The one where I won two awards…or maybe just one. – Callaway Gardens Marathon Race Report

Kristen and I set off for Pine Mountain, Georgia bright and early on Saturday morning for marathon #9 for me and her first half marathon. On the way, we picked up T-Rex Runner Mom at the airport in Atlanta because she’s awesome and wanted to come cheer us on. Since she is my #1 fan, I had a special shirt made for her.


On that note, legitimate Team T-Rex shirts are in the works. But I digress. Anyway, with Kristen driving, we promptly got lost, as per usual. She’s the Christopher Columbus of marathon travel. Not to worry, I quickly navigated through the hood and back to civilization. After the world’s longest trip to Subway (cue sneaky hate spiral), we finally made it to Callaway Gardens. I had been there once when I was a kid, and I remember liking it very much. I found a turtle that I brought home and kept as a pet, which was probably illegal. I named it Callaway, because I was original like that.


We checked into our hotel and quickly made our way to the “expo,” which was being held in a circus tent. I do not exaggerate.  Since the race was so small, with just over 400 people in the half and and 150ish people in the full, I wasn’t even expecting there to be anything for sale. I certainly didn’t expect there to be things for sale in the circus tent. There were two booths but they had pretty much everything you could need right before a race – your typical gels, body glide, etc. Fortunately, there was no merch for me to waste spend my money on.


My race number was 29, which is pretty much the best thing ever, mostly because at big races your number is always ridiculously high. Only elite athletes get low numbers. At Callaway, everyone is elite since there’s only about five people. I was so exhausted from walking all around the giant circus tent at the expo that I decided to take a nap while my mom and Kristen, who are now BFFs, went to visit the booming metropolis of Pine Mountain. I told them to wake me up when they came back since I knew it would take them less than an hour to go in every single store, and I was right. By the time they came back, it was time to head to the pasta party, where we met up with Nick, Annie, and their baby Zoe. Zoe is really cute, but she scares me, like all kids do. They tried to make me hold her. Nope.

The pasta party was quite an experience. It was a little sparse. They basically had salad with only ranch dressing (fine for me, not fine for Annie), pasta, two kinds of sauce, and some bread. That’s it. Not exactly a gourmet meal, but whatever. I asked the waiter if I could get just a plain grilled chicken breast to go along with it. After great confusion, he said he would ask the chef. He returned later with the best Bud Light I’ve ever tasted (as if they aren’t all magical) and the following conversation:

Waiter: “I’m sorry, we don’t have any.”

Me: “You don’t have any chicken? It’s on the menu.”

Waiter: “We don’t have any. We only have the kind you put on salads.”

Me: “OK, so you have the chicken that you put on salads but not the other kind of chicken? Can I have it?”

Waiter: “Well, it’s cut into strips already.”

Me: “Alright…”

So he brought me out literally a bowl of chicken strips. I don’t know how it happened. It was like a miracle when they finally appeared. Meanwhile, there is a mutiny over at the pasta table because they have apparently run out of pasta and bread and people are freaking out. The restaurant said there was no pasta left in the entire establishment and that they didn’t know they were having a pasta party until that morning, which I find hard to believe. Somehow, after about 30 minutes, more pasta and bread magically appear. We still didn’t get charged for pasta even though we ate some and I got a bowl of chicken. I have no idea. There are no words.


Race morning dawned bright and early. Kristen was in a positive mood, so I felt good about her chances of finishing the half marathon. I wasn’t too nervous about the full but I knew it wouldn’t be my best race. I haven’t done a long run since Disney and since I didn’t really push myself in that race, it only half counts. Nonetheless, I was very excited about pacing Kristen through her first half.


The course was as beautiful as any course could possibly be in the winter. Even though the trees were dead, the lakes were gorgeous and there were some great views. Good thing it was pretty, because it was a double loop for the full marathon so I got to do it twice. Luckily, this meant that me and Kristen would run almost the entire race together. Here’s basically a reenactment of Kristen during the race:

Mile 1-4: Wow! I can’t believe I’m running my first half marathon! My knee doesn’t hurt at all!

Mile 5: Who put that hill there? Rude. I have to pee.


Mile 9: I still have to pee!

Mile 10-12: I hate this. I’m never doing this again. WTF was I thinking signing up for a half marathon? WTF is wrong with you that you do this twice in a row? Ow my knee hurts. I can’t do it. I’ll never finish. STOP RUNNING BACKWARDS, ASSHOLE. Oh look, there’s a photographer!


Mile 13: OMG I am about to be a half marathoner! I think I’m going to cry! OMG

And then I got to watch my little baby pea cross the finish line of her very first half marathon. I’m not going to lie. I teared up. I think I was happier when she finished the half than when I finished the full. She has pushed through a lot of pain during training and the race to get to that point, and it was amazing to see her reach it when she couldn’t run 5 miles without stopping just 3 months ago. Yes, it’s true. T-Rexs have feelings too.


With that, I set off for my second loop. I’ve learned that I actually don’t mind double loop courses. The second one loop tends to go by pretty quickly because you know what is coming. However, I wasn’t feeling well. I had a bad headache and I was pretty dehydrated. However, I met a nice man named Randy at about mile 14. We were running a similar pace and we started chatting about the different marathons he’s done (he’s working on the 50 states as well) and running and life in general. It’s always nice to have someone to run with, and since I didn’t feel great, it was especially helpful. We met a couple of other Marathon Maniacs along the way. Then I won my first award.

Somewhere around mile 18, a man came running up next to me and Randy and said to me, “You win the award.” My first thought was immediately, “This cannot end well. This is going to be creepy.” He said that I won the award for the best ponytail he had ever seen during a marathon, and he has run 74. He noted that my hair is a beautiful color, exactly the right length, and it swooshes perfectly from side to side.  I mean, I can’t really argue with that. He turned out to not be creepy after all. At least he didn’t try to touch my hair. Wouldn’t be the first time.


Shortly afterwards, I had to start walking more because I was positive that I was going to pass out. Around this time, I heard Randy shout from ahead of me, “Make sure you introduce yourself to Danielle! She’s a Maniac and she’s right ahead of you!” We were on the out and back portion and I see this older man trotting towards me wearing a Maniacs jacket just like mine. He says “Danielle, it’s so nice to meet you! You really do have a beautiful ponytail! I have heard so much about you. My name is Larry.”


But yes. It was Larry Macon, my idol. Introducing himself to ME. I was all, “Larry? LARRY MACON?” because I have such a way with celebrities. The short version of the story is that Larry Macon holds the record for most marathons run in a year. He ran 114 last year. That’s two marathons EVERY WEEKEND. Oh yeah, and he’s 67, works full-time as a lawyer, and started running when he was 50. He’s run all 50 states 8 times. He’s also the nicest human being on the planet.


After the greatest moment of my life meeting my hero, I started to feel a bit better but still tried to take it easy. Can’t pass out at a race that T-Rex Runner Mom is at or she’ll never let me do another one, I kept thinking. At the water stop at mile 23, there was water but no more cups. This was a huge deal because this race only had water every 2 miles instead of every mile, like a lot of races.

Me: (incredulously) “You don’t have any water?!”

Volunteer: “We have water, just no cups.”

Me: “Fuck it, give me a dirty one. I’ll either pass out or get AIDS but I’m pretty sure most marathon runners don’t have AIDS.”

Yup. I’m that girl. And by the way, the less cracked out version of me knows it takes 8 gallons of saliva to have enough of the HIV virus to pass it on. I’m educated, k? Just delirious.

I saw my mom and Kristen at around mile 24.8, and it was such a nice surprise! Apparently they had been awkwardly asking everyone who ran by if they had seen me and no one had until they talked to the ponytail guy, obviously.


I picked up the pace as much as I could for the last mile or so because I saw a girl in front of me that I thought might be in my age group, so I wanted to make sure I passed her. And pass her I did. Turns out she was actually 41, so my age judgement is a little off, but no matter. I sprinted to the finish as fast as my legs would carry me. My legs really felt fine, my head was just spinning.


I crossed the finish line in a less-than-glorious 4:49 and change, but I was relatively pleased with the effort given that I didn’t pass out after all. Imagine my surprise when the woman at the awards table asked me my age and then informed me I got third in my age group! It became the new best moment of my life (sorry Larry, our time was short lived).


So I’m all happy and on cloud nine because I got third in my age group. Then I started thinking “hmm, I hope there were more than three people in my age group.” After finishing the race, we saw Larry and Randy again and I got to say hi. Larry was SUPER excited about my age group award. I then stupidly asked him when his next marathon was. What I meant to say was when’s your next big marathon, aka one that I am likely to be at. I know when his next marathon is. It’s on Saturday, obviously. He was very sweet about it and I learned that he will be at the Mercedes Marathon and at Myrtle Beach with me in February, so we can rekindle our romance chat again.

Maybe I only won one award after all, though. You see, the results were posted yesterday and it appears that I may have actually come in fourth in my age group. However, you literally HAD to stop at the awards table and tell them your age and whether or not you were an early starter so you could give back your chip. It was a tiny race. It’s not like they could have missed anyone. If you start early, you are disqualified from getting awards since you technically have an advantage. I am therefore going with the assumption that this is what happened to the girl in third, and not that she just somehow missed the awards table. I was pretty sad about it for awhile. I felt bad that she maybe didn’t get her award. I felt bad that my one moment of winning an age group award, which is not likely to ever happen again, had been tarnished. Then I realized the following:

  1. If she possibly missed that awards table, she doesn’t deserve an award because she is a moron.
  2. I don’t run marathons for age group awards. I’m not fast enough for stuff like that, so who cares?


By the way, Nick won his age group. Nick is an asshole. Just kidding, he’s really one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. But seriously. Age group winners are assholes.

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