Many of you probably think I would have learned by now. That I’ve run enough marathons to know when I am going to run a good race or a bad one. When I’m not physically capable of running because I’m sick, tired, or weak. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Fortunately, this inability to make good choices makes for entertaining stories.
I woke up on the morning of the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon on the floor of Blake’s apartment, where I hadn’t slept terribly well for unknown reasons. Despite having the plague/small pox/dysentery/bronchitis for nearly two weeks by this point, I was feeling slightly better. When I went to sleep on Saturday night, I was pretty sure I was not going to run the race the next day. I had been feeling so sick for so long. I was tired. It seemed like a bad idea. But feeling just a little better was all the motivation I needed to hop out of bed and put on my Maniacs gear. We got ready for the race in record time and left Blake’s apartment at 7:20 for the 7:30 start, because the starting line was THAT close. We almost got run over by the wheel chair athletes. We very nearly missed the national anthem. But we got to the race at 7:26, which is about as early as I like to arrive at the starting line.
The race started and I pretty much immediately felt terrible. And we’re talking catastrophically bad. I don’t like to talk too much about stuff like that during races, but I was concerned that I couldn’t keep running. I came dangerously close to quitting at every water stop through mile 8, but I kept going. Why? Because I literally could not bear the thought of Kate and Kristen riding home in the car wearing their medals and me sulking in the back without one. Ironically, neither of them wore their medals on the way home.
The course was immediately very hilly, and we were shrouded in a dense fog. You often didn’t even know whether or not you were going to run up a hill because it was THAT foggy. We had been told that the first half of the course was the hilly part and the second half was comparatively flat, so I just kept going. One foot in front of the other. The three of us took a disco bathroom break around mile 6.5, which would have been fine except this evil woman was freaking out about people taking too long, assuming they were “fixing their clothes” in the porta potty. No. She’s all “ugh, come ON, stop fixing your clothes, some of us are trying to run a race!” With all due respect, ma’am, if the situation was that critical, you would have addressed your bathroom issues before the race. Furthermore, you’re running at over a 5 hour pace right now. I’m slow, so I have no problem saying this – your bathroom break is not going to make or break you qualifying for Boston, so chill the fuck out. That is all.
The “big” hill of the race was at mile 7.5, and it was a doozy. However, there was an awesome DJ there playing what just so happens to be one of my current favorite songs.
This was just the boost I needed to get me out of my slump/race hate. In a very entertaining twist of fate, a guy around us started to complain about the hills and Kristen goes, “We don’t walk up hills!” and gave him my schpiel about how it takes just as much energy to walk up a hill as to run slowly up it, so you might as well run and then recover on the downhills. Maybe it was her delivery, but this man did NOT appreciate her motivational efforts, which made me laugh pretty hard. I was impressed that she was being so positive and inspiring others, though. We then ran through a wooded park with a great bike path which, while narrow, was gorgeous. The whole time, Kate, Kristen and I were commenting on what a great course this was. We had run through the University of Tennessee campus, some gorgeous neighborhoods, and now this great park, so we were really enjoying ourselves despite the hills.
Around mile 11, Kristen started to get very tired and sort of had a meltdown. I immediately switched into Motivational T-Rex mode and I instantly feel better. At that point it stopped being about me and how bad I felt; all my energy was focused on getting Kristen through the next 2.1 miles with a smile on her face. We alternated running and walking and I kicked her butt up some hills. We ran right past Blake’s apartment around mile 12, and he was waiting for us!
Blake was set to run the last mile or so with Kristen and keep her moving towards the finish line, and I’m glad he was there! He even wore matching socks. Now it was time for the big decision – do I turn off and do the half with Kristen, or keep running and do the full with Kate? Well, unfortunately, at the split, I felt really, really good. Good enough that I thought that 13 more miles was no big deal. So we waved goodbye to Kristen and Blake and kept going. And once again, I almost teared up because I am just so damn proud of the runner that Kristen has become.
My jubilation lasted about another mile and a half, at which point began the epic collapse. My hubris had gotten the best of me. I had become dizzy and exhausted, completely weak and depleted, and I now had 11 miles left to go. It wasn’t looking good. I blame Kate because she promised to stay and run/walk the whole thing with me before we split at the half. If she had told me she was going to run her own pace, I would never have attempted the full. So yes, this is completely her fault. I am sure you agree.
So we ran. And we walked. And occasionally, we sang. We talked to every Maniac that we saw. People complimented our socks. And we enjoyed the beauty of Knoxville, except for the short portion that went through the part of the city where all the homeless people in the world apparently live. I have a thing about homeless people. I always look them right in the eye. I do this because I have done a lot of research about homeless people and one of the things that many of them say is that they feel invisible because people don’t want to look at them. I try to help this.
The race at this point was really bad. I was weaving and wobbling and had to sit down a couple of times. Stupid Kate. The problem was that even when I tried to run, I didn’t have enough energy to run at my normal pace. My heart was fine for once, I just couldn’t move fast. So we didn’t. Instead, we creeped out other Maniacs by knowing them by name despite the fact that we’ve never met them. I am very good at this game. Lyle, a fellow Maniac, was pacing one of the groups and stopped to chat with us. I was all “hey, are you Lyle?” And he looked kind of surprised but confirmed what my facebook stalking already knew.
As the race turned back in towards town, we got to run past the brewery we stopped at the night before, and I promised Kate that I would run from mile 25 to the finish without stopping. Again, I use the word “run” loosely. I always try to run the last mile, no matter what, so I did. Verrrrryyyy slowly. People watching were probably so appalled. We ran through Market Street/Square/Something and there were tons of people outside cheering and they gave me a great boost. After what seemed like forever, we finally saw Kristen and Blake near the entrance to Neyland Stadium, which is where the University of Tennessee football team plays and also where the finish line was located.
Towards the finish, we met some other Maniac ladies and decided to all take a picture after the finish. Kate and I crossed the finish line holding hands, of course, in a less than glorious 5:34 and change. The finish line was extremely cool. You ran into the stadium and then out onto the field and finished on the 50 yard line, and it was broadcast on the jumbotron! They also called out your name and hometown. Delightful.
The post-race party had a separate area for marathoners! What an amazing concept. There was still food left because the half marathoners didn’t steal it all. THERE WERE CHAIRS! And guess who was there? That’s right, the guy that Kristen “motivated” up the hill. He saw her and said “Oh, it’s you! The bossy girl!” BAHA.
And it was basically like a Maniacs convention in there. So I continued my creepy game of knowing people’s names without actually meeting them, such as Anders. Anders is from Sweden and he is riding his bike all over the country to do a marathon in every state. He ran the Columbia Marathon but I didn’t meet him there – just read an article about him in the newspaper. So I was all, “hey, are you Anders?” And he said yes and took our picture.
And with that picture, we became famous in Sweden, because Anders writes for Runner’s World in Sweden and a cycling magazine called Kadens. And now we are on his blog, boom.
So here’s a lot of pictures after the race. Please check out our socks, which were very popular.
All in all, the race and the weekend was really fun. Minus me almost dying. And guess what? We didn’t stop to go to the bathroom a single time on the way home. Boom. Tennessee, check!