Sometime last year a friend and I were talking about a very specific kind of “bucket list” — things we wanted to do before we turned 30.
My friend, who has run half marathons in the past and had a baby in 2014, said she’d like to be done having kids by the time she turns 30. I never really thought much about my before 30 to-do list, but just then it was out of my mouth before I could take it back: “I’d like to run a half marathon.”
I started running in May 2013 with the couch to 5K program. Since then I’ve run two 5K and 3 10K races and got under my goal 10K time, but for the most part I’ve been stuck in a run 3-5 miles 3-5 times a week rut. A half marathon seemed like the perfect goal to work towards. And since London and the Royal Parks have played such a big part in my running journey, I decided the London Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon would be the perfect first half for me.
I knew training for a half marathon would be hard. I knew running for 13.1 miles would be hard. But I didn’t expect securing a spot in the race to be the hardest part.
I went to the website a few months ago to do some preliminary research and see when registration opened. I thought the course through central London and the royal parks looked amazing — and apparently 100,000some other runners thought so too. It turns out the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon is so popular that there is a public ballot to secure a place. A metric crap-ton of runners enter and only 16,000 are chosen. I entered the ballot last week and crossed my fingers.
I tried to keep my hopes up — 16,000 is a lot of spots, surely one of them could be mine! — but the more I browsed the half’s official Facebook page, the more I lost hope. People have entered every single year and never won a spot.
At 11:34am today I received an email titled “The Results Are In.” The fact that it didn’t say “Congratulations!” made it feel like a small envelope from a prospective university.
Sure enough, I was right.
I was gutted. This was supposed to be my grand plan for 2016, and just like that it vanished.
The email assured me that charity spots were still up for grabs, so I went to check them out. Maybe I could run for a breast cancer charity in celebration of my mom being cancer-free for 10 years. Or I could join WWF’s Team Panda (!!) which comes with this kit:
There’s just one little issue with claiming a charity spot: it comes at a cost. A big one. You must raise £400. I really, really hate asking my friends and family for money. I get flashbacks to slinging Girl Scout cookies, magazines and wrapping paper as a kid. I spent days canvassing the neighborhood and harassing distant relatives, but in the end my only customers were usually my parents and grandparents. I hate bugging people for money so much that I’d probably just put up all the money myself, which is equivalent to $579 at the current exchange rate. As my cursor hovered around “Get a WWF place,” it hit me — what are you doing?! Are you really going to spend (or beg your friends and family for) $600 so you can fulfill some stupid before-I-turn-30 dream?
If I want to run 13.1 miles before I turn 30, there’s nothing stopping me (well, aside from my exercise-induced asthma and general out-of-shapeness). Doing it on an official course with cheering crowds and a medal at the end would be nice, but it’s definitely not worth £400 (even if that £400 goes to a good cause).
Maybe I’ll try the ballot again next year or time a visit to Cincinnati around one of their half marathons, like the Flying Pig. But until then I guess I’ll save my money and keep hitting the pavement, slowing working my way up to a long run of 13.1.