Cousin Lara and I before the Jumping Jack Frost 5K, Dec. 22, on Harriet Island in downtown St. Paul
“Let’s run this time,” said Nola, as we neared the Start of Life Time Fitness’ Thanksgiving 5K. “No way,” I said, “I can’t run! I just wanna walk.” “You can do it. Let’s do it. You just have to try.”
We went back & forth like that—jog vs. walk, walk vs. jog—until I, an inveterate bicycle devotee and a hater of running, submitted to Nola’s feminine wiles. The Turkey Trot (I prefer this name to the real one, because alliteration) is my family’s new Thanksgiving tradition; scattered throughout the Minneapolitan thousands around us were disparate members of my very large extended family, including my uncle Lou in a jumbo turkey costume. Normally, we walk the 5K, but because Nola and I stood alone, and had no family members to stick with, her argument for jogging convinced me. All right, I’d jog the 5K; I could always stop. I hadn’t jogged a step since middle school, when running a mile meant spending a dozen torturous minutes beside the other nerds in my class (more mathlete than athlete) on the school track. But I’d give it a shot, for Nola.
I not only finished the 5K, with Nola’s encouragement, I excelled! We crossed the North Loop finish line in 27 minutes, ~9 minutes/mile, better than I ever gave it in middle school, and I even ran the last bit. It felt great, and with that victorious mindset, I wolfed down a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with just a bit less guilt. My legs and lungs got me to Finish, but I thank Nola for pushing me. Her strategy was simple: Slow down, but don’t ever stop. Breathe, keep breathing. Choose a destination ahead of you (a bridge, for instance) and just reach that. If you reach that endpoint, you can stop jogging—or keep going. We kept going. It worked. It wasn’t easy. I stress that. Jogging that 5K wasn’t easy for me, because jogging is as much about your mindset as your body. My body was mostly ready, but my mind wasn’t. We did it anyway.
A month later, I’ve participated in two more 5Ks. The first of that duo was the Moustache Run 5K, for which I was hungover as hell and at which I failed miserably. Let’s not talk about that one. The second, the Jumping Jack Frost 5K, was this past weekend.
I ran the JJF with my cousin Lara Peterson, who drove up from Rochester with my uncle Steve to compete. The Jumping Jack Frost (organized by Final Stretch) met on Harriet Island in St. Paul. At sunset, with only a few hundred runners around us (Minnesota’s gotten cold, making attendance at these things sparser), and with a few layers on, we jogged three miles. It was exhilarating jogging with Lara. “I have to admit this to you,” I told her. “I want to stop right now.” “We can stop anytime you want,” she said. But we didn’t. The final stretch of the 5K turned onto a hill that overlooked downtown St. Paul, a beautiful winter-night sight, and the snowy path to finish was lit by colorful Christmas lights. I sprinted the final stretch and raised my arms ironically at Finish, like an Ironman rather than a 5Ker. Whatever, man, it’s still tough for me.
So what’s next for this burgeoning runner? I want to do next year’s Minneapolis Duathlon, as well as the Chocolate Run in April (again with Lara). The former, with its double blast of 5Ks, always intimidated me. No more. I advise my fellow noobs to follow Nola’s tips, too. Slow down if necessary, but don’t stop. Focus on your breathing. Choose a destination on the horizon, then reach it and keep running.