Well, I was just about to throw in the towel on this blog as I barely get around to writing it let alone proof and polish it (my apologies poor souls – that is the unvarnished truth), when something happened…
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve run a marathon but it is burned vividly into my memory.
At mile one was the party, with middle aged local rockers screaming eighties lyrics to energize the crowd. Towards the end of that mile was the first port-a-john with a line seven people deep, each one dancing to their own beat. Because, no matter how much you plan ahead and go before the race, when you start running, your bladder finds a reserve stockpile somewhere. We’ve all heard the horror stories of those who don’t make it which is partly responsible for the boost in Depends sales.
Mile two brought the belly dancers, mesmerizing men with their jiggling and shaking, winking and flirting with every guy who passes. This is where the most runner collisions happen. They now keep an aid station there.
Down the road past mile seven, at this particular very large race, I encountered something I’ve never seen before. “What are those people holding? Tongue depressors?” Then I got close enough to see the goop smeared on them. Looking ahead, I saw the road littered and stained with dozens of them. Someone held one out as I passed. “I’m good,” I said smiling. It took me a minute before I realized they were not globs of refueling gel but rather Vaseline for chaffing. Relieved I hadn’t stuck one in my mouth, I trotted ahead, carefully dodging the slippery landmines.
At mile nine was what I call the train zombies. People sitting at the light rail station waiting for the train, staring at you with forlorn looks. One yelled, “How long is your race?” “Twenty-six miles,” I replied proudly. “What the f…! Are you crazy? It’s two bucks to take the train!”
Near the end of the station, a man departed the train, crossed the road and raised his hands, flipping us all off, yelling obscenities and cursing America. I glanced at a nearby Police Officer who could only shake his head. I thought, Well, if that bastard is exercising his right to free speech, so will I. And I let him know what he could do with his fingers and where he could go.
One thing I really enjoy about large races is all the people along the course holding up signs and cheering us on. They get pretty creative:
“Remember, you paid for this pain”
“The end is near”
“Worst parade ever”
“Ah, I love the smell of 10,000 runners in the morning”
“You’re the slowest one so far”
“All toenails go to heaven”
“Runners don’t die, they just smell like it”
Miles 10-14 were tough because they were simply an out-and-back outcropping on the course. The way out is depressing because you see all the fast people ahead of you. But on the way back, it’s fun to see how many are behind you. All right! I’m not last!
Around mile 20, I started feeling pain in my knees and feet and took walk breaks, running and smiling only when I saw a photographer. You never know. Maybe I’ll make the cover of Runner’s World one day. The editors will see my race photos, “Wow, look at that guy, fresh as a daisy at mile 24! How is that possible?” Could happen…
I managed to finish strong. Since my legs had pretty much gone numb, it wasn’t hard to do. My family greeted me, I got the five pound medal and slammed a chocolate milk, then waited for the wave of pain to hit. I remember thinking, If I stop and sit down, I’ll stiffen up and they’ll have to load me into the car with a refrigerator dolly. So I walked back to the finish line and my thoughtful wife handed me some Ibuprofen. Bless you!
I was still pretty uncomfortable for the next couple of days and thought that would be the last one of those for a while. But then, as I said before, something happened… I turned 49 and I knew I had to do something special next year for my 50th birthday – a 50k ultramarathon.
It’s a year away and I figure enough time for people to forget it if I drop out. But there was such overwhelming support from my online running group that I got fired up about it. I can do this!
So, I decided to keep the blog going to record my journey. The first step is to lose some weight. Right now, I weigh [command error] and would like to drop 30 pounds between now and then. Which means I will have to die. I mean diet. Stay tuned, friends, and buckle up.