This year, I decided to take on the challenge of running a half-marathon for AIDS Project Los Angeles. As I write this, I am currently training on Saturday mornings at 8 am with a group of strangers running mile after mile, typically at a time I would rather still be sleeping in at, but anyway. I became inspired to do this after watching hundreds upon hundreds of runners passing by my apartment in the Los Angeles Marathon. Seeing so many in this vast city cheering on those bold enough to make a 26 mile trek on foot amazed me in how it brought so many together, and I immediately wanted to be a part of it. Since this is my first time participating in this particular endeavor, it made slightly more sense to start with a half marathon which is about 13 miles. Actually, what would have made even more sense would have been to start with a 5K or 10K run, but I guess that didn’t seem challenging enough to me. Either that or I am certifiably crazy.
In regards to the training I am being put through, we participants increase our distance by one mile each week, and then once we get to the 13 mile mark, we go down by one mile in order to reduce fatigue and the chance of injury (and there’s always a chance we’ll get injured). I used to run Cross Country in high school and still have the varsity jacket that I earned from it (but never wear anymore). Upon starting the training, I was immediately reminded that things are not quite what they used to be for me. My legs do not tolerate pain with the same degree as they did as a lowly freshman or sophomore, and my body takes twice as long to recover from the torment I put it through. My knees have really come to hate me for the whole day after practice as well as if they are asking me:
“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU??!!”
Still, I really do feel like I am accomplishing a lot just by showing up for training.
As word spreads of my participation in this, I see more and more people around me (be it friends, co-workers or complete strangers) seriously inspired by my efforts. Part of me wants to treat this as not too big a deal as I see actions speaking louder than words (ironic, huh?), but everyone else sees it as exactly the opposite. Perhaps they see the difficulty in doing this more than I do, or maybe I’m just underestimating how impossible this may seem others when they view this from a distance. Some tell me that they see themselves only running a mile or half of one before they feel completely winded. Another person told me that she is more of a sprinter than a long distance runner, and learning of this surprised me as she has packed on a large number of pounds (hopefully she won’t take that personally). Oh yeah, she smokes quite a lot too as do several others I know personally, and I am told this affects their endurance of cardio activity a little.
During orientation, I was told that my efforts were going to inspire all those around us, but I thought that it was just a lot of talk designed to encourage us to sign up. I never expected a whole bunch of people to bow down before me as if I was some sort of God, and yes I am exaggerating when I say that. It’s nice to see the positive effect this has had on people who know me, and it’s even nicer that I’m not being mistaken for some mystical cult leader or a Scientologist. My experience doing this so far has shown me that the inspiration you bring out in others shows itself in different ways. Some have been very open about it, excitedly telling me that I will come out of it feeling the best I have ever felt in my life (except for the day after I’m sure). Others say that they could never dream of doing that, and that’s even after I tell them that I am just doing the half marathon, not the full one. Then I am tell them that the full one is 26 miles, and their eyes just open up wide to where they almost pop out of their sockets, and their jaws drop to the floor which is disgusting because their drooling factor is impossible to contain. Some people are just gross in how they express themselves, but it isn’t always their fault.
All the same, they see what I’m doing as highly impressive. While I’m pretty shy about it, the word keeps getting out of my efforts, and more and more promise to support my cause.
Besides, I can’t be all that shy about it. By participating in this, I have promised to raise $2,000 for AIDS Project Los Angeles. Now this almost scared me from signing up for this at all. Is it even possible to raise that much money in such a disastrous economic period where we should be thankful to have any kind of job no matter how much it may suck (and most people I know hate their jobs)? Furthermore, people are lucky to have anything left in savings as what they make often seems like it is never enough. I used to participate in read-a-thons and jog-a-thons as a kid, raising money for programs working towards a cure for diseases that still rage today; makes me wonder if I made any difference there. Asking people for money was easier once they looked into those innocent faces, and the fact that you weren’t expected to raise all that much.
Today, asking people for money let alone doing any fundraising feels so awkward, and you would just expect them to roll their eyes at you like as if they are not about to consider parting with whatever money the government has already taken from them to bail out the banks. Plus, if I don’t make at least $2,000 by the fundraising deadline, I will become “financially obligated.” The word obligation these sounds like there is some binding contract involved in this, and it can feel like a prison sentence hovering just above you. Granted, I don’t expect to wake up with a horse’s head in my bed, but all this talk made me nervous.
So it took me a bit to commit to this sure to be exhausting effort which is sure to leave me in a pool of my own sweat. In the end though, I find that I have been frightened off from many other things in life like pursuing a dream or two, and it came to where I didn’t want to keep running away from. After a few days, including one where I could have enrolled and receive a fundraising incentive that would have gotten me off to a quick start, I took the plunge despite my ever growing anxiety which can be such an irritating hindrance to doing anything outside my far too established comfort zone. We let so many things hold us back, and I was sick of letting that happen to me.
Upon writing this article, I have now raised $1,506 towards my goal of $2,000. I am also proud to say that I managed to raise over $1,000 before my training sessions at Griffith Park even began! My family has given me a lot of support both financially and emotionally, and I get a little nervous at just how much money they have donated me right from the start. Other friends down here in Southern California or up north in the Bay Area have also been pretty quick to respond. I have even received donations from high school and college friends who haven’t seen in at least ten years in addition to those I have conversed with only on the internet and who I have never met face to face. Its impressive how much one can do with this program and it certainly makes you all the more sympathetic to those who have done it before. I have donated to one of my friends from college, who has previously participated in this same marathon program, but there are a few others who I could have helped out in retrospect, and I regret not doing so.
Of course, with the fundraising deadline now only a few weeks away, I am now more anxious than ever to reach my goal which is not far from grasp. It has gotten to where I have to work hard to find a balancing act between being patient with people while desperately wanting to persuade them to give me money (the more the better) that line gets more blurred the closer I get to the ending date of July 2nd. When I signed up back in February, I hit the ground running because I knew waiting to the last second to start raising funds would have been criminally idiotic.
To speed up efforts, I paid for an ad to promote a page I created for this on Facebook. It’s earned me some fans, but not a lot in terms of tax-deductible donations (with emphasis on the term “tax deductible”). In addition, I have already been selling a lot of items like CD’s, DVD’s, and books on Amazon.com, and I have decided from this point on to put any money I make there towards the half-marathon. If it comes to it, I can put the money I have been making here at Associated Content towards it as well, as I have been making more money there than ever before.
But don’t worry too much about me, I’ll be fine. If I don’t get to my minimum goal, they will give me an extension of a couple of months before they start talking about payment plans. It would be nice to make all the money I need to by the July 2nd deadline anyway, but having come this far feels good, not to mention amazing in some respects. It’s nice to see that as I approach the end of the fundraising cycle that I am in this state of mind. If this were years before, I would have been wracking myself with endless self-deprecating remarks and going crazy, not to mention losing a lot of sleep that I don’t get enough of anyway. These days, I’m taking things a little more in stride.
My goal when entering this half marathon was actually pretty simple; I wanted to lose all the weight that I have been doing a fairly crappy job of shedding so far (denial can be such a bitch). I am so sick of looking at pictures and videos of myself and seeing that I had become a chubby little thing, far more than I ever wanted or expected to be. To say that I let myself go after high school would be an understatement. Maybe I won’t lose all the weight I’ve gained over the years, but it would be nice to find that doing this half-marathon will end up making a noticeable difference. I feel like I have tried everything even though that is certainly not the case.
But involving myself in this training now goes beyond getting rid of that spare tire to where I want to help not just fight against AID,S but to get people more educated about what it is. I no longer have any patience anymore for those who believe they can never get infected with it, and I even have less patience for those who call it the “gay plague” (some people are beyond stupid) or say that it is “a state of mind.” This increasing epidemic has been around far too long for anyone to be ignorant of its devastation around the globe, and we have absolutely no reason to abandon those who have suddenly been afflicted. It shows poorly on us in how we take care of our own, and this is on top of the disaster of a health care system we have. This is serious stuff, and no one has any business to say otherwise. We need to fight this and to take care of those who can no longer take care of themselves. The fight against AIDS will no longer go unanswered, certainly not by me.
Please note: All money generated from page views on this article will go towards my fundraising efforts.
If you would like to make a TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation, please click here.