The Tale How I Ran 15K
By Celia Mei Rubin
I ran a 15K (just over 9 miles) for the first time last month. I’m not a Runner, with a capital R, I’m a runner with a lower-case r. Runners with a capital R are dedicated to this solitary hobby in a way I’ve never been able to be. Over 5 miles and it can start to get boring for me. Runners spend time pushing their physical and mental limits. It’s time-consuming. It’s masochistic. It’s a hobby that demands one to show up on the track or treadmill or in the park or on the city streets multiple times a week for an extended period of time that others would spend cooking or watching Netflix or having that after work drink or that morning cuddle. I have a girlfriend who calls herself a “Marathon Widow,” because when her husband is in the thick of marathon training, he is out that door in the darkness of the morning. Cuddles are for non-runners and runners with a lower-case r. When you’re training for a marathon, every mile and minute count.
Being a runner with a lower-case r means that I enjoy running as part of a cross-training lifestyle. I go to the gym, I lift weights, I take ballet class because I’m a professional dancer, I rock climb once in a while, and I’m an avid hiker (I could hike for hours on the right day in the right location). I’ll run once in a while, just short distances. A 5K (3.1 miles) is easy for me. I was working in Berkeley, CA, for a few months, and that Bay Area nature is an adult’s playground. I took advantage of it as much as possible. Being away from home and on the West Coast, I wanted to welcome 2019 in a novel way. When I’m at home in NYC over New Year’s Eve, I always run the Midnight Run in Central Park, which is about 5 miles.
It’s without question the most fulfilling way I’ve ever brought in a new year and I do it every year if I’m in the city, no matter what my personal circumstances happen to be that year. I ran it once after a morning rehearsal and an afternoon matinee on Broadway, went to sleep, then went back to Broadway for a New Year’s Day show. Because I was out west at the end of 2018, I researched runs that I might be able to do in place of the Central Park NYE run. I came across a 10K race on New Year’s Day that would run around Lake Chabot in Castro Valley. I would need a Lyft to the lake and back in time for the New Year’s Day matinee of the show I was working on. It started to feel like an adventure brewing, and, having never run a 10K, I decided that it would be a great way to start off 2019.
The run was hard. It was so hard, that on the last 3 miles, I thought that, if I could get through it, the rest of 2019 would be a breeze. Despite the challenges of running it, it was one of my greatest experiences. The beauty of Lake Chabot on a brisk and sunny new year morning will stay in my memory as one of the highlights of the four months I spent working in Berkeley. I was then hooked. The same race company had another 10K coming up in February at another cool Bay Area location and I ran my second 10K, again getting to the end just by the skin of my teeth. But I loved being outside with just my breath and my tired legs, and I wanted to continue this newfound hobby upon returning to NYC.
Shortly before my return, I saw a Facebook ad for a Hot Chocolate 15K. I was interested immediately because I’d never seen a 15K race advertised and of course I was enticed by the publicized mug of hot chocolate every participant would receive at the finish line. Without much thought, I signed up for it. Then, reality set in and I considered how challenging the 10K runs were for me and acknowledged that if I wanted to run a 15K without feeling absolutely horrendous, I’d have to train.
For about 6 weeks, I became a Runner with a capital R. I turned down social invitations and skipped ballet classes so that I could run. I remember the day I hit 7 miles. I remember the day I hit 8 miles. And I remember the day I hit 9 miles and couldn’t believe that I did so in a relatively easy way. When I say “easy,” I don’t mean that it wasn’t an accumulation of very hard work. It certainly was — I’d go to the gym then run on tired legs for 45 minutes so that my body would feel lighter when I would start running without having been to the gym beforehand. Once a week I’d go for a longer run and feel fatigued from it for most of the days leading up to my next longer run. All of this work meant that, when the day came to run the Hot Chocolate 15K, I kept an average pace of 9 minutes and finished in one hour and twenty-three minutes, sprinting the last half a mile or so. Was it easy? No. Did I feel horrendous? No! It felt like a solid challenge for my mind and body, and I was filled with pride upon completing this personal mission.
I don’t know if I’ll go for longer distances. I just don’t know if I have that in me, because I think it’s something that I need to really *want* in order for me to commit my time, mind, and body to it. I’d like to continue getting more comfortable running a 9 miler. So, who knows, perhaps there is a half marathon in my future. Whatever the future holds, the goal I set will be achievable with two things: the desire and the work. That’s a lesson that I appreciate that running always reminds me of.
Celia Mei Rubin is an actor, singer, dancer, Chinese Jew, twin, Libra, lover of ramen, obsessor of tea, who has performed on Broadway, the West End, on a ship, and many other places in between. Her love of noodle soup expands beyond Japanese ramen to Vietnamese pho, Cantonese noodle soup, spicy Szechuan hand pulled noodle soup, and anything else which incorporates broth and noodles. Celia endeavors to eat well and recognizes things like noodles and sugar an extreme treat. When not in a dance studio or onstage or eating a bowl of ramen or steeping loose leaf tea, Celia can usually be found at the gym lifting dumbbells or on the couch watching documentaries about cults.