I’ve run a lot of races over the years: a couple marathons (one in Paris, one in Anchorage), plenty of 5Ks and 10Ks, many for good causes–and most for fun, too.

It’s fun to compete when I’m fit. I’m not fit at the moment.

I signed up for the 5 K at the Norman Bird Sanctuary today. It was a beautiful morning and a delightful course with a nice piece along the beach. My friend, Elizabeth, was planning to run. I wasn’t. I was going to walk.

I knew it would be hard on my athlete’s ego to be at the back of the crowd at the start. I knew it would be tough not to be sucked into running. It’s been almost two months since I left the hospital in Kuwait–still too soon to push my lungs too much.

Walk. Don’t run. I’ve said it over the years to kids racing around pool decks when I was a lifeguard. Now I’d be repeating it to myself along the course.

I had number 317. I pinned it on my shirt and told myself that I would not run…and I would do my best.

When I passed the first mile, the timer called out 16 minutes. Not bad. I could do better. At the two mile mark, I’d passed other walkers and the timer called :30.30. Better.

The majority of the last mile is a long, slow incline away from the beach and back to the bird sanctuary. There were a few walkers ahead of me to I set my sight on passing them–and I did. My friend, Elizabeth joined me on the last piece of the race.

I finished the 3.1. miles in 47 minutes.

Not bad. It’s a place to start. A first step on my road to recovering my fitness.

This time next year, I’ll be writing about running a marathon.