Guest Post by Chris the Husband.
Last year about this time, I ran a full marathon for the first time – with a disgusting sinus infection in a light rain – and called it a win. I finished without being miserable. This, boys and girls, is why we train – not only so we survive the challenge, whatever it is, but so we don’t have to feel miserable afterward.
Its been a whole year, and I haven’t gotten any slimmer, but I have kept running. And I’ve gotten faster. So this year, I had a goal in mind – to shave a LOT of time off of the Mercedes Marathon. Last year, I just wanted to finish, so I took it easy. This year, I wanted to see what I could do.
In pretty much all of my life, a pound of preparation is worth far more than an ounce of hassle, so I joyfully strategize and plan details to optimize everything. In marathon terms, it means several things.
It means that Rachel gets full credit for booking a last minute hotel room for Valentine’s Day within 100 yards of the starting line.
It means my fitness plan included a Tour of Italy at 2:00pm the day before to go along with soup, breadsticks, and Alfredo sauce.
It means going to bed really early, not too long after watching the sun set behind the silent course, marked and waiting.
It means getting up early enough the day of the race to go to the bathroom so many times that the trips get named after Star Wars movies.
3:45 Wake up before alarm. The Phantom Menace.
4:00 Study weather [as if.] Drink full bottle of water.
4:15 Drink first cup of coffee. Attack of the Clones.
4:30 Do awkward stretches in the dark.
4:45 Think about breakfast. Revenge of the Sith.
5:00 Eat oatmeal with brown sugar. Bring breakfast to wife.
5:15 Second cup of coffee. A New Hope.
5:30 Lubricate everything with Body Glide.
5:45 Re-evaluate wardrobe choices. The Empire Strikes Back.
6:00 Chapstick everything that doesn’t have Body Glide.
6:15 Actually get dressed. Return of the Jedi.
6:30 Start to head to the race. Nope. The Force Awakens.
6:45 Group photo.
The actual running part is not terribly interesting for you, the reader, so I’ll spare you all of that. There were some really bright moments. Some of my Birmingham Track Club Saturday Morning Long Run people were working a water stop at Railroad Park, and familiar faces are always a pick-me-up. Plus, you have to make it look good for your friends, because they will take pictures of you and post them – so you best be smiling.
Last year, I took several handfuls of gummy bears from volunteers along the course, trying to baby myself through the race, but this year, with a vast 1 marathon under my belt, I took a few more chances.
The Birmingham Ultra Trail Society (BUTS) is another fine organization that operates a water stop, and they are somewhat notorious for their varied offerings to weary runners. On my first pass around mile 10, I got high-fives, smiling familiar faces, and a miracle.
A face I can’t remember extended a plate in my direction. I looked down, and thought I had lost my mind.
That can’t be. It looks like – is that – ? – it is.
I reached out with my sweaty gloved hand, and grabbed a perfectly reasonable handful of bacon. After a shocked thanks, as I kept running, I lifted my hand to my mouth, and in that cold morning air, that fresh, hot, greasy, salty bacon was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.
The second time I passed them, 13 miles later, I took the heart-shaped Little Debbie cakes, also delightful. Not bacon-level, but still much needed and fantastic for getting icing on your lips to keep licking off for the last few miles.
I pushed myself hard on the second loop of the course, and I did it. I took 35 minutes off of my time from last year. Thank you again, bacon. As I came in to Linn Park, my dear sweet wife and several running friends were waiting and cheering for me – I so do not deserve any of these people.
I finished the race, slowed to a staggering walk, got my medal, my swag bag, and started peeling off my toboggan and gloves. I grabbed a Powerade bottle and shuffled to the exit gate, pausing for a second to have the staff mark my bib.
Less than one minute from the finish line, the moment I emerged through the gate onto the sidewalk, swaying like a leaf in a gentle breeze, a well-meaning lady caught my eye from 12 inches away. “Excuse me, would you take our picture??”
I almost didn’t believe she meant me. My heart was pounding, my hands were full. But here she was, handing me the phone. I lifted it with my swag and junk loaded hands, and tried to stabilize myself while the five of them posed.
I took a second look at them. And a third. The runner in their soon to be well-focused and carefully taken picture was the apparent twin of my ex-girlfriend from 18 years ago. Whatever. I managed to tap the screen a few times and smile at them as I handed their phone back.
I found Rachel, and off we went into the post-race party to get Jim n Nicks BBQ and celebrate. I got my food, and headed to the sauce/pickle table. Lemme tell you, runners, just because you ran a marathon does not mean that the rules of polite society are completely gone. There were 2 giant bowls of scratch-made pickles, each with its own tongs. And the dude in front of me grabbed a stack of pickle slices with the tongs and went straight to his pie hole with it. BOGUS. PARTY. FOUL.
I got my pickles from the other bowl.
I could bore you with my time and and pace, but instead, here are fun statistics:
Fitbit Steps in my marathon: 41,345.
Lose It calorie credit for my marathon: –3,828.
Trips to the bathroom during the race: 0.
New members of the Birmingham Ultra Trail Society: 1.
Let me say, if you didn’t read last year’s post, or if you did, you can do this. I’m 39 and over 200 pounds. If you start slow and train properly, you can do this. There is a welcoming community in your town ready and willing to encourage and push you to do things you would never do on your own.
Editor’s Note: He’s right. You can do it. But it might be helpful in meeting your goals if you don’t have a littering aversion like our daughter.