Procrastination is just a form of denial, and nonchalantness is often the form denial takes. “I like the color blue. Turkey burgers are delicious. I’m running The Twin Cities Marathon.” Until 5:00 pm Saturday night, those three sentences held equal significance. When 5:00 pm rolled around and I still hadn’t figured out how I was going to get to the starting line and then home from the Capitol, it finally hit me: “I’m running the marathon tomorrow. I’M RUNNING THE MARATHON TOMORROW!!!” My room was in complete disarray – piles of books, clothes, and a couple of plates strewn about as if someone had put half my possessions in a big sack, shaken it up, and cut a hole in the bottom, letting all of the contents fall out at random. Luckily, something in me chose to fight, and with that, I turned on some Blink 182, naturally, cleaned up my room, begged my roommates for some help getting to the race and back, and put myself to bed around 11:00 pm.
6:00 am – wake up time. Not wanting to put too much in my system and desperately needing a good poop before the race, I gulped down a couple pints of vanilla rooibos tea and ate a handful of sesame seed crackers and a banana. Then, I put on my race apparel and sweats and tried to meditate for a good half hour until I had to wake up my roommate, Erin, to go to the race. Groggy from an hour of sleep (she works a couple different bartending jobs), we piled into her car and drove to the intersection of 6th St and Park Ave, corral 1. It would just so happen that the first two runners I talked to were from outside the country – Germany and Switzerland, go figure. The TC was going to be their 100+ marathon. I should have known. They definitely both had a bit of presence to them.
The gun went off at 8:00 am, and without really comprehending all that was happening, I began moving with the crowd near the 3 hours and 35 minutes Cliff Bar pacer. We made our way through downtown Minneapolis via 1st Ave, and as the sun came out and body temperatures rose, old shirts and gloves were left to loved ones on the side of the course and abandoned to no one in particular on the ground. Having left my mittens in the sweats bag I was issued to be brought to the finish line, I scooped up a pair of mismatched gloves to keep my hands warm.
The next 8 miles were a blur of faces, a guy in a Superman onesie who would run for the kids with his arms outstretched, and the incomparable rush of adrenaline and dopamine coursing through my system. At mile 8, I introduced myself to two runners whom I had been running near since the beginning, Michael and Evan, both 22, recent college grads, and first-time marathoners. “3:30,” they said to me. That was their goal, and mine as well. We decided to run together. We strategized, got to know one another a bit; I presented a riddle that took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that Michael answered before I had finished giving him all of the clues. It was smooth sailing, a lot of pacman-ing until mile 20 when Michael broke away, I missed a banana-snack hand-off from my friend, Laura, at the Franklin Ave Bridge, and Evan and I passed under the blow-up stone arch at mile 20 symbolizing the infamous wall that many runners tend to hit with 6.2 miles to go.
Miles 23-26 were the most painful moments of my existence. I’ve never passed a human being through my genitalia, nor have I been shot or stabbed, which I imagine would be much much worse than what brought me to facial contortion and tears, but it was very painful. Until Sunday, I was living under the delusion that willpower could overcome almost anything, but that all changed at mile 23 when I literally couldn’t get my legs to move in a running motion. I was shuffling, hobbling, like an old man, down Summit Ave, eyes desperately searching for the next mile marker. I was passed by many older men and women in their 50’s with Master’s race bibs denoting their age group. That made me feel even more horrible! Not that I should have; fifty is not even that old, and there are many fast 50-somethings!
Here’s how miles 23-26 went: Limp, limp, limp, crying, facing all of my inner demons, GATORADE STATION!!! left thigh cramping, right thigh cramping, left calve cramping, right calve cramping, HALF BANANA STATION!!! Legs return to normal 10 good hobbles later, motivation returns, hope fades, vigor returns: “I WILL NOT WALK!!!”, round the corner to see the Capitol in sight, legs refusing to move in a running manner, and the 3:35 pacer has caught up! “SHIT!!!”
As the cramps returned in full force, I began to limp faster and faster until I was limping as fast as the pacer running behind me! It was a downhill finish, and with a final burst of gusto, I made it across the finish line in 3:33:48. A heroes welcome awaited all participants. I ran lovingly into the arms of a kind-faced gentleman who wrapped me in a massive piece of tinfoil like a burrito to retain body heat, and then he walked me by the elbow to the food table. THANK GOD! Not having had anything but a meager breakfast and a couple half bananas I’d snagged from the side of the course, food just entered my mouth. I barely remember it. My body turned off my brain, and an animalistic drive to find nourishment took over. I gulped two glasses of Powerade immediately, ate a candy bar, a cup of soup, a bread roll, and two bags of chips before all that rich food sent my stomach into a spasm. Another race had begun. I’ll spare you the details.
Afterwards, I collected my finisher’s medal and t-shirt, parted ways with Evan, and fell into the arms of my beloved parents and gentleman of a roommate, Rory, at the Capitol steps.
I understand now, better at least, what it might feel like when I’m 80, when my legs have lost all their sprightly youthfulness, when all that is left to power one through the day is a bit of determination and grit. Yesterday, as I got home after finishing my first marathon, I had to reach out to the sink in front for support as I planted my butt on the toilet seat. The tips of my nipples stung from 3.5 hours of my blue singlet rubbing up against them, but raw nips have nothing to do with what 80 year-olds go through, or does it? You never know. Like fetishes and phobias, I’m never surprised by what people can come to love and fear.
Feeling thankful for having such great parents and roommates.
If you want to see the Finish… and here’s a completely unrelated song for your enjoyment. I discovered Sea Wolf yesterday. They are so awesome! This song is called “Priscilla.”