I woke up Sunday morning absolutely terrified.
It’s been awhile since I was truly nervous or fearful before a race. Sure, I get that “this is stupid” feeling before every single one of them when I awaken at the ass crack of dawn, but I’m not afraid. Well, that was before the great DNF incident of 2012. Instead, I had the “this is stupid” feeling about my new running skirt, which annoyed me just by its mere existence. I decided to try one out because as it gets hotter, the shorts that I normally wear are not great with wicking away sweat. Fine the rest of the year, not fine in the summer. SO I opted for a skirt, thereby putting me in that category of people who care what they look like when they run. I am generally not one of those people, so knowing that people might think I was annoyed me in advance. Also, I was pretty stressed out because the race directors had emphasized that there would be a lot of traffic and limited parking and we needed to get there early. As you know, I detest getting to races early. But there I was, running out the door of the hotel at 5:45 am for a 7 am start 10 minutes away, leaving little AJ sleeping peacefully.
Because my Pea was not there to provide me with an adequate breakfast, I had to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a bagel along the way. Fortunately, I reached the race parking an hour before the start, putting me in a position I am rarely in – able to make the Maniacs picture!
So the race started at 7 for just the marathoners, and the half marathoners were set to start at 7:20. As I took off with Charli, I heard a voice behind me telling 3 girls that they were running with the wrong group – they were half marathoners who started with the fulls.
Marathoner: “Um, just so you guys know, I think you might be in the wrong group. The half marathon starts after the full.”
Half-Marathoner representative: “No it doesn’t, everyone starts together.”
Marathoner: “Well everyone here is wearing a different color bib than you. It might not matter, but just so you know.”
Half-marathoner representative: “Whatever, it doesn’t matter. That’s what chip timing is for.”
After the girls passed, I turned around to tell the marathoner who had confronted them that she was right and the girls were wrong- their race started later. And actually, asshats, it DOES matter because now the real leaders of the half marathon are gonna pass by you and go WTF? Lo and behold, the brave marathoner was Sally and her dad Harold, who I met at the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon. I was so excited! I had no plans for this race other than I wanted to take it really, really easy and make sure I didn’t lose control of my extremities at any time. Seems reasonable, right? So I decided to run with Sally and Harold. Sally is absurdly, crazy fast. She ran Boston this year and pretty much every year before that since she started running. She is a super hero in my sad slow world. She and her dad, Harold, are both Maniacs, and she runs some races by herself and some with him at his pace (around 5:30). They have run over 100 marathons, most of them together.
Sally and Harold stop and take a picture at every mile marker, so I also participated in this tradition. However, I have none of the pictures because Sally took them all and she apparently does not know how to upload pictures on facebook. As we ran through Wilmington, we met quite a few characters who would join us on our journey. There was Bill, the “ghost of Delaware,” aptly named because he initially photobombed all of our mile pictures since he was running the same pace. There was Dave, a fellow Maniac who kept passing us and then being passed by us. There was Shirtless Joe, who lasted wearing his shirt about one mile and was walk/running his way through the race. And eventually, there was Michelle, who became Harold’s bff since they both power walk at absurdly fast speeds. Seriously, trying to keep up with them while they were walking was like being a little kid again when your mom is walking really fast through the grocery store. I literally had to run to keep up with them.
The course was sort of a double loop that ran through the city, a park, past the zoo, a couple of neighborhoods, and Little Italy. I say it was sort of a double loop because the second loop course varied slightly from the first. Thank God there were people everywhere because with all of the turns and the out and back sections, it was a little bit confusing, but we found our way. Around mile 4 or so, we started to get passed by the half marathon leaders – the ones that actually started the time. I always love being able to see the fastest people during a race, but I felt sorry for the faster half marathoners during many parts of this course. There were some narrow trails and running lanes throughout that made it almost impossible for them to pass the marathoners. Just one more reason to be thankful I’m not fast.
The volunteers on this course were outstanding. There weren’t a ton of spectators, but the ones who were there were great and the volunteers were enthusiastic and helpful, especially in the neighborhoods we ran through. The three of us (sometimes five or more, depending on the locations of the Ghost of Delaware, Shirtless Joe, and Michelle) were having a grand old time stopping to take pictures, chatting with the people around us, etc. I missed Kate, but I did learn that Sally is just as obnoxious as me and Kate and also greatly enjoys yelling out the names of all the people passing by on the out and backs. We entertained ourselves by trying to see who could read the name of the oncoming runner first. Oh, the things we do when we’re spending five hours running.
When we were running through Little Italy, I saw a tiny puppy scampering along the sidewalk and did the appropriate thing, which was obviously squeal and immediately ask the nearest person if I could pick up the dog and take a picture with it. This puppy is the new best thing that has ever happened to me during a marathon, quickly replacing Churchill Downs as my favorite race course memory. Hey, the horses didn’t give me a kiss on the face.
On the loop through the neighborhoods, we also spotted the signs that had so kindly been made for all of the 50 Staters and the people running their first marathons. This is why I love smaller races. You would never get that kind of personalized touch at a Rock ‘n Roll race. Ugh, I can’t even utter that phrase without being irritated. Stupid Rock ‘n Roll.
On the way back to the half marathon finish and the start of the second loop, Sally and I made a goal not to be lapped by a marathoner. Tragically, we were lapped by the winner of the marathon at approximately mile 12.9, where we promptly revised our goal to not be lapped by two marathoners. We were able to achieve that quite successfully. Then I saw AJ, Tom, and Brieann!
I was still feeling ok at this point in the race – about halfway. We had finished the half at pretty much perfect five hour pace. My back was achy, but what else is new? I was really having a ton of fun with the gang. We got to see AJ again around mile 15, since he was stationed at the top of an out and back.
Somewhere along the second loop through the park, Sally and I were talking about my back problems. She is a running coach, so she watches me run for a second and goes, “hey, um, can I tell you something about your form?”
Me: “What, that it sucks?”
Sally: “Well, yeah…”
She went on to explain that I kind of shuffle my feet and don’t kick my heels up high enough. Not that this will help my back, but it is good information if for no reason other than looking more like a runner in my race photos.
I ran with Sally, Harold, and company all the way until mile 21, when my back couldn’t take it anymore and my heart also decided to protest. My leg started to freeze up and it felt like I was going to lose control of it again, but I was able to stop and stretch until it stopped. Crisis averted! It was also pretty warm that day, and I was having a tough time. The good news is that all my afflictions have left me with absolutely no pride of shame, so I waved goodbye and promptly sat down under a shady tree. Some nice volunteers brought me water. I sat for a good five or ten minutes waiting for my heart to calm down, and when it eventually, I began my slow walk-run progression towards the end. While running through the neighborhood, I noticed that all the little signs that were made were gone. NOOOO! Oh the humanity. I asked a volunteer and she pointed to a trailer that contained them. I asked her if I could go search for mine, and when she didn’t answer quickly enough, I ran in there anyway and eventually dug mine out. Victory!
Around mile 22, I found Shirtless Joe and walked with him and another 50 stater for awhile. Running with Joe ended up working out great because neither of us wanted to walk the whole rest of the way, but we also didn’t have motivation to run without each other. I was awkwardly carrying my sign while running and it flapped in the breeze. We saw Juggling Guy, who runs marathons and juggles the entire time. It is very impressive.
Shirtless Joe and I finally began the long climb up the last hill at mile 25. This is down a busy main road in downtown Wilmington. Despite the 6 hour time limit, this stretch of road had inexplicably opened to traffic by the 5:30, leaving us forced to stop at intersections and dodge buses that were in the running lane. I was not happy. I don’t mind time limits, but if you have a time limit, you should stick to it – not close early or late. The conditions were really dangerous and it’s not often that I complain about safety during a marathon, but this is an exception.
After what seemed like forever, we finally saw AJ, Tom and Brieann, who all thought I had died somewhere along the course because it was taking me so long. Nope, that’s just my marathon pace lately.
Shirtless Joe and I crossed the finish line around 5:46, coating ourselves in glory with one of my worst times ever. I was tired and sore, but the course was beautiful and I really did have a great time. At the end, all my favorite Maniacs were still around to greet me – even better!
So, I didn’t die or become paralyzed in my most recent adventure. And isn’t that really what marathoning is all about? No? Ok, well I also had fun. In a true testament to my absurdity, AJ and I had to hurry back to the car so I could get to the hotel and shower before we headed to New York City for a few hours.
That’s right. Marathon in the morning, NYC in the afternoon.
Did I mention it was my first time going and that I’m afraid of cities unless I’m running through them? That’s right. T-Rex takes New York in Part 3.