The whole waking up at 4 am thing was quickly getting old by the time I got up on Sunday morning for the race, but what can you do? The race started at 6 because of the heat, so Fawn and I headed out to pick up my mom and head to the start line.
There were tons of Maniacs at the start, but many of them had taken the early start at 5 am in an attempt to beat the hot weather, since the temperature was supposed to be 95 that day. WTF is with the northernmost states having the hottest weather? First it’s 95 in Minnesota, and now this? Ugh. Anyway, I hate hot weather, but not as much as I hated the idea of waking up even earlier, so I just went with the 6 am start. Good thing, too, because I got to see the Prez and start the race with him! Commence freak out.
I’ve really lucked out lately in terms of having someone to run with during my races. I’ve either run with various members of Team T-Rex or been fortunate enough to meet someone at the start of the race and stick with them the whole time. I ran my first 7 marathons or so by myself, so you would think I would be ok with doing that, but I realized I really rely on people now for that companionship since I pretty much always run with someone else now. Note to self: work on that. As you might have guessed, it was only a matter of time before my luck ran out. I’ve gotten arrogant, apparently, because I pretty much thought I had it in the bag. With all those Maniacs running the race, I would definitely find someone to run at my pace, right? Uh, wrong.
Now, I’ve run a few really pretty marathons. The Bataan Memorial Death March, despite being one of the worst days of my entire life, was held in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen – Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was pretty sure nothing could top that, but I was hoping Missoula would come close, and it exceeded my expectations. Granted, I really love mountains and I really REALLY love farms. Bonus points for silos and hay bales. I have a thing about those and I have no idea why. Just go with it.
Around Mile 2 of the race, I saw a woman wearing a brightly patterned skirt and a 50 States shirt and decided to
harass her and beg her to be my best friend talk to her to pass the time. She was running a similar pace to me (about 4:45 marathon pace at that point) and as we were both 50 Staters, we had plenty to talk about. I want to say her name was Karen, but that isn’t right. Whatever her name, she was kind enough to take my picture in front of this…lovely factory.
Can we all just take a moment to reflect on my running skirt? I got a ton of compliments on it, but I pretty much hate it. Yes, it is comfortable. Yes, it is great at wicking sweat off my giant marathoner thighs. But I just feel like that awkward 3rd grader who wears sneakers with their skirts to school because they think it’s cool. True life: I was that awkward third grader. I have vivid memories of it. I thought sneakers made my legs look more athletic. WTF.
I found a few more friends to talk to along the way, still rolling along at a decent clip. I was starting to feel incredibly nauseous though. I don’t think it was because of the heat, since it wasn’t really very hot yet. Truth be told, I have no idea. I wanted to keep going until I was forced to stop, but I knew that once I did, it would be a very long road. I was able to see T-Rex Mom and Fawn a couple times between the halfway point, which was key since I had completely failed at life and forgotten to bring my fuel belt, gels, Garmin, salt, etc. Totally unprepared. My life is a disaster.
The wheels more or less came off at the halfway point, when every step that I ran just brought me that much closer to throwing up. So I stopped and walked for awhile when I came up next to a girl who looked like she was struggling. The back of her shirt had angel wings on it, and she was limping. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she had a bad knee and knew it would hurt, but didn’t know it would hurt this soon. Her shirt had angel wings on it because 4 of her friends from college had been in a horrific car accident 2 months before and 1 had died, while the remaining 3 were still in critical condition. She said that if they could fight to stay alive, she could finish a marathon. Touche.
Shortly after that time, I started to run/walk with Christina, who was this amazing dynamo of a girl who talked really loudly. That’s most of what I remember about her. We climbed this ridiculous, awful, three mile long hill together and she literally walks faster than she runs. It was so bizarre. We would walk for a good 3 minutes and I’d be gasping for breath. Then we would run for 2 minutes and I was completely caught back up on breathing by the time we started walking again. When does that ever happen?
By the time I got to mile 16, where my mom and Fawn and MY DAD were waiting, Fawn had pretty much assumed I was dead and threw her hands up in the air when she saw me in some sign of odd frustration that apparently I wasn’t running fast enough for her. Yes, the girl who fought her way through a 5k and then yelled at me about it while crossing the finish line had now decided that I was running my marathon too slowly. Sigh.
In other news, T-Rex Dad made his FIRST EVER appearance at one of my marathons, which he has been trying to avoid for as long as possible on account of it seeming “boring” and the fact that he hates the sun almost as much as I do. T-Rex Mom reports that he brought a chair to the race and sat down within 5 minutes of arriving. Obviously, my mother was appalled. T-Rex Mom does not sit. Ever.
I told my mom that there was a pretty good chance I was going to walk in most of the rest of the race. Every time I tried to run, I felt like I was going to throw up. As luck would have it, I ran into group of runners who were experiencing just the same problem. Joe, Joel, and his wife were running the marathon together and Joe, the dad of the wife whose name I forget, was getting just as sick as me. I come to find out that Joe had just run a 100-miler down in the Keys the month before with Dan Hartley, race director for the AMAZING COLUMBIA MARATHON (seriously, go run it). Joe was in his 60s and extremely bad ass. So the four of us continued on together until about mile 20.5, when T-Rex Mom joined the party and decided to help me finish my marathon!
It was quite delightful to have my mom finishing the race with me. For one, it gave me someone to talk to. For two, she walks very fast, which made me walk very fast even when I didn’t really want to. My mom carried that cooler the whole time so she could force ice packs and cold water on me. I know – awful, right? Well a side effect of this was that everyone thought my mom was doing the race since she was with me. She wasn’t wearing a number or anything, but why the hell else would she be walking along at Mile 22? So every single person we passed asked incredulously, ” Have you been carrying that cooler the WHOLE TIME?” Note to self: if I ever need an ego boost, get a cooler to carry. People are super impressed by this.
Along the way maybe around Mile 23, there was a couple outside making drinks with beer. I hadn’t had any beer during the race yet, so I naturally stopped and asked if I could have some. They obviously obliged and the guy explained to me that I was drinking a “Man-mosa,” aka a mimosa made with beer and orange juice and totally manly. It sounded like an awful idea, but I kid you not – that shit is delicious.
And then I fell to the ground in protest at Mile 24.
Really, I just got tired and couldn’t get my heart rate down, so I took a little rest on the lovely Montana grass. No big deal. On an unrelated note, I am now realizing that that skirt is more pink than red and thus I still have not accomplished my goal of finding a running skirt that matches my Maniacs gear. LE SIGH.
As we approached Mile 25, I could see far in the distance a sign with what appeared to be a T-Rex on it. And it was right in the middle of the road. As I got closer, I realized it was MY T-Rex. MY LOGO. What could this be?
My wonderful, amazing, and thoughtful friend Anders had made a sign for me that was sitting right at Mile 25! He writes for the Swedish version of Runner’s World and is an avid supporter of this blog. He read about how I always try to run the last 1.2 miles of a marathon and decided to name those 1.2 miles a “Cupido,” which is my last name. Well, it was. But that’s another story for another day. Anyway, he had finished his marathon and came back to wait for me (for a reallllllyyy long time) to run the last 1.2 miles in with me!
Anders is running a marathon in every state (after he RIDES HIS BIKE to them), and he is carrying with him the ashes of a boy named Alex who died several years ago from a heart condition. Anders met Alex’s mom a year ago and learned that Alex’s dream was to see the world, so he has been spreading some of Alex’s ashes at each marathon he has run ever since. Anders gave me the container holding Alex’s ashes to carry with me across the finish line, and it was incredibly moving, especially as someone with a heart condition (although nothing nearly that severe). I have been so fortunate to see the places where I have run and meet all the wonderful friends I have made along the way. As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Sometimes I get bogged down in the logistics and the stress of getting too and from races and it’s easy to forget why I’m here. This was a great reminder to “look around” every once in awhile.
So, back to the “Cupido.” Well, Anders and I were set to run in the last 1.2, provided my heart didn’t give me too much of a fit. T-Rex Mom gamely agreed, but that cooler was quickly no longer her friend. Oh, did I mention it was now about 90 degrees? We all hung in there and crossed the finish line together, holding hands, of course. Anders even carried my sign, I carried Alex, and T-Rex Mom carried the cooler. We multi-task.
I guess you could say this race was an emotional one for me, although I never expected it to be that way. Looking back though, that’s exactly what it was. It wasn’t incredibly super fun like some of the most recent ones I’ve done. That’s not to say I didn’t have a good time, it just wasn’t the same. I started the morning hopeful, then afraid of being alone. I worried throughout the first few miles. I was saddened to hear the girl talk about her friends who had been so badly wounded in the car accident. I was excited every time I talked to someone new along the way. I was touched to have my dad there supporting me, enthusiastic and proud, regardless of whether he was seated or standing. I was sick. I was angry at myself for not being able to go faster. I was relieved when my mom joined me on the course. Amused when I tried my first Manmosa. Exhausted when I laid down. I was humbled by how amazing my friends are when I saw the sign Anders had so thoughtfully made for me and thought about all the races Fawn has supported me through. And I was reminded of how short life is and how important it is to make the most of it by Alex, who gave me a memory I’ll never forget.
Oh, and I guess you could say that I was proud of myself, too. This race was my 21st marathon and my 17th state. I have now completed 16 states in less than a year (9 months, but who’s counting?), making me a 6 star Marathon Maniac. But none of that seems very important anymore. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Alex knew that, and now I do, too. So I’m going to make it count.
SO TELL ME: What’s the best lesson you ever learned from a race?