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‘Molasses’ on the move
4/24/2013 10:45:55 AM

By Chad Kimberley
Splash Column

Nicknames can be rough. During my high school sports career, I picked up a rather unfortunate nickname for a prep athlete: "Molasses."

It seems one of my coaches was not awed by my blinding speed around the bases or up and down the court and saw fit to give me the title. As much as I want to fight this moniker, it is true. I have three primary speeds: sloth, turtle and slug.

The truth is I would try to run with more speed, but somewhere the wiring traveling from my brain - which pictured me sailing along like Carl Lewis - got tangled up with my legs, which were moving at the same speed as an old guy using a walker.

All this had led me to spurn and avoid anything resembling a race. In fact, I am confident that when the Zombie Apocalypse begins, I will be one of the slow ones they pick off while my faster family and friends escape - and then somehow I will become the slowest moving of the walkers once I turn.

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Yet here I am just a few short weeks away from jumping on the Centennial Trail with a thousand much-quicker friends to compete in the Windermere Half Marathon.

Makes a lot of sense, right?

Many of my more sensible friends see springtime as a chance to pull out the golf clubs and play a round, maybe enjoy the smell of a new can of tennis balls while hitting the court, or possibly even oil up the old ball glove to get ready for softball season. Here I am buying some new running shoes and getting up way too early to log some miles.

As I reflect how I got here, it comes flooding back to me quickly: 1) I thought it could be a funny column. 2) It would be an experience to do with my wife. One of these is the much more noble and rational reason.

I was chatting with my wife, who actually enjoys running, several weeks ago when she mentioned she was interested in doing the half-marathon. I immediately thought there could be some comic material involved (at my expense, of course) and asked her if I could join her on the journey.

She found a 10-week training plan that presupposed you could run three miles without stopping to walk or receive oxygen. Sure I could. I mean, I am a former slow athlete who spends more time prowling a sideline coaching versus being on the floor playing. Perfectly simple.

I did it, very slowly, and now I understood why my coach called me "Molasses."

I dove into the first week of the training plan, which included days that were built around cute titles like "AYF" (as you feel), "Easy Run" (I have yet to experience this phenomenon despite continued efforts to discover it), and "Fartlek Days."

I discovered I was very good at the Fartlek Days depending on what I ate the previous night. Then I found out that "fartlek" is Swedish for "speed play" and is designed for shifting gears and running at varying speeds like you might in a real race. The definition lost me at the word "speed."

At the end of the first week, the plan called for a 5-mile "long" run. I mapped out a 2.5-mile route from my house so that I could go straight out and come straight back. I let Tammy know where I was going so that if I didn't return within an hour, she would know the general direction to point the paramedics.

I discovered on this long run - and all my ensuing long runs since - that I love getting out early in the morning. I don't love it because of the romanticized idea of running as the sun comes up. And I am not primarily a fan because it is cooler and a more comfortable temperature for me. No, I love it because there are very few other people out that early to witness my pitiful attempt to run.

The competitive side of me hates crossing paths with people when I am out because I feel a sudden urge to quicken my pace (an upshift from "Molasses" to "Pancake Syrup") and show this new peer that I too am a runner. Right as we prepare to pass, I take a quick, deep breath so that I can sound normal when I mutter out a "good morning" versus gasping out a few syllables that are unintelligible.

This plan typically works unless I know the person. One morning, while I was on the final mile of a 6-mile jaunt, I passed one of my daughter's former teachers. She was moving along at a smooth pace, a smile on her face, and shouted out a greeting to me along with a follow-up comment. I was great with the greeting, as I returned a hearty "good morning." But the follow-up comment about running in the cold did not allow me time for another deep breath. I said something to the effect of, "paoijhgpa, apoihjgaltg, qopuizpoiu."

My goal was to say that I loved running in the brisk weather.

I am now at the halfway mark of the training plan and can proudly state I have made it all the way up to an 9-mile run without stopping. My successful completion of part one now has me looking forward to the second half of the journey and my ultimate attempt to cover 13.1 miles on a hopefully cool Sunday morning in May.

I have set a couple goals for myself: 1) Finish. 2) Finish and not get lapped by more than a hundred marathon runners who will start at the same time as I do - just 13 short miles behind me.

As I wrap up my training plan, I will be motivated both by the words and the works of Henry Ford. His words were simple and full of wisdom in the style of Yoda, "Whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you're probably right."

And his invention is what I plan to use to get around once this crazy running thing is over.

Chad Kimberley is a Liberty Lake resident and regular Splash contributor. He is a teacher and coach at Valley Christian School.

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