Going the Distance, Part 4

By Shawnn Slaughter

Originally published on Advocate.com February 20 2008 1:00 AM ET

This month of
training has allowed me to bounce back from my injury and
fatigue. My energy levels have finally rebounded, and I
don't feel depressed, as I did weeks ago. For a while,
I worried I couldn't continue with my training, but
now I'm confident about crossing the finish line on
March 2.

My 26-mile
training run on February 2 was dubbed the
“Celebration Run.” This time I ran with
a pace group that averages 14:30 minutes per mile, but
they slowed down for this run. Regardless, we ran at a
faster pace than I had been running in a while, and it
was a lot of fun.

Through the
marathon-length route, water stops with cheering volunteers
were our refuge. The National AIDS Marathon Training
Program cannot possibly be successful without the
dedicated volunteers and staff who run it. Both the
volunteers and fundraising by the runners help support
Aids Project Los Angeles (APLA) in assisting people affected
by and living with HIV/AIDS. As a 22-year survivor of
HIV, I can personally support these efforts with all
of my heart and soul.

Matt, a handsome
bear cub, serenaded us along the route. He's as cute as
he can be, but I don't have a crush on him.
Besides, Matt already has a partner, who is developing
a musical tentatively titled Tap about Congressman
Larry Craig’s airport sex scandal.

This group was a
major morale booster for me, after having gone through a
period of being less than enthusiastic about running. I even
encountered a culinary windfall by running with them:
Our coach, Scott, treated us to sandwiches about
midway though the route and then post-run pizza.

The most joyous
part of the run was crossing the finish line, where I
received a medal for finishing the Celebration Run. It
reminded me of why I run: the euphoric rush of
crossing the finish line and having a medal placed
around my neck. I was also grateful that I didn't sustain
any injuries during this run, even though I was a bit
stiff and sore in my legs and hips for a couple of
days.

On February 10
during the week following the 26-mile Celebration Run, I
returned to Los Angeles to make the eight-mile Recovery Run.
It was a much more intimate run than the previous
weekend. I rejoined the pace group I ran with the week
before, but there were only four of us. The route took
us past Disney Studios and Warner Bros. in Burbank. Though
the run was quiet and went quickly, Matt and his
serenading were conspicuously absent.

The weather here
in Las Vegas where I live seems to be warming up a bit.
That makes it more tolerable to run outdoors -- where I
prefer to be -- as opposed to running on the treadmill
indoors. In the meantime I continue my work as a
substitute teacher. I work mostly with autism but
lately have considered a change of profession. I love
subbing and working with autistic children, but after
five years I am feeling compassion fatigue. I think I
need a change. I am also busy working on my MBA,
which takes up much of my time.

Running gives me
a break from these things. When I run, I am able to
escape from everything. It’s quite a release. With
less than a month left of training, I don't know what
I will do after the marathon. There are other
marathons as well as shorter runs I can do. But nothing can
compare to the experience of training with the
National AIDS Marathon Training Program.