I changed into running clothes and met my Learn to Run class for their first 5K.  They were a bit nervous, but I knew they were well prepared for the race.  It was a cloudy day with a chance of rain, but the weather held out for us.  The temperature was just right for race day and the ladies of the Learn to Run class took off with gusto at the start of the race.  I had to reign them back a little so they didn’t wear themselves out before the half way point, but other than that, they were fantastic. They only stopped to walk two times, and otherwise kept up a less than 12 minute mile.  One block before the finish I told them to sprint to the end so they had nothing left in the tank after they crossed the finish line.  I wasn’t expecting much because usually the new runners are so tired by the end that they go a millimeter faster, if at all.  But these two ladies had enough kick left in them that they punched through the finish line with me trailing just behind.  They finished their first 5K in 37:38!

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Post-race. Congrats ladies!

  Just after we crossed the finish line I ran into several women from previous Learn to Run classes.  They were all super stoked about the great race they had.  One former student even gave me a hug and with tears in her eyes told me she had just run a PR!  I was so proud of all of them.  Even now, after recovering from the hard weekend, just thinking about the amazing things they all did brings me to tears.  I have to remind myself that there was a time, not too long ago, where I had trouble just walking up a flight of stairs, let alone finishing a 5K race.  These are great accomplishments for my students, so if you happen to run into any of them on the trail, congratulate them on their amazing job at the race and encourage them to keep moving forward.

After crossing the finish line and congratulating all of my current and former students, I headed back inside to finish up the Expo. Post-race there was another big rush and finally the clock hit 6 pm and we were able to start packing up.  My awesome bosses were kind enough to let me head home after the truck was packed up, so I grabbed some chow on the way home and went to bed early again.

The next morning TerraLoco was sponsoring a water stop for the Med City Marathon at miles 19.1 & 19.5 (just before and after Exchange Zone 3). The hubby and I were up early to get the water stop set up, and shortly after we arrived, my volunteers showed up.  I was worried about not having enough volunteers for our water stop, but residents of Slatterly Park showed up to help, as well as several others that had signed up to help.  It was a cold morning that turned into a miserably wet morning.  Winds faced the runners all the way into Rochester, so our first runner showed up 45 minutes after we expected.  Shortly after the first runner came by, the rain started.  The windchill dipped into the mid 40s.  All of my volunteers were pretty uncomfortable in the rain and cold and wind, but that was nothing compared to the discomfort on the faces of some of the runners that passed us.  In previous years this marathon weekend has been miserably hot and humid, so we were all thankful for a respite from that kind of weather, but we could have done with something a little better than cold and rainy.  Luckily, everyone, including the runners, kept up a positive mood.  Runners stopped to thank us for a job well done, while others cajoled us for not having vodka jello shots or hot cocoa.

When the last runner came by – an older gentleman, barely shuffling along – we cheered a little harder, mostly for him, but also because we were able to pack up and get ourselves warm.  I had help packing up my car and then dropped off the supplies downtown where I saw the last few runners coming through the chute.  I stopped for a coffee on the way home, changed, and then settled into the couch for the rest of the weekend.

Truly, it was an exhausting weekend, but probably one of the most rewarding weekends I have ever had.  After I got home I sent out a message on Facebook, tagging all of my running friends, thanking them for being a part of this awesome community.  A few years ago I would have never guessed that runners were such a supportive group, who are always there for the other members of their community, who cheer people on no matter how slow they are going, and who donate their time and energy to making people’s dreams come true.  I am so lucky to have these people in my life, even if I only see them every once in a while.

I wrote last week about inspiring others by your running.  This week, everyone in our local running community inspired me, and if you were there, I hope they inspired you too.

See you next year at the Med City Marathon weekend!

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Race etiquette

On Saturday the hubby and I ran the Get Lucky 7K in Minneapolis (link will take you to my race pictures).  Despite the cold, it was a fun race.  I mean, any race where you get a free beer at the end is a good one, right?

I get that this is more of a “fun” race for folks, as it falls on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, which for a lot of people is just an excuse to get drunk and party, but that doesn’t mean that race etiquette just falls by the wayside.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of people there that either didn’t know proper race etiquette, or just didn’t care, which is unfortunate.

If you’re new to running, or thinking about doing your first race, these are things that you may have not even thought about.  So without further ado, here is a list of “rules” to follow when you’re racing:

  • Be realistic about your pace and line up at the start accordingly. Hubby and I lined up in the 11 minute per mile section, which is exactly what we ended up doing the race in.  But we passed 767 people on our way to the finish!  That’s 767 people who did not line up in the right place, meaning that we had to weave in and out of everybody during the entire course.  This wasn’t a big deal on Saturday because we weren’t looking for PRs, but what if we were? (FYI – Many larger races will ask for your expected finish time at registration, and then will put you into a “corral” according to your estimated finish time.  Each corral will be released at a predetermined time, which is called a “wave start.”)
  • Just like in a car, slower runners and walkers should stick to the right side of the course.  Weaving in and out of race traffic wouldn’t be as necessary if the slower folks were all to the right and faster people could pass quickly on the left.
  • Be aware of the other runners around you, especially if you have to stop to walk or tie your shoe, or if you have to slow down for a bit.  No one is going to judge you if you have to take a quick walk break, but they might judge you if you come to a stop right in front of them.  If you’re moving along at a good clip, and the runner in front of you suddenly comes to a stop, you’re liable to crash right into them.  Before you stop/slow down, take a quick look behind you, and then move over to the right.
  • Keep moving at water stops.  We didn’t have to stop for water during this race, but in others I have noticed that people tend to just stop in front of the water station while they drink.  Other runners behind you might have to wait for you to get out of the way just to get their water.  Faster runners will want to grab a single swig and keep moving.  So grab a cup as quickly as you can and then keep moving or move off of the course if you have to stop to drink.
  • Keep moving at the finish.  At longer distances, some people might be disoriented at the finish, which is why volunteers are there to keep traffic moving.  But in any case, keep in mind that there are people finishing right behind you, and if you stop right after you cross the finish, you might create a roadblock or cause another runner to slow down just at the time when she wants to be going as fast as she can.
  • Be considerate of the environment.  Throw away your water stop cups if there are trash cans provided.  If you are carrying nutrition, don’t toss your wrappers on the ground.  Throw them away if trash cans are provided along the course, or hang on to them until you have access to one.  At a lot of races, volunteers are there to help clean up the course after the race is over.  But let’s not make things any harder for them.
  • Thank the volunteers.  These people are taking time out of their busy lives to stand in the cold (or heat) and cheer on runners, pick up after them, and make sure they stay on course.  Thank them for their time.  And don’t forget to thank the police officers who are keeping car traffic from running you off the road!
  • Wear your bib number on your FRONT. It doesn’t really matter where it is on your front, as long as the race officials can see it.  I usually pin mine to my right pant leg instead of to my shirt.  Your bib number on the front help to verify your finish time, as well as match any pictures from the event to you.

Those don’t seem like terribly difficult rules to follow.  Essentially they all just boil down to: be considerate of others.  Your fellow racers may have been training for months to run this race, and your deciding to suddenly casually walk right in front of one of them might be cause for a disaster.

At the race on Saturday, early on in the course, a walker was going down the middle of the course.  There wasn’t much room to go around her, so as I squeezed past, I said, “Walkers move the right please.”  She responded with something that I can’t repeat here.  Please don’t be that person! Remember to think about the others around you, and we’ll all be just fine.

(Here are more etiquette rules for runners from the Road Runners Club of America.)

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Date: January 7, 2012

Location: Orlando, FL

I’m not sure how it happened.  One minute my sister and I were chatting about how fun it would be to do the Disney half marathon, and the next thing I knew we were actually there, two bodies in a sea of 28,000 people at the start line. Along the way, I’d developed a nueroma in one of my toes and had to get a cortisone shot.  I’d run 10 miles in the snow.  I’d put in my long runs dutifully, week after week, even going for a 10 miler on Christmas Eve day.  Somehow I had managed to get through it all, and here we were, getting on a bus filled with our fellow runners at 4 am.

 

Disney official information had informed us that all runners needed to be at the start and in their corrals by 5 am.  But by 4:30 am we were still firmly in the bus, trying to make it to Epcot — along with what looked like several thousand other cars and buses.  At 4:45 we were still on the bus, this time idling only yards away from the entrance.  The bus driver failed to inform us of much, but we managed to figure out that the bus’ brakes were out (so that’s why it smelled like a rubber plan the whole way here!) – and we were eventually escorted off the bus onto another, and shuttled the remaining feet to the race entrance area.

My sister and I followed the throng of runners through the bag check and down a long road to the start.  When we finally made it to the corral area, we both decided we had to pee.  And while I was in the porta-pottie I stupidly missed the start of the race, which, I’m told began with a fireworks display.  By the time we made it to our corral, the wave before us was starting and we finally crossed the start line around 5:30 am.

In our original plan, my sister and I were going to run the entire race together.  But by the week before the race, we’d both decided our paces were too different for that to work.  So we discussed running the first few miles together and going out on our own after that.  However, only a half a mile in, she took off.  “Sorry,” she said, “this is way too slow for me.” And so I began my lonely 12.6 mile journey to the finish.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather.  It was about 50 degrees the entire time I was running.  Since the sun didn’t really rise until mile 8, and then it was cloudy, I didn’t even need the sunglasses I had perched on my head.

Along the route, Disney had done it’s best to provide us with visual and auditory entertainment.  At mile 2 I saw Dark Wing Duck  At mile 3, a great display of classic cars.  At mile 5, actors on giant stilts gave us high fives.  Every mile was marked clearly with a clock showing the official time.

I felt great at mile 6 when we finally entered the Magic Kingdom.  All along the route, I had been dodging slow runners and walkers, and as the course narrowed through the main entrance to Disney, I had to slow to practically a crawl.  The Magic Kingdom was still decorated for Christmas, and in the early morning light, with the crowds and music, and Disney characters around every corner, it was practically magical.

I stopped a few times for pictures and approached Cinderella’s castle at mile 7.  Here the running crowd went wild.  As we passed under the castle, a runner threw his hands in the air and let out a celebratory holler.  It was contagious and pretty soon everyone was hooting and hollering in Cinderella’s echo-chamber of a castle.

Nearly out of the Magic Kingdom, I ran past Princess Tatiana, a Chipmunk, and Captain Jack Sparrow before the course dumped us out the back door and onto the (relatively) empty road.  I’d made it 8 miles and still felt good, but as I started calculating, I could feel my spirit start to fall a little bit.  I still had 5 miles yet to go, and even though we were on our way back to Epco, it felt like these last 5 miles could be an eternity.

By mile 9, the excitement of the whole thing had worn off.  I could feel blisters forming on what seemed like all of my toes, and my legs were getting tired.  I could feel myself slowing down, but I knew I only had 3 miles left – or a 5K – or 30 minutes – whichever way you looked at it, it wasn’t much longer.  And I’d already done 9.  I could easily do 3.

Near mile 10, we were running on the highway outside of the Disney campus.  As I rounded a corner, I saw a stream of people running on an overpass ABOVE the highway.  How the hell were we supposed to get up there?  By taking the exit ramp, obviously.  You don’t realize how steep those things are until you’re on foot.  I trudged up the hill, gave up half way, and walked to the top.  A Team in Training coach at the crest of the hill shouted, “Great job! It’s all downhill from here!” And so I felt a little better about my achy legs and increasingly painful toes, and picked up the pace for a bit.  At mile 12, an announcer was asking the runners where they were from.  I heard shout outs from people from all over the world and from every state in the naion.

And that’s when I saw it.

Another hill!

At mile 12!

That woman had lied to us!

I wasn’t about to go back and correct her, and so at my breakneck speed of a thirteen minute mile, I made it to the top  What goes up, must come down, and at the bottom of the hill we were greeted by a band singing, “I could run 500 miles, and I would run 500 more…”  At mile 12.5, as we re-entered Epcot, a gospel choir in sunshine yellow robes re-energized me.  Only a half a mile to go!

I ran faster through a throng of people, most of whom were shouting, “You’re almost there!”  We made a loop around the Epcot ball, rounded another corner, and there it was, the finish.  Disney had pulled out all the stops for this.  A large grand stand on the left allowed for spectator viewing, and a giant jumbo-tron showed everyone crossing the finish.

I admit – I was tired as hell, and I went over the finish line more relieved than anything else.  When I watched the video of myself crossing the finish line, which was made available online a few days after the vent, I was one of only a handful of people not raising my arms in the air and cheering.

I was immediately presented with a giant Donald Duck-shaped medal and gratefully accepted a space blanket, before being funneled through the food station, and dumped back out into the parking lot, where I immediately texted my husband and sister to try to find them.  All around me, people were reuniting with their loved ones; collapsing, exhausted on the ground; sighing in satisfaction for having completed an amazing feat; and I felt AMAZING.

My finish time might not have been ideal – I was shooting for a 2:30 finish and actually came in at 2:44:56 – but I had just run 13.1 miles.  And that was an eternity for me. A little over a year ago I could barely finish 4 miles in tact.  A before that… I would have laughed at you had you suggested I get up off the couch and go for a run.

I’ve accomplished a lot.  And I have so much more yet to do.

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The Details:

Date                    3/26/11

Distance            5K

Official time     34:54

Passed                6

Passed by          3

Temperature   26* F

 

Early in the week before my very first 5K ever, I took a look at the forecast.  While the prior week it had been a sunny and comfortable 50* on Saturday, the Saturday of the race was predicted to be 30*.  The closer it got to the race day, the lower that temperature dropped.  Now, I am not a person particularly inclined to go running outdoors (though that is changing!), but I am definitely not a person inclined to go running outdoors in temperature below freezing.  Thus, my workout wardrobe was lacking any appropriate clothing.  I had no tights, no jacket, no hats or gloves, and no long-sleeved warm top to wear.  Thus, the first thing I did last week before the race was go shopping at – where else? – The Running Room.  Here’s what I bought:

Yes, this is a men’s top, and yes, I do realize how ridiculous this guy looks in this picture.  I couldn’t find one online without a goofy looking dude wearing it.  Sorry.  😦

I also borrowed light-weight gloves and an UnderArmor ear warmer from my mom.

Normally, I would suggest wearing any new items at least a few times before a race to make sure they fit properly and don’t cause you any unnecessary chafing or discomfort.  But this time I didn’t follow my own advice and wore everything for the first time on race day.  Fortunately, I didn’t have any troubles.  I did liberally lubricate any chafe-prone areas with BodyGlide first though, just to make sure.

The day started off sunny but very brisk and cold.  On my way to the site, the car thermometer read 27*.  There was a nice 6 mph wind from the east as well, so I was definitely glad I bought all the new gear.  I arrived at Soldiers Field around 8:15 am where there were probably 3 dozen people mingling, warming up, or just standing around.  I received my race number and dutifully pinned it to the front of my shirt, then observed my competition.

I use “competition” very lightly here.  I could definitely tell who was a serious runner and who wasn’t.  While there were plenty of people just standing around in sweats and two-year-old running shoes, there were probably half a dozen people in technical running gear and the latest shoes who were stretching, warming up, and talking about the races they had done or were going to be doing (yes, I was eavesdropping).

I decided I had better warm up, as I hadn’t done enough of that prior to my triathlon last fall.  I took the opportunity to spend the next 30 minutes running around the nearby track and stretching my poor calves.

Ten minutes prior to the start of the run, a volunteer led us across the bridge to the start of the race.  She indicated that the fastest runners should line-up near the front, the walkers in the back, and everyone else in between.  I choose a spot directly in front of the walkers, assuming that I would be one of the slowest people there.  As we were waiting for the race to start, a 40ish woman next to me commented to the women around us that she would just stay near the back because she always ended up running alone anyways.  Everyone laughed, but I secretly thought, “I think you’ll have some company this race!” and counted myself lucky to possibly have a running partner during the race.

When the gun went off and the race started, I was shocked at how quickly the runners in the front of the pack took off.  It didn’t take very long before they were all long gone, and myself and the woman who had made the comment were all alone on the trail.  I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was for a race like this.  Were you supposed to talk?  Were you supposed to leave everyone alone?  How much talking was appropriate?  How long should I run beside her before it was rude to have not said anything?  Should I comment on her nice running hat?

Eventually I decided on continuing the joke she had made earlier.

“I’ll just run back here with you,” I laughed.

She smiled and nodded.  I noticed she had a Garmin on her wrist and I wanted to know how long I should expect to be running next to her.

“What’s your pace?” I asked her.

“Usually 11 to 12 minute miles…. 13, 14, 15….,” she trailed off and laughed.  “How about you?”

“About the same; 11 to 12 minute miles.”

She told me she was running the 10K.  She said it was the first race for her this season.  I told her it was mine too and that this was actually my first 5K ever.  She congratulated me.  We talked for a little bit about other races we had done and then we fell into a nice side-by-side pace.  We passed a few people who had taken off ahead of us and had slowed to a walk.  As we came up to the 1 mile mark she explained that she took walking breaks and wished me luck.

I was on my own.

Luckily, I was feeling good at this point.  The pace was comfortable and I wanted to keep it that way.  I could tell I was running faster than I normally did on a training run, so I knew that if I just kept a good even pace I could easily finish in under 36 minutes, which was my goal.  I was getting warm so I tied my new jacket around my waist.  There were a few volunteers along the race path and they all cheered me on as I passed them.  Shortly after I passed the 1 mile mark I overtook a runner who looked to be about my age.  I felt very proud of myself considering I hadn’t passed a single person during my triathlon!  I passed another runner who had slowed to a crawl.  Two people passed!  Prior to the 2 mile mark I came up on another young woman who was going not too much slower than myself.  I decided I wanted to pass her and used that as a goal to keep going strong.  Soon I passed her.  Another woman was ahead of me quite a ways down the path.  She didn’t seem like she was going much faster than me and I knew that she had started ahead of me in the pack back at the race start.  I set passing her as a goal.  However, without a Garmin I didn’t know how far I had left in the race or what my current pace was.  I didn’t want to push myself too soon and not have enough energy left over to finish the race strong.  I imagined myself passing her only to have to slow down a half mile before the finish and get passed by her at the end.  So I picked up my pace a bit, but didn’t race to pass her.

Turns out that maybe I should have increased my pace a little more than I did.  When we approached the 3 mile mark I was still maybe 70 yards behind her.  I sprinted to the finish but I didn’t have enough gas left in the tank to pass her at that point.  When I crossed the finish line I congratulated her on her finish and told her that I had been trying to catch up to her for the past 3/4 mile but that she was too fast.  I figured I would want someone to tell me that I was fast if I were her.  I then checked on my official time, which was 34:54.  Even with the fact that my time wasn’t completely accurate (I had started near the back of the pack, and I was told 34:26 as I approached the finish line – and there is no way it took me 30 seconds to run 30 feet), my race pace was much closer to 11 minute miles than 12 minute miles, which was a huge accomplishment for me.

I stuck around for a half an hour longer to cheer on the rest of the runners.  A few minutes after I passed the finish the line, the first 10K runner finished.  I waited to see my 10K friend pass the half-way point, but I never saw her.  I hoped she ended up finishing, but I was getting cold and wanted to head home.

After I got home I still felt good, so amazingly, I went out for another run.  This time I put 2 miles on the legs, for a total of 5 miles that morning.  As I headed out the door I told my hubby that I was going for a “quick 2 mile run.”  A few yards down the road I laughed at my turn of phrase.  Was I really now one of those people who went for a “quick” 2 mile run instead of one of those people for whom a 2 mile run was more like a marathon?

I guess so.

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