Big Week

by Zen Gray

To say that this has been a big week for me is kinda like saying “God is smart.” It’s a little bit of an understatement.

I flew to Honolulu last Friday to run my first marathon. My boyfriend, David, accompanied me (which was wonderful) because:

  1. Airplane turbulence makes me crazy.
  2. He wanted to support me and help me prep for the race.
  3. We wanted to enjoy a short vacation together in paradise.

I hoped I wouldn’t end up walking like a pirate after those 26.2 miles but I wasn’t sure what kind of shape I’d be in after race day. Even though we got to Honolulu on Friday, I wouldn’t be racing until early Sunday morning so I had two days to really let the panic set in. I tried to calm myself by thinking, “You just gotta finish, Gray. You don’t have to push yourself.” Having been diagnosed with both bursitis AND tendinitis in the knees, I figured my finish would be less than graceful. But because I had so much love and support (and training!) I knew that I would cross that finish line even if I had to crawl. That conclusion was non-negotiable.

The “carbo-load” dinner was pretty fun and ended early so we could all get to bed by 8pm the night before the race. Our coaches suggested we wake up at 1:30am so we could be dressed, sun-screened, fed and ready to meet in the lobby at 3am. Oh yeah… 3am. As a group of 150 participants from AIDS Project Los Angeles, we all cheered in the lobby before heading out to the starting line. (I had a moment of silence for any guests not associated with the marathon who may have been trying to sleep at that perky hour.)

I wondered, “Why in the hell do we have to head to the starting line NOW??!!!” As we approached Ala Moana Park, I realized why we walked there so early… 25,000 runners! When the fireworks went off at 5am to mark the start of the race, it took me 13 minutes just to get to the starting line in that crowd of hopeful finishers but it was a spectacular site to see so many people take on such a huge challenge. (Check out the marathon video at the end of this blog to hear the APLA cheer and see the fireworks!)

My running partner, Chad, paced with me a 3:2 run-to-walk ratio. It was invigorating to kiss my boyfriend at miles 5.5 and 11 and then I knew I wouldn’t see him until the end of the race. Chad and I enjoyed darkness for the first 1.5 hours and then the sun came up as we climbed the hill around Diamond Head. (I could swear this whole course was uphill, actually, but that’s not what the chart says.)

We wove in and out of runners the entire way until really bad foot/ankle pain made us both start walking after mile 20. I love that some of these participants wore costumes while running. I saw a Pokemon, 2 brides in wedding gowns, Avatar characters and various other festive outfits. The Japanese really know how to lighten up the mood during something so brutal as a marathon that’s all uphill in 110% humidity… just sayin’.

So we’re getting close to mile 26 when Chad says, “You know we have to run in, right?” Um, ok. Guess I can grimace my way to the end. Why not? Of course, the spectators are cheering and clapping and they’re pumping Justin Bieber tunes… so we run smiling and crying across the finish line to get our shell necklace that only marathon finishers get. YES!!!!

The cops told us to move along (um, really??!!) and get out of the way for more finishers and I saw David grinning at me from the sidelines as I hobbled over to him. He joined us as we dragged ourselves to the finishers tent where we got our bright blue finisher t-shirts. Shortly thereafter, I enjoyed a 20-minute ice bath. ( I won’t bore you with the awesome details of that delightful horror.) Strangely, I couldn’t eat more than a little fruit immediately following the race. But later that night, I wolfed down both a roast beef AND a ham sandwich before bed. (There are definitely some caloric perks to running a marathon.)

Thankfully, the ice-bath facilitated my miraculous recovery and I was walking around just fine the next day. There’s a Duke Kahanamoku statue in Waikiki Beach and they say to hang your lei on his arms for good luck so I was determined to walk over there.

Satisfied with my accomplishment (and my wish for good luck), David suggested that we walk out to the beach together. To give you a little background on our rapport, we’re one of those nauseatingly lovey-dovey couples that hold hands constantly. So when he started saying how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I just thought, “I love you, too, honey…” It wasn’t until he dropped down on one knee that my jaw dropped, too. He pulled out a BEAUTIFUL ring and placed it on my finger, “Will you marry me?”

The first thing I said (after I said “YES!”) was, “Wow. The Duke works fast!” And the next couple of days were a blissful haze in paradise.

Perhaps it was because we were riding the Honolulu high when we got back to LA, but we visited the West LA Animal Shelter the next day and fell in love with our new puppy, Tippy Longstocking. What a magical week!

Wishing YOU lots of love and happiness, too.


PS: Here’s the marathon video. ENJOY!


3 Comments to “Big Week”

  1. Congrats again Z on your run! Your new puppy is absolutely adorable!!!

  2. You ROCK! Remember when I told you that running my first marathon changed my life???? Well, well, well, it looks like it did a little changing for you too! Congrats on the marathon and Best Wishes to you on your engagement!

    With love,

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