Some Signs that I Liked
Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.
Run quietly. I’m hung-over.
“Worst Parade Ever!” had me laughing every time I saw it. I was thinking of the marathon as a spectator sport and it was my job to provide some entertainment. This kind of inspired me to bring some candy next time to hand out to kids or to wear some kind of costume. Not one with a cape.
4:50 Out of bed. Apply sunblock.
5:20-5:25 I was carpooling with my running buddy, T. I arrived at T’s and rang the bell. No one came to the door. The house was really dark. The dog was not barking. I got back in my car and started driving around. I texted him. He was in the shower. I came back, and they let me in. Even the dog hadn’t heard me the first time. Another running buddy to T’s arrived a little later. J is younger and faster than us.
5:45-6:00 I drank my rocket fuel, aka starter fluid: coffee and sugar. We listened to hair metal bands from the 80’s on the way downtown. The best was Skid Row with “Eighteen and Life to Go” and “I Remember You.” That was hilarious. “The Final Countdown” by Europe was also in the mix.
6:00 – 6:15 We drove to Union Station. Unfortunately, we were a little late, and they wouldn’t let us in the lot, even though we could see open spots. So we parked around back, and that cost us $5. We finally got parked, and headed into Union Station to tinkle and stay warm.
6:45 We headed to the starting line, and I stopped at a port-a-potty for one last tinkle. I’m glad I did, but it was close to start time as I was trying to get in the corral. I finally spotted the 3:15 group as the National Anthem started. It was cutting in and out, and finally stopped altogether at “And the rockets’ red glare.” The announcer was going to gloss over it, but the crowd picked up the song and sang a capella. It reminded me of the mornings I had stood outside in my PJs singing the National Anthem, trying to feel what 35° was going to be like. I was proud because we sang the words right. After finishing, there was a tremendous cheer.
I moved further up, closer to the 3:15 pace group and saw J, T’s wife who was running crew for us. I stripped off my sweats, and left them in a pile for her to put in my plastic bag and return to me later. I said, “Thank you!” I slipped under the corral and got as close to the 3:15 group as I could. The gun went off, and the race was on. Time to catch some antelope.
7:05 I started with the 3:15 pacer, and came up beside T. I ran with them up to 12th street, but then pulled away slowly during mile 2. I saw J running with this group as well.
It was cold. I was wearing tights, a t-shirt, and cut up socks on my arms. I had cut a hole in one for my Garmin. But really, I didn’t look at it much. I had been so anxious about the weather, deciding on Thursday that I was going to wear tights, because it was predicted to be in the 30’s. But even running in fewer clothes than I thought I wanted, I felt pretty good. I could feel that I wasn’t sweating. I saw a guy in front of me who already had sweat dripping off his head.
I thought of Luigi in Cars saying to Lightning McQueen, “You don’t know what you want!” And I imagined God saying it to me about the weather. Right then, I thought I had dressed perfectly for the day. I decided later that maybe I could have even gotten by with my short tights, which may have allowed me to run a little faster.
Running up Kessler to the Memorial, I fell in with a couple of guys chatting. They were “out for a stroll,” and I was running just about as fast as I could.
Once we were up the hill and circling the Memorial, I ran by myself. I took it easy over Wyandotte hill, and remembered 2011, when my heart rate was already hitting the mid-150s, and I was already tired. I felt great, and I decided it was going to be a pretty good day. I still hadn’t really started sweating yet, and my Garmin didn’t pick up my heart beat until into the 4th mile.
I was more aware of everything this year. I knew where I was on the course, and took a little time to see the spectators, enjoy the fountains, read the signs, and take in the landscape. We cruised through the Plaza, and headed out on Emmanuel Cleaver Blvd. (There were two kids standing in the middle of the JC Nichol’s intersection giving high fives.) The half marathoners went left at Troost. We, the few, the marathoners (1,500 of us, about one in ten), went straight ahead. This is when I was really alone, with a marathoner maybe 20 yards in front of me.
On Ward Parkway, a cross country team was coming out for their run. I was a little faster than them, but not much. As I passed two boys and a girl, we exchanged some words and I said, “Only 16 more miles to go!”
On the way up Sunset, at about mile 12, a woman came up beside me and said something like “Nice job,” as if she were apologizing for passing me. I fell into pace with her, hanging off her left shoulder. She was running easy. She was shorter than me. I immediately thought of her as my guardian angel. We hung together, until mile 20, when she went for a pit stop.
At mile 13, I was glad to see my family. I dropped my squeeze bottle in the grass and took a full one.
My guardian angel introduced herself as Amy. She was from Nebraska. This was her first marathon. I told her about the last 6 miles of the course, and she met my kids twice. She remarked about the cups being hard to drink from. I told her to squeeze the top. She said, “That works better.”
I was reminded of something I read about marathons: There is no other sport in which you can feel so good for so long. And, similar to this, I decided there is no other sport in which you can say so little and make a friend.
Coming up Brookside there was a guy in scarlet underwear, a mask, and a cape.
During mile 18, I was saying Yahweh. Yah on the inhale, and eh on the exhale. During the race, for the first time, I voiced the “eh.” I could feel my entire body vibrating. I felt like a reed. I felt like I was one with the universe. As I was coming to Mile 19, I was so looking forward to seeing my family. I was choked up because in 2011, I kissed M and said, “I love you. This is not going to end well.” I was going to ask them to pray for me. Pray that the wheels would not come off. But all I could manage was “Beautiful.”
I felt pretty good on the approach to the Wall, but on the turn toward Troost on Emanuel Cleaver, the road was torn up for a new layer of asphalt, and the rough sub-surface was hard on my feet. Once I was on Harrison, I evened out, and ran a good couple of miles. I even made it up the hard hills to The Paseo. During this time, I was passing a lot of half-marathoners. I passed the 3:30 and the 3:20 pacers. This made me think I was doing pretty well and may be on pace for a low three-teen, but my math was bad. I had forgotten to account for the time it had taken for those pacers to reach the starting line. So I really had a several minutes on them. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at my watch, or I might have figured this out. But (really) I was too tired to look at my watch.
In the 25th mile, J passed me and said something like, “Come on, Nelson!” That helped a lot. I had been telling myself to run on low octane fuel for a LONG time… the fuel light was on. And I think I kind of bonked at mile 25 because I didn’t drink enough Gatorade. During the final mile I was having an out of body experience, and I was having trouble feeling my legs.
On the final stretch, .4 miles to the finish, I was passed by Amy who was battling it out with another female runner. She said, “Nice job!” I said, “Go, Amy!”
When I crossed the finish line, I was staggering. I went over to have my chip cut off. I knew I had broken 3:15 because I could see the clock read 3:14 something as I finished. I was thinking “I did it. I did it.” I saw my family, and went over to them. I was on the edge, not sure if I could hold it together. M reached out to me, and I hugged her, put my head on her shoulder, and started crying. She was saying, “You did it! You did it!” and smiling through tears. My sons came in to make it a group hug. They were both smiling, and they didn’t cry.
T finished around 3:19. We got our medals, space blankets, and some wonderful Farm to Market rolls. (When you’re wearing your medal and your space blanket, you feel like a super hero! Next time, I’m going to use the safety pins from my bib to clip my space blanket together. It was still cold!) The biggest disappointment of the day was that the chocolate milk was gone. The half-marathoners had made off with it all.
We went to get our results. Mine printed off with a 3:13:25. I was ecstatic, and I started entertaining notions of going to Boston. I would find out later that, due to a timing error, my time was adjusted to 3:14:21. The consolation is I got a Pi Marathon, but it is likely not good enough to get me in to Boston. We got some BBQ and some coffee in Crown Center.
Tuesday, Oct 22 I am adrift right now, recuperating and recapitulating and recalibrating. Today at 3:30 PM I was SORE! I rolled everything, and now I am much better. Yesterday, I thought to myself, “I did it.” I actually thought about the fact that I met my goal. And that made me feel satisfied. Before, I was happy. Now, I’m satisfied.
Sunday, November 03, 2013 Today I thought, “I did it. It took me two years. But I did it.”
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