the race that took me 2 1/2 years to run

In my last running-related recap, I mentioned the Alameda 10-miler I signed up for to help kickstart my eventual (re)training for the 2022 Oakland Running Festival (having deferred to the in-person option in 2022 versus a virtual race after the 2020 festival was canceled due to the pandemic). I wasn't terribly well-prepared for the 10-miler, having by then plateaued at a couple of 5Ks around the lake each week, but I ran it anyway, and actually had a pretty good experience. I walked a couple of miles overall, but I finished within my goal and it was really lovely to run a race with other runners and all the usual fanfare. As I mention in this more recent post, I then started to have knee issues that I thought might be a meniscus tear but an MRI eventually ruled that out. Just some lowkey arthritis in my right (and probably left) knee(s). After a 3-month hiatus, I started running again in January. I hated it for about a month but I did eventually get over the hump (it always takes me about 3-4 weeks to get back into running after a break), but not really with enough time to properly ramp up for a half-marathon. My longest training run was just six miles. Welp. I seriously contemplated skipping it altogether. But considering, if you think about it, that I've been preparing for this race for two and a half years, I knew I'd regret it if I didn't at least give it a try. There's also something really powerful about—finally—checking a goal off one's pre-pandemic to do list. I was feeling pretty bummed out about the whole thing, about this feeling of loss and reflecting on how different my life is now compared to two years ago, in both good and not so good ways. But I did it. In the end, I just fucking did it. It wasn't the race it would have been two years ago, but it's done. At last! And it felt really good.

But, let's be honest, it also felt kinda bad, at least from about mile 11 on. Kids, do not try this at home! Do as I say, not as I do! Etc, etc. Ideally, I would have spent 10-15 weeks ramping up to a final long training run of about 12 miles. But I also knew that once I got over the return-to-running hump (I didn't hate it, I wasn't in constant pain, and my lungs didn't feel like they were going to burst into flames a half mile in), it was at least partially a mental game to finish 13.1 miles. And with a generous course time limit (about 15 minutes per mile) I felt fairly confident that I could finish in time even if I had to walk half of it.

And obviously, when you go into something like this with a mindset of finishing versus owning it, that changes your experience of it. One of the best moments of the entire race was just a couple of miles in. A woman who had run the 5K earlier was on the course, proudly wearing her medal, cheering other runners on. She said all the usual things—good job runners, you're doing great, you got this!—but she also said, "enjoy it!" And you know what, I really did have a great time. I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed a race, or even a run, as much as I enjoyed yesterday's event. Some highlights along the way:

I loved this runner's shirt. I stayed right behind her for several miles but at some point I lost sight of her. I'm pretty sure I was still behind her, though, so I was that runner, slower than the self-proclaimed slow runner.

Dude, I ran through fire! Again

The Paramount marquee welcoming the Oakland marathon.

The bling and the fam. I actually wasn't expecting them to be there at the finish. Not that they weren't cheering me on in spirit, but we didn't talk about meeting up at the end. I figured they'd go about their day, I'd drive myself home, take a shower, collapse, and we'd celebrate later. So it was such a nice surprise to see them. I may have cried a little.

But celebrate later, we did (with, among other things, my favorite red blend from Farmhouse Wines). You can see a few additional videos of the entertainment along the route on my Instagram post here

Amir Aziz via Twitter

Some say the Oakland Running Festival is the best race in NorCal. I've only run a few, so I don't know about that. But it's definitely a great day to be in Oakland.