Back in December I wasn’t very happy with myself. I not only was feeling a bit old after turning thirty-seven, but I’d gained ten pounds after eating more holiday cookies than Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. It was in the midst of this stupor that Tia Leah (the family’s resident marathon runner) mentioned she was going to take part in the L.A. Chinatown Firecracker 5k run on February 23rd, and I surprised myself saying, “You know what? So am I!”

Everyone was very supportive of my decision, giving me running gear and shoes for Christmas, but I’m not sure they were all convinced I was going to go through with it. After all, while I was athletic in high school, I’d lived a fairly sedentary life the nearly twenty years since then (wait, what… high school was twenty years ago?!?!?!?)

My first run wasn’t exactly encouraging, either, as I was only able to run for three minutes before I had to start walking. I kept at it, though, and was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly I improved – within a week I was running twenty-five minutes without stopping!

I soon started a routine of going to the gym every other night after Annie was asleep. This meant I was on the treadmill around ten or eleven at night, and let me say this: the crowd there at that time is, uh, interesting. There’s one middle-aged, muscle-bound dude who always wears a different flashy scarf over his long, flowing locks, and I’m pretty sure he thinks he’s Fabio. Actually, I wonder if he is?

About a week ago I was pretty confident about being able to run the entire 5k (my goal), but then I read the description of the run on its website. The phrases “challenging run” and “one mile long uphill climb” had me shaking in my newly purchased running shoes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I pinched a muscle in my back two days before the run and was in a lot of pain.

Luckily for me, I had a lot of support as Heather, Annie, Heather’s parents, Kirk and Linda, and Leah’s fiancee, Ted, all made the early morning trip to Chinatown to root Leah and me on. Annie even made some signs!

run fast daddy!

go leah go
She told Heather what to write, and then she drew on the signs with crayons.

Chinatown is a very interesting place, and it was great to start the run smack dab in it. They pulled out all the stops, too. There were firecrackers:

firecracker smoke

A Dragon Dance:

Chinatown Dragon Dance

And traditional Chinese architecture:

China Town

China Town

Once the run started I was pleased to find my back loosened up, but the hills were no joke. My goal of running non-stop the whole time was in serious jeopardy on a few of those hills, but each time, thankfully, the top of the hill came into sight and I was able to keep rolling.

Seeing the “Finish Line” in the distance was pretty cool as I knew then I was going to achieve my goal. I finished with a time a bit quicker than my times at the gym, too, which was a surprise, and meant that I placed around 900th out of the 3000 runners. Not bad for a newbie!

here come mike and leah

passing the family

about to cross the finish

The best part of the run, though, was being able to give Annie my participant medal. She was pretty impressed, especially after I told her I’d won the race. (Shhh… she’s three… she doesn’t know any better.)

with Daddy's medal

Afterward Annie’s day was made when she got to meet some real, live “princesses” (Chinatown’s beauty queens). She was just as excited to meet them as she was Rapunzel, Belle and Ariel at Disneyland.

Annie with the queen and her court

hugging the queen

I feel a lot better about myself today than I did in December. In addition to enjoying the sense of accomplishment, I’ve also lost ten pounds and feel a bit more youthful. I plan to keep this running thing going, and look forward to taking part in the Chinatown Firecracker 5k again next year (and finish, hopefully, with a much faster time). Heather, Ted, Kirk and Linda say they want to run, too, so it should be a real family affair!

Annie and Daddy