The first thing Kate and I did when we woke up on Sunday morning was check the weather. The second thing we did was make sad faces, because it was 20 degrees outside and felt like 13 degrees with the wind chill. The high was estimated to be 30 degrees by the time we FINISHED the race. Kate is from Jacksonville, so she very rarely needs to contend with temperatures like that. While Columbia does get cold, it’s not very cold very often, and when it is, I’m not running marathons in it, so we had no idea how to dress. I am the type of person who hates to be hot when I run. I want to be cool bordering on cold, but I also wanted to avoid having any of my extremities amputated. I settled on running in my tights, Maniacs singlet, and Maniacs jacket, which is pretty light. I threw on a pair of gloves and some ear warmers for good measure. Kate wore tights, a skirt, a long sleeved shirt, a hooded running jacket, and her singlet over top of it. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait outside at the start and we had our trusty space blankets anyway.
Kate and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves because we FINALLY found and made it to a Marathon Maniacs pre-race picture on time! Given our previous luck the day before with finding ANYTHING, we were thrilled to make it, and we saw a bunch of people we had met the night before. I would like to say that I will be in lots of these types of pictures in the future, but that requires me getting to the race much earlier than I prefer, soooo T-Rex out.
At the starting line, we began talking to a guy named Ryan who was running his first marathon. We were all starting near the 4:30 pace group. Another man was standing next to Ryan wearing camo tights, camo long sleeves, running shorts, a black shirt, and a blaze orange beanie. If AJ ever fails me, he will be my next boyfriend for his superior fashion sense alone. As we started moving towards the start line, we saw Allison, who we had met the night before at the Maniacs dinner. She decided to join our little running group since we all had the same goal time.
The race started at 7 and we began to make our way through Birmingham. I was surprised to find that Birmingham is a much bigger city than Columbia. It is also (no offense, Birmingham), much crappier. There are some nice areas and a cute downtown section, but the majority of what we saw was pretty run down. The four of us were having such a great time chatting away that we didn’t really care. Lots of people asked me, Kate, and Allison about our Maniacs gear, which is pretty much one of our favorite questions.
Random Runner: So, what are the Marathon Maniacs?
Us: OMG, the best club EVER! YOU SHOULD JOIN!
Random Runner: Umm ok, what does it do?
Us: Well you basically travel all over the country and run marathons all the time in different states! You meet lots of fun people, go to dinners, and meet new people to run with!
Random Runner: Like, how many marathons?
Us: Oh, like 2 or 3 a month ish.
Random Runner: 2 or 3 A MONTH? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
Us: Yeah…well there’s people who run more than that too!
And that’s pretty much when we lose most of them. There were about 30 Maniacs running the race, so we represented about 10% of the contingency.
Shortly after the race started, Batman ran up behind us. Yes, Batman. Batman is also a Marathon Maniac, do you see? He was hilarious and got a ton of pictures of us running happily along.
We were cruising along at a very solid pace. We ran the first 17 miles at sub-10 minute pace, which would have put us across the finish line under 4:20. It was so cold, and that’s why I was feeling AWESOME. Allison, meanwhile, is from southern Arizona, so she literally wore all of the following items:
- Running tights
- Throwaway pants, pair 1
- Throwaway pants, pair 2
- Running skirt
- Long sleeve shirt #1
- Long sleeve shirt #2
- Running jacket
- Maniacs singlet
The most amazing part? She did not take off a pair of pants until mile 18. MILE 18! I was sweating just looking at her and Kate.
The course was a double loop, which I actually don’t mind. I kind of like it, because I feel like I mentally handle it better when I know what’s coming in the later miles. I was feeling fantastic and we were still running at sub-10 pace. I could tell Ryan was starting to struggle around mile 17, so I told him that no matter how bad he felt, he needed to stay with us. He asked to take a walk break sometime during mile 17, and no one complained too much. I’ve run enough marathons to know that once you take one walk break, you’re going to take more, so I prepared myself for that. On the one hand, I was a little frustrated because we were still on such a great pace and I knew I could hold it, or close, for the rest of the race. On the other hand, Kate and I had promised to run together and I was having so much fun with Allison and Ryan that I didn’t want to leave, so I decided to stay with them. After all, Kate and I had said we were going to use the race as a warm up for Myrtle Beach.
During mile 18, Kate’s calves started cramping badly. Maniacs help each other in times of need, so Allison and I each massaged one of her calves, pulled over there on the side of the course. People were looking at us funny, probably because we were all wearing matching clothes and rubbing each other down. It’s fine. You gotta do what you gotta do. Sorry we’re not sorry we’re such good teammates, k?
The walk breaks started coming more frequently as we went through the hilliest part of the course. Ryan was hanging in there as best he could, Kate’s calves were bothering her, and Allison’s hip hurt. I was still feeling really great. Then we rolled up to mile 20, which was through a cute part of town with little stores. There was a DJ playing music really loud. What music, you ask? Oh you know, your typical marathon pump up music, and by that I mean “Someone like you” by Adele.
And then my favorite marathon moment so far happened. We all recognized the opening notes of the song and Ryan exclaimed “OH! This is my SONG!” And started singing at the top of his lungs. So we all joined in and had an Adele sing along right there at mile 20 for as long as we could hear the music. We were so inspired by her pain that we started running at 9:20 pace. A little ambitious given that we had been walking a few minutes ago, but no matter. Doing the bull dance. Feeling the flow. Working it. Working it.
The last 6 miles were rough and we ran, walked, stretched, told stories, traumatized more people with Maniacs tales, and rubbed Kate’s calves down again. Ryan reported that his quads were hurting but he did not need a rub down. He kept thanking us for staying with him, but we were all glad to do it. We’ve all run a first marathon, and every marathon is tough in some way, so we knew exactly what he was going through. T-Rex Runner was in a good mood that day, so I didn’t snap at him at all. Even my “no you’re not” when he started talking about how he was in pain came out nicely. Looks like I’m softening in my old age/delirium.
Around mile 25.7, we heard Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Allison commented that when you’re running, all the sexual lyrics in songs become metaphors for running. SO TRUE. “Let’s go all the way tonight” = um, obvi let’s finish the marathon. “No regrets, just love” = I don’t even care that I didn’t PR cuz I had so much fun with you fools. Do you see?
Somewhere around mile 24, I threw out the idea of holding hands while crossing the finish line. We had all started the race together, stayed together the whole time, and we were going to finish together, so why not a little show of unity? Interesting fact: it’s a whole lot harder to run while holding hands, putting your hands up in the air, while crossing a finish line in a tiny finisher’s chute than you might think. But it makes for some really adorable pictures.
We got to meet Ryan’s wife in the finisher’s area and she was so proud of him. He hugged her and said “Thank you for letting me do this,” which I thought was really sweet. I don’t know, it just touched my tiny T-Rex heart. I guess it made me reflect on how much support I have and how much it helps to have your family and friends behind you when you’re living kind of a crazy lifestyle like this. We’re all very lucky.
Post-race, we got our Mercedes bling (hello, Flava Flav) and walked back to the car in record time. It had just reached 30 degrees, and seat warmers are a great incentive to walk faster. All in all, it was one of the most fun races I’ve ever done. It wasn’t a PR or terribly slow (we ran 4:42). It was just fun. Could I have PRed that day and maybe run sub 4:20? Yeah. But part of running this many marathons is meeting new people, enjoying the experience, and taking it one step at a time. Besides, I have 21 more chances at least to PR this year.