Columbus Marathon training: I'll get there

"The downhill feels almost like cheating, doesn't it?"

It was a 90-degree day in July, and my marathon training group was struggling. The woman matching pace with me was supposed to be on a run-walk program, but on that Tuesday, we were all on a run-walk program.

"Yeah," I wheezed, letting gravity take over and allowing myself to speed a little down the hill.

Running in a group is all about letting go. "Find Your Happy Pace," say the shirts from Garmin, and I tend to agree with that. If your friend can't match your pace, you will do more harm than good slowing yourself down. Just go. Run at your pace. Celebrate with your friend when she crosses the finish line.

It's a philosophy I always followed with my running friends - which is why I was always the last to complete a training run. But none of those friends are training for a fall race - which is why I joined a group to train for the Columbus Half Marathon.

The group meets at my neighborhood running shop and provides pace leaders to run as fast (or as slow) as you need to keep up with your training. When I run with my pace group, I've been finishing near the middle of the pack - the first time I've ever been faster than anyone I was running with.

I've been doing this for nine years. This is the first year I've attempted to improve my speed, and I'm surprised by how difficult it is. My body settles into the comfortable motions of running a 12-minute mile, and when I gently suggest that perhaps we go for 11 minutes today, oh, the complaining that ensues!

But that day, on a surprisingly hilly suburban street, I found after a few minutes of chat with my new friend that I was pulling ahead.

"I can't keep up with this pace," she told me as she dropped back and started to walk. "I'll get there one day."

I half-turned my head and called back to her, "Hey, I'm not at the pace I want to be either! I keep telling myself the same thing! I'll get there."

It's true for my workout, and as I kept chugging down the hill, I realized that it was probably true of my life too.

I'm not quite where I want to be.

But if I keep running, eventually I'll get there.


KHome: The price is right

My house hunt was ... interesting. I wanted something small and cheap, in one of a few nice neighborhoods. Basement a must. Garage a plus.

I thought I had an advantage because I didn't need the suburban-standard three bedrooms and two bathrooms. As it turned out, buyers are willing to make all sorts of concessions when the price is right - particularly if the buyer is an investor who doesn't actually plan on living in the house. I became used to discovering a new house, calling the agent, and discovering it already had an offer on it. I once made an appointment to put in an offer on a house, only to have the agent cancel the day of the meeting because an investor had offered cash.

So, on the day a little house in Kenwood appeared in my search results for an oddly low price, I was pessimistic. I called the agent and asked, essentially, what was wrong with it.

And the answer was: nothing, really. Just a very small house, a foreclosure, a possible foundation crack.

I am unafraid of foundation cracks, when the price is right. I made an appointment for the next day.

My parents met me at the little house, and we walked through with the agent, growing more and more surprised by the minute that the price was so low. It was in better shape than houses I had been prepared to offer twice the money for.

Really, we asked the agent, what's wrong with the house?

The agent showed us the cracked cinder block in the basement (ha! A vertical crack means nothing! Nothing!) and said because it was a Fannie Mae house, investors were prohibited from bidding for two weeks. Since I would be an owner-occupant, I had the advantage - for once. But, he said, of course a cash offer would strengthen my position ...

My parents and I practically trampled each other rushing to the bank so we could move some money around for me to make an offer. Within two days, I was under contract. And two months later, I closed on the little two-bedroom cottage/bungalow/whatever real-estate word for "itty-bitty house" is trendy now.

I bought a house! I was a homeowner!

... But what was I going to do with it?