Half-marathon men (and woman)

Some call it the mini-marathon. But 13.1 miles sounds like anything but mini. This weekend, sports reporters Pam Crimbchin, Chris Gates and Josh Johnston will find out exactly what it’s like to run a half-marathon.

While Pam heads south to compete in the Columbus Marathon tomorrow morning, Chris and Josh will go east on I-76 for Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon. Before they took off, they sat down to write their final thoughts before the races.

The reluctant runner

I hated running.

Running to me was basically a death sentence. You get hot, sweaty, out of breath and feel like the “fat kid who loves cake.” I never played any high school sports, and when you show horses, the horses run – not you.

When I turned 21, I got an apartment with a kitchen, meaning the fridge is only a one-minute walk away instead of a 10-minute hike to Eastway. During the fall semester, I realized drinking and eating were taking a toll on my body.

After complaining to my sister about the weight gain, she said, “I’m running a half-marathon in May, and so are you.” Shocked that she would suggest such a horrible thing, I jokingly agreed and forgot about it.

Christmas came, and when I opened my presents, there they were: the running socks, the running jacket, the training plan and the conversations. My sister began talking about finding me some good running shoes.

Realizing that I needed to take my health into my own hands – or feet – and that my sister was not going to let me back out at that point, I agreed to run my first half-marathon.

After training this semester, my goal is to finish with about an 11-minute-mile pace. Honestly, though, I will be happy if I just finish- alive.

– Pam Crimbchin

The veteran

Why run?

Because it’s an escape. It takes you away from everything that is stressful and into a state of peace.

Nothing else matters when you’re running. All there is to worry about is what turn to take next. You are free to travel wherever you please, facing no boundaries or limits.

I decided to run a marathon partly because of my past. Ten years ago I was the kid who won every race. My opponents knew they had no chance.

This marathon is a trip back to those “glory days.” They say all sportswriters are just rejected athletes, which is partly true.

But this sportswriter still longs for the competition. I long for the training as well.

Nearly a year ago, the training began. Soon thereafter the pain did as well. There were days when getting out of bed was a struggle. Those days turned to weeks, and sometimes staying in bed was the only option.

It was all worth it, though. Every run I went on was motivated by a single vision: crossing the finish line. That lone aspiration is what runners live for.

Crossing the finish line will be the ultimate runners’ high. It will be a year’s worth of work realized in one moment.

– Chris Gates

The competitor

Why not?

That’s the question I asked myself when I saw Chris Gates’s Facebook status last December: “Run the Pittsburgh marathon with me – May 3, baby. I can’t wait.”

Before that fateful day, I had never ran more than five miles consecutively. So what was I thinking signing up for 13.1 miles?

Running long distances has never been something I’ve done. In high school, I played soccer. Anything longer than a mile was punishment. I also ran track, but I didn’t actually run. I did high jump and long jump. So why would I decide to pick up running now?

Because I have to compete. I love the rush that only competition can bring. For crying out loud, I’ll celebrate winning rock, paper, scissors.

Running is a competition within yourself. When I’m on the trail, it’s a battle between fatigue and my will to continue. Every stride becomes a fight, and every mile becomes a victory.

So on Sunday, I’ll run a half-marathon in Pittsburgh.

Thirteen miles? That’s a whole lot of victory.

– Josh Johnston