Week 26: Marathon training, Andrea style

Andrea Cavanaugh, guest blogger

Greetings Run On readers. My talented and fabulous co-runner Andrea Cavanaugh has graciously agreed to write a guest blog this week so I can get some work done on my book.

Meeting Andrea has been one of the great benefits of the APLA marathon training program. She's a Los Angeles writer, comedian, social media consultant and, she says, "reluctant marathoner."

She's a former journalist for the Los Angeles Daily News, the Associated Press, and other publications. She does wicked standup at the Comedy Store. Contact her at andreacavanaugh@hotmail.com. Back next week.

That whimpering noise you may have heard on early Saturday mornings on the eastside is me getting up in the bleak predawn hours to train for the LA Marathon at Griffith Park.

"Why am I still doing this?" I groan to the lump under the blankets that is the dog. The lump has no answers.

That doesn't mean it's not a good question. I never expected to be getting up to run on a Saturday morning in late March. When I signed up to do this, the LA Marathon was scheduled for mid-February. Although I thought briefly about dropping out when the date was abruptly changed to Memorial Day, I'm still here. I'm just not sure why.

I like to tell people I'm training for the marathon to get material for my standup comedy routine. It's true -- there's something so inherently funny about a fat, 40-year-old ex-smoker attempting to run 26.2 miles that all I really have to do on stage is mention it and throw in some pained facial expressions, and I get cheap and easy laughs.

But that's not why I signed up. I agreed to participate in the AIDS Marathon last fall on a lark-- after all, if I'd given it any thought I would have rejected the idea as crazytalk -- for the same reason I took up standup comedy. I had just turned 40 and I felt like I was in a rut so deep that I couldn't even see the sky.

I also confess I was already looking forward to bragging about it -- until I found out how many people I know have already done it and never mention it. Turns out it's not that big a deal, at least in LA. My boss has done one. My boss's boss has run six. My neighbor ran one this year. It's possible that my Grandpa Joe ran one and neglected to tell me about it. About 20,000 people run the LA Marathon every year, and most of them are locals. I was starting to feel like the only person in Los Angeles who hasn't run a marathon.

My reasons for sticking with the program for the first couple of months run far deeper. Raising money to help Angelenos with HIV and AIDS is a cause that's close to my heart. Los Angeles has the second-greatest population of people living with HIV and AIDS in the United States. It's as easy to avert our eyes from this problem as it is any other social ill, but I've been confronted with its human face. For two years I cared for Kevin, my friend and neighbor in Hollywood, who contracted HIV from his first serious boyfriend in the early 80s and had been living with full-blown AIDS for an incredible 15 years when I first met him.

Blind and ravaged by constant pain, Kevin nevertheless tapped around Hollywood bravely with his white cane and Floyd, his Labrador retriever, even though he had been robbed numerous times on its mean streets. He has yet to succumb to the disease that stole his middle age. His sister calls him the Energizer Bunny -- every time it looks like he's reached the end of the road, he dips into a seemingly bottomless well of strength and finds a way to carry on.

I know many others affected by HIV and AIDS. I'm drawn to outcasts, including recovering junkies, and methamphetamine and gay sex go together like peanut butter and jelly. Unfortunately, when meth addicts take the brave step of getting clean, they're often left with the sad legacy of HIV.

Several people I know rely on AIDS Project Los Angeles to provide them with things that many of us take for granted, such as a bag of groceries or a visit to the dentist. As the economy continues its downhill slide, the number of people affected by HIV and AIDS who turn to APLA for help will likely increase.

But none of these reasons explain why I'm still crawling out of bed on predawn Saturdays to run with my compatriots. After all, I raised the $1,600 required of the participants a couple of months ago. I could easily stay in bed on Saturday mornings with a clean conscience and most of the world would be none the wiser.

However, I'll be out there pounding the pavement with the rest of my group tomorrow even though I'm dreading the prospect of running 23 miles. And I guess I know why. There's a certain stubborn satisfaction to be had from completing what you start. To crossing the finish line, even if you do it on your hands and knees. I'm doing it for Kevin and Mark and Gerry and the rest of my friends with HIV and AIDS, but I need to add one more name to the list. I'm also doing it for myself.

10:46 AM Friday, March 27 2009 • Link •  
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