In the most dramatic scene in She’s All That, after Laney Boggs (played by Rachel Leigh Cook) learns that her boyfriend, Zack Siler (played by Freddie Prinze Jr.), started dating her because of a bet, she says, ”Am I a bet? Am I a FUCKING bet?”
For some reason, I think about this scene every time I think about how I decided to run a marathon.
A lot of people decide to run a marathon because it’s on their bucket list, some do it because it is a good way to gain fitness, while others do it to support a cause. I, on the other hand, decided to run one because of a bet, a fucking bet.
Much like Zack’s relationship to Laney “She’s All That,” my relationship with marathons is a relationship that was initially driving by hubris and greed, but it’s one that quickly turned into love.
Let me explain.
In the beginning of 2008, I moved to San Jose, Costa Rica to teach English. My friend, who’d told me about the job, and I rented the first floor of the mother-in-law house of a local woman.
Living in another country as an adult was an experience I’ll never forget, but it wasn’t an ideal situation. When I accepted the job, my
overlords employers told me I’d work and earn enough to live comfortably. (Lie.) They said I’d have plenty of time off. (Lie.) They told me San Jose was a wonderful, safe place. (Half-truth.)
When you think of Costa Rica, you think of beaches, or shit like this:
Well, San Jose is a concrete jungle in the middle of the country, filled with deteriorated roads, congestion, pollution, crime, and poverty. The coasts are a few hours away. In order to get anywhere you need large blocks of time and money–two luxuries we didn’t have as teachers.
I would have been able to visit more of the beaches and the eco-tourism sites, but as it was, the teachers worked two or three hours a day, six days a week for little money. Aside from a few excursions outside of the city, we typically spent time in our apartment, drank with other teachers, and went to bars and such.
The little disposable income I did have went to the brewers at Imperial and makers of cheap South American wines. Sometimes we’d be productive–I’d read and write; he’d study for the LSAT–but mostly we’d get buzzed while watching YouTube or looking at pictures on Facebook.
One night, while we were drinking, he started telling me about a friend of his who had just finished a marathon.
“Who gives a shit?” I slurred. “Marathons are lame. Running isn’t a sport. I could do it.” (Note: I can be a condescending prick, at times, if I drink too much.)
“Bullshit,” he said. “John [his friend] is in much better shape than you are.”
“Maybe, but if I run slow enough I could probably do it in what, maybe, 3 or 4 hours or so,” I said. (Correction: I can be an overconfident, condescending prick, at times, if I drink too much.)
“HA! You’ve got to be kidding me?,” he asked. “Do you know how fast you have to run to do that? My friend ran it in 4:15, I think, and he isn’t a lazy piece of shit like you. How fast do you think you can run a mile?”
I took a long, slow drink from my beer. “Hmm. I could probably run a mile in 7 or 8 minutes. I used to run three miles in about 20 minutes.”
“Idiot, that’s three miles. Could you do that over 26 miles? I doubt it,” he said, shaking his head.
“Hell yeah, I can,” I replied with a drunken confidence. “I could probably run a marathon tomorrow if I wanted to. It wouldn’t be hard.”
“Tomorrow? Really? Ok, I’ll bet you $1000 you couldn’t do it tomorrow, he said.”
“Who are you fooling?” I said. “You know you don’t have $1000.” I thought for a few seconds. “Ok well maybe I couldn’t do it tomorrow–I’ll be too hungover–but in a month or two I could do it.”
“No way,” he said. “No fucking way. I’ll bet you $100 you can’t do it. I’ll even give you a year to do it.” He thought for a second.
“Done!” I shook his hand. “Haha! You’re a dumb ass. You’re giving me year to do it?”
“Yes. One year.”
“This is the easiest money I’ll ever make,” I said. “I’ll just walk the whole thing.”
“Aw! Don’t do that, you piece of shit! You said you could do it in three or four hours? Are you telling me you can’t?”
“No. No. Of course, I can.”
“Of course you can. So we’re betting $100 you can’t run a marathon in under four hours, one year from now?”
“Deal,” I said. “Now go get me a beer.”
Looking back, I realize how incredibly stupid I was (and, likely, still am). In my defense, it had everything to do with ignorance. I had no idea what would be involved in training for a marathon, let alone running a marathon.
I didn’t start proper training until I returned to the states, but for the rest of the time I was in Costa Rica, I would head out and run once or twice a week on the mean streets of San Jose. It was an adventure every time. The sidewalks are torn to shit, so I had to keep my eyes on the ground to watch for potholes or sudden inclines. Or I’d have to keep my distance from the stray dogs on the road. And, obviously, there were the cars and motorcycles to worry about.
When I got back to the states, I started doing research (reading Runner’s World, of course), reading blogs, and I circled a race on the calendar–the Arizona Rock and Roll Marathon in January 2009.
And that’s how I decided to run the race, but how I trained for and ran the marathon is another story for another day.