Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 289 - Today I Ran a Marathon...

... Relay.

You didn't really think I'd run a marathon, did you? With my mileage? I'd be crippled.

And still on the course.

And dead.

No, I ran part of a marathon. In a relay, you split the 26.2 miles among 4 runners. I ran the final 7.2 mile leg. My buddy Matt had decided on Monday to enter his family into the relay. 12 seconds after the credit card transaction cleared, his son bailed. So I got to take his place.

So the team was Mary, Matt's wife, Michelle, his daughter, Matt, and me. Until Matt bailed on Friday... something about his neck... I think he threw it out, in a freak accident, pulling his skirt on. So Lou, another member of our virtual running club, took his leg.

Michelle, Mary, me... Lou bolted.

It's a pretty fun deal. And, obviously, you can do it without any real training.

But running the last leg is... what's the word... awkward.

I joined the race at mile 19, with fresh legs and a good night's sleep.

And I was running with folks who'd started before I was awake, and had already run 19 miles.

Nine. Teen. Miles.

The 7 miles I was cruising threw were the worst 7 miles for those folks. I know... I've been there... many times... and when I was there, in that painful, dark place, I hated the relay runners. Hated them.

I don't like being hated. But I had to pass people. I passed a lot of people. There was a lot of hate.

But there was some not-so-hatey stuff, too.

Two teachers running in
memory of a student lost to MS.

After a couple miles, I decided I'd try to encourage some of the full-marathoners. It's a touchy situation.

At 20 miles, you hurt. Huh-effin-yurt. You don't want to be told you look good. You know you don't. You don't want to hear how much farther you have to go. You know exactly how far you have to go. You want to be left alone... in your body... the body that is using pain and cramps to punish you for not stopping.

So what does one say? I tried several lines, depending on how the runner was looking...

Running steady - "Rock on! You're killing this thing!"
Running not-so-steady - "Thatta way young man/woman, keep it goin'.", regardless of their age.
Walking - this is VERY touchy - "You're alright... just keeping moving forward."

No one spit on me.

I felt for these runners. I was also envious. They may have been slow, and sore, but they were just a couple miles from an amazing accomplishment. Months of training - long runs, early runs, late runs, easy runs, tough runs, really tough runs - was going to be rewarded with cheers, a medal, and a banana.

Finishing my piddly 7 miles along side them, I felt like I was crashing their party.

I haven't run a marathon in a few years. The training is demanding. It takes its toll on your body, your schedule, and your relationships. But every marathon is an adventure. You never know what's going to happen. You know that your courage and will will be tested. And no matter what your finish time is, finishing is always a deeply satisfying moment.

I may just have to toe that line one more time, and earn those cheers, medal, and banana.

Good running,

Numbers: 7.2 miles on roads.