Marathon in Belfast

I’ve just made a serious mistake. It’s one that I’ll regret, increasingly, over the next four and a half weeks, before regretting it at maximum intensity for several hours on the 4th of May. Quite possibly, I will regret it for some days after that, as I struggle to stand, walk, or otherwise make use of my legs.

What exactly have I done? I’ve signed up for the Belfast City Marathon — after training for exactly one week.

Training is actually something of an overstatement. I’ve gone on three runs, two of which were on the treadmill and lasted in the neighborhood of 20 minutes. One ended when I felt in danger of passing out.

In my defense, I have been on one honest-to-goodness outdoor run. That took me up the Shankill Road, down along the peace wall that still divides Catholic and Protestant West Belfast, and back up the Falls Road past the Sinn Fein headquarters. Never have I felt so out of place in my white stretchy shorts.

So how much trouble am I in? Well, my father, who runs these things on a more or less regular basis, recommends beginning a training regimen roughly six months in advance. Since that’s clearly out of the question, I asked whether he could recommend a more abbreviated preparation plan. “There’s basically no point in training at this point,” he said, “since you’re not going to get in shape in four and a half weeks.”

This is not the first time I’ve entered a marathon utterly unprepared, and my dad felt the need to remind me what happened the last time around: “You couldn’t run for years.”

On a scale of 1-10, he rated the stupidity of this plan a “solid 10.”

Great encouragement, dad. Thanks. Just what I needed before I go run 26.2 miles, almost certainly in the rain, with zero training under my belt.

At least I won’t be alone in my follies, as I’ve enlisted a fellow Mitchell Scholar in this foolhardy endeavor. The idea is to get out and running in the Northern Irish countryside now that the weather is somewhat improved. We may not have much time to get in shape, but we’ve got plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine (such as it is in Northern Ireland).

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