I embarked on my journey to Philadelphia for the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Marathon as the result of some extremely poor planning on my part on numerous levels. Apparently, I now I have so many marathon trips in the works that details are consistently falling by the wayside. When I booked my flight back in late winter, I got a super cheap fare on Southwest from Greenville to Baltimore, leaving at 7:50 pm on Friday so I wouldn’t have to miss work. Let’s go over the numerous flaws in this plan:

  1. My flight would land at 9:15 pm on Friday.
  2. Baltimore is 2.5 hours from Philadelphia.
  3. I needed to pick up my packet no later than 6:45 am on Saturday for the 7:30 race start.
  4. Jackie gets angry on long drives.
  5. I have half days at work on Fridays in the summer, so I could have left much earlier.
  6. We got to the hotel at midnight.

I was visiting Jackie, one of my sorority sisters in college who is also one of my best friends. She is also prone to hate spirals on a level that simultaneously inspires and disturbs me. Late night driving through construction zones, then, is not exactly on her top 10 list of favorite things. We made a stop at a Wawa (duh) on the way up, and I felt compelled to get a soft pretzel with nacho cheese dip. Carbo loading, as they say. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that if peopleofwawa.com ever became a real thing, it could really give peopleofwalmart.com a run for its money. Many people, including Jackie, like to make fun of me for living in South Carolina as if it is the white trash capital of the world, but as Jeff Foxworthy once said, there is no geographical limit on being a redneck.

How I feel every time I go to Wawa

To say I was delirious by the time we reached the hotel would be a gross understatement. We didn’t go to sleep til about 12:30, with a 5:30 am wake up call on the horizon. Why do I do this to myself? The good news is I actually slept decently for once and had no trouble falling asleep. I did wake up every hour starting at 3 am, but no matter. When the alarm went off, my back was in horrible pain. I had been having a really rough week with my back, and midway through the week, I wasn’t sure I would run at all, let alone do the full. Still, in case you haven’t figured out by now, I really REALLY don’t like letting my afflictions guide me towards making intelligent decisions stop me from running marathons, so I figured the least I could do was go out and run the half. The course was a double loop, so I would have a full 13.1 miles to make my decision.

Packet pickup was early at the local German club. Who knew such clubs existed? I grabbed my stuff and got back in Jackie’s car to wait for the shuttle that was taking runners to the starting line. We figured we would just follow the bus to the start. No problem, right? Wrong, because the bus was apparently driven by a New York City taxi driverwho ran red lights. We promptly got lost, cueing another hate spiral from Jackie, but eventually we made our way over to the start.

And now you know what the inside of a local German club looks like. It brought a tear to my eye when I saw they had Bud Light on tap there.

I thought the race started at 7, so I quickly made my way over to the Maniacs and got ready for the group photo, which I thought I might have missed. But as usual, I was totally disorganized and the race started at 7:30 instead. All of a sudden, I noticed a tiny Asian woman in a Statue of Liberty crown and 50 Staters gear. I wanted to ask her if she was the woman I talked to at Hatfield McCoy who is  from AJ’s hometown, but I didn’t want to be that racist asshole who assumed she was just because she was Asian…and um, wearing the exact same outfit. Crisis averted though, because she totally was! I got to meet a ton of Maniacs at the start, including Peggy, who was also at Hatfield McCoy, Wayne “The Manimal,” who is a 10 Star Maniac, and see my friend Dave Mari, who I try to emulate in pictures as often as possible.

Made it to a Maniacs picture like a motherfucking ADULT. I’m on a roll.

My new friend dressed like freedom was named Maricar, which she explained by saying “oh, it’s totally easy! Like “marathon,” but Maricar!”  I literally said it over and over again in my brain a hundred times so I would not forget.

Me, Maricar, the Manimal, Sutah, and Peggy before the race. Would it kill me to not look awkward in ONE PICTURE?

I told Maricar that I didn’t know if I would be running the full because of my back. She explained to me that she uses a run/walk ratio the entire marathon and normally finishes in about 5.5 hours, which is what I have been doing lately anyway. She runs for 3 minutes, then walks for 1, and does that the entire race. I decided to try and stick with her and see how I felt during the race. Oddly, I had been feeling kind of nervous about not knowing anyone at the race, since lately I’ve either brought my own or found some really great running partners. But you know what the best part is about being a Maniac? You’re never alone if you don’t want to be. So we set off, deciding to take pictures at every mile marker…after we passed the first one because we were chatting the whole time.

There’s two things you need to know about this race: 1. It is run in Pennypack Park, which looks mostly like this, and 2. It is German themed.

The miles passed quickly and I was really loving the run/walk intervals. It made the early miles seem so easy! We got to see lots of crazy costumed runners dressed up in liederhosen and drindels, enjoy some beautiful scenery, and startle the precious volunteers with our enthusiasm.

These boys were slightly traumatized that we forced them into our picture.

The volunteers at the aid stations were mostly dressed up, and one of the stations was called the Oktoberfest stop. Guess what was there? Marshmallows, pretzels, cookies, water, Gatorade, and BEER! Since we passed that aid station 4 times, I am pleased to report I imbibed frequently throughout the race. Beer and cookies are the key to success. The course had some steep hills, but it was very shady and very pretty and Maricar and I were having a smashing time. I about died when I heard an accordion player from around the corner.

“Hey, lederhosen guy! Get in the picture!”

That would be Uber Hans, a former NFL player turned world-class accordion player who now entertains the masses/marathoners. Sorry I’m not sorry for picking better marathons than you. Shortly after this point, we ran past a photographer. We tried to look as fresh and not sweaty and gross as possible, and as we were running past him, Maricar yelled “PHOTOSHOP THE THIGHS!!” And then I died. And it became the theme of the race slash my life.

I am told that the race advertised that it included a trail portion, but as we’ve clearly seen, I don’t research my marathon courses very well. Maricar didn’t seem to know either. Um, PS that trail was a bitch. It wasn’t like the trail at Hatfield McCoy that was mostly a road. It was a legitimate technical-ish trail with actual roots and shit that I had to avoid. Not ok. But this is what I get for picking races on the basis of their theme, name, and swag alone.

To make it worse, the trail was uphill both ways. In the snow.

Meanwhile, I was feeling pretty good and we were still having fun. All the volunteers and everyone who ran past us on the out and back portion commented on how much fun we were having and how great we looked. It’s nice to be recognized.

Made it through the trail and back to civilization/Germans

While running along, we saw a big tree and decided to do one of those engagement photo type pictures where each person stands on one side of the tree and creepily peers around. We asked an unsuspecting runner if he would kindly take our photo since he happened to be walking at the moment, and he obliged and found us to be quite amusing.

We’re not judging if this is one of your engagement pictures, but we’re not NOT judging.

So it turns out that Halbert (you people are killing me with your impossible names) was running his 7th (ish) marathon) and that he liked our style and didn’t mind taking pictures with us along the way. Around this point, Maricar had become quite possessive of my camera since hers had died at the start and we were obviously having an epic time. She became the photo dictator, telling us how and when to pose. At mile 9, she said “Do something funny!”

You don’t let strangers pick you up during a marathon? I do.

And then we ran past the Oktoberfest stop again.

It’s beer! Hooooraayyyyy beer! Shit, wrong country.

Halbert was very entertained by us, and we talked about all sorts of things. A wide range of topics varying from divorce to marathons and all the places we have been. Halbert has done the Flying Pig Marathon four times. I can’t even finish it once.

Namaste, bitches.

As we approached the half, I was still feeling really good. The run/walk thing seemed to be working for me, so I decided to keep going. After turning around at the halfway point, we saw Peggy and Dave approaching on the out and back part. The course had a 6.5 hour full marathon time limit, but they were cutting off everyone who didn’t make it to the halfway point in 3 hours to account for the fact that many runners slow down in the second half of a marathon.  Dave missed the cut off by a couple of minutes but was able to argue his way back in because he had gotten lost on the trail portion, but unfortunately, Peggy got cut off and was only allowed to finish the half, so she was super bummed. Stuff like that stinks, but it’s just one of the risks you take as someone who goes slower during races. It’s only a matter of time before this happens to me as a direct result of excessive photo taking.

When you getz a photo opz with Dave Mari, you takez.

We lost our dear friend Halbert about a mile or so into the second loop of the race. We thought he would catch back up eventually as we kept on going with our run/walk intervals, but he never did. This was the first time I really realized the advantage of doing a race this way. No, it’s maybe not the fastest method, but you do feel pretty good later on in the race. Good enough to take more obnoxious pictures on the course.

No explanation necessary. Those are going to be some aggressive tan lines.

It’s fun to be able to watch all of the much faster runners coming back in on the out and back while we are just heading out. In the first half of the course, a teenager, maybe about 14 or 15 years old, ran past us in a bright yellow shirt shaking his head around mile 9 with a smile and said “Marathons, dude” as we ran up the hill and he ran down. He ran past us again on his way to the finish, and he looked like his soul had died, as a marathon is apt to do. I smiled and yelled “Marathons, dude!” and he couldn’t help but laugh as he ran by. That’s what I do. I bring joy.

Right before nearly being massacred – Mile 20

The race didn’t have additional mile marker signs for the second half, so we just added 13 to all the old ones. An imperfect system, but close enough. When we got back on the trail portion, we were coming through a particularly narrow stretch where the trail is only as wide as your body and lined by bushes on both sides. I was in front with Maricar behind me, when all of a sudden a mountain biker flew around a corner and screeched to a halt 5 feet in front of me. T-Rexs don’t scream except when they are about to be crushed into oblivion, and boy did we scream. The guys laughed and apologized but it just increased my trail hatred even more. I vow next time to read the course descriptions more carefully.

We eventually escaped and I got sassy at Mile 21

I include the next picture as a simple reference of how quick the decline in a marathon can be. At this point, we were mostly sticking to our intervals, but every time we even came close to a hill, Maricar yelled “Oh, we’re walking this bitch!” So this picture was probably taken in the middle of walking one of those bitches.

One short mile later and I’m ready to KILL ALL THE THINGS

For the most part, we were both still feeling great. The volunteers and other runners, on the rare occasions we saw them, couldn’t stop commenting on how much fun we were having and how great we looked. I will point out that no one has ever told me I looked great while running PR pace, so I am taking this as an added bonus of my “fun run” quest.

We love marathons, mile 25, and each other!

Despite our consistent run/walk intervals throughout the race, I bugged Maricar to try and run the last 1.2 miles in true T-Rex fashion. I didn’t know if I would be able to since I was suddenly very hot and my heart started acting up, but I thought it might be worth a try. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a good day for a “Cupido.” We ran the vast majority of the last 1.2 miles, but as it got warmer, my heart got angrier. As we approached the finish line, I saw Jackie, who had come to pick me up, and we saw Peggy, who amazingly had cold water bottles to hand us as we ran in to the finish. Maricar threw her my camera and instructed her to take a picture as we crossed the finish line, but that required a near full sprint from Peggy, whose valiant attempts resulted in us getting a picture about 10 seconds after we crossed the line instead.

Of course we crossed the line holding hands. Was there ever any doubt?

And so with that, I finished marathon #20 and state #16 despite raging back pain in the morning. Our time was about the same as at Hatfield McCoy, but I felt a whole lot better at the end. There is something to be said for the run/walk method. I don’t think I would do it in every race, but it definitely helped keep my pain to a minimum and hey, it was fun! I like to think you all are getting super jealous reading all these reports of fun marathons because I am sweet and caring like that.

Multicultural finisher’s medal

In tomorrow’s edition, read about more of Jackie’s rage spirals, my trip(s) to as many local breweries as I could get my grubby little hands on, my intense stalking of Runner’s World, and a random airport encounter. And now go like my page on Facebook.

Do you know of any other races with a cultural theme? Because I love that shit. Leave me a comment and enlighten me.

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