A few years ago I started seeing more of those oval “13.1” half marathon stickers. Or maybe it was just that the guy in the house on the corner in my neighborhood got one, so I was seeing it every time I went past. Every time I saw one it made me laugh a little, because in my head a half marathon sticker is bragging about doing half of something.
One evening I passed by the neighbor’s car on my way back from a run-of-the-mill 40-mile bicycle ride and as usual smiled to myself when I saw the sticker. A few minutes later I was sitting on my front porch, under the influence of endorphins and a gin and tonic, and I started thinking about it: “I just rode 40 miles, and that’s not a big deal. If you’re a runner, you run. Thirteen miles shouldn’t even be that hard. I bet I could go out and run a half marathon without even training.”
Now, the last time I tried to be “a runner” was almost 20 years before this, and I think I had worked myself up to maybe one mile before I gave up on running because I had problems with shin splints or something like that. I went and bought a bike–reluctantly, because I couldn’t think of anything else to do to get some much-needed exercise–and eventually turned into “a cyclist.” Now I’m in great shape for cycling, and often have to re-learn the lesson that fitness for one activity doesn’t automatically make you awesome at other activities, even if they use roughly the same body parts.
I immediately–sitting right there on the porch–contacted several friends who are runners to ask them if they thought I could do it. One said, “sure, probably. I guess,” but most said “no” or “no and you’d probably do yourself some permanent damage.” I mostly gave up on the idea, but it was still there in the back of my mind and I kept laughing at 13.1 stickers.
Later in the Fall, mostly for reasons not related to thinking I could run a half marathon, I found myself one day at a running store, buying myself a shiny new pair of running shoes. I had to buy some running socks. And I think maybe I bought some running shorts. And a day or two later I went for a run. It was maybe a mile and a half, which was already probably the furthest I had ever run. Not bad for my first time out, but I definitely didn’t come home thinking, “oh, yeah, I could have run another 11.6 miles today if I wanted to.”
Over the next couple of weeks I ran several more times. It was nice, on a cold day, being able to just go out and do it, and not worry about so many layers and equipment as is required for a bike ride, and getting a decent workout in 30 minutes instead of devoting two hours to a ride.
I think I got up to about three miles before my knees and back started hurting. Maybe I needed to work on my technique or get different shoes or get my muscles developed or just tough it out, but by then the novelty of it had worn off and I had no trouble retiring from my running career and going back to the bike. Maybe I should have bought myself a “3” sticker for my car.
So yes, I know a half marathon is a thing all by itself and doesn’t mean getting halfway through a real marathon. Yes, I know it’s hard and is an accomplishment in its own right. It’s 10.1 miles further than I have ever run. If you tell me you ran a half marathon, I will tell you, “Yay, you! That is awesome! I could never do that! Well, I mean I definitely could do that if I wanted to and trained for it a little bit, but I don’t ever want to do that! So good for you!” But if you put a little “13.1” sticker on your car, I am going to think, “Well look at that: you got halfway to 26.2! Keep trying, sport! You’ll get there!”
That’s all a very long-winded way of saying that now, if you feel the same way, you can have a sticker (or magnet, if you can’t commit yourself permanently) expressing this sentiment. Introducing Bill’s Head’s Store, opening with three 13.1-themed designs:
You can buy one to humble-brag about your own accomplishment, or your can put it next to your “26.2” sticker to make fun of people who only made it halfway.
With all this build-up I know it sounds like the 13.1 stickers were the point of Bill’s Head’s Store, but really they were an afterthought because I felt like I needed more than one design on offer when the store opened. The original point of the store was to finally follow through on this idea I’ve had for years to make fun of those sanctimonious “Choose Life” stickers:
I don’t go in for car decoration, so I won’t be sporting any of my new products on my own car. But you should definitely go buy some, and/or tell all your friends and loved ones about Bill’s Head’s Store. And keep an eye out for new designs arriving soon. Maybe. Sometime.
(P.S. There’s also a catchy, easy-to-remember URL: billsbumper.com.)