As we all know, running is stupid. However, sometimes it is more stupid than other times, even dipping into the realm of inanity upon occasion. This past Saturday, I enjoyed that realm for 3 hours, 45 minutes and 35 seconds. For those of you keeping track and memorizing all the dull facts and figgers in my blogs, you’ll note that that expanse of time is somewhat close to my marathon PR (which may or may not be my PR depending on my whims) and yet so not.
Against my better judgment, I picked the Country Music Marathon for my spring goal race. I mean, why not? I’ve run it before, and it’s been tolerable. It’s right here where I live, I can train on the course, and for crying out loud, there are nuns at mile 13 who give you high fives. Additionally, there are some truly ear-splittingly bad bands along the way to privately mock, thimble-sized cups of flat beer at the finish, and (in the past, anyway) the most horrific pair of lime-green Spenco sandals you’d ever want to see handed out to every finisher. What’s not to love?
Granted, it’s one of those Mega-Gargantua-Jumbo-Thons that draws 30,000 for the half marion and only 2000 for the full, complete with the 6-across walkers, chicks hula-hooping the entire way, cell phone wacktards, and Super Serious Fuel Belt Brigades, but so what? The start is divided into corrals, so, I figured, I would put 3:35:30 down as my goal time and have my pompous, elitist ass placed far ahead of the dreadful noisome masses. Right? RIGHT?
In case you’re wondering, sometimes it rains in Tennessee in the springtime. And from time to time, the rain is accompanied by stuff like hail, lightning, tornadoes, and locusts. (Not really.) Naturally, nearly every day so far this spring had been deeelightful until the eve of the marathon, and then rains and storms of biblical proportions were in the forecast. There were some vague and confusing news reports about the marathon (the “26-mile marathon, not the mini” according to the reporter) being cut short for anyone who couldn’t finish under 4:30. Since that didn’t apply to me, and I’m ALL about me, I had nary a concern.
The next morning, the weather was entirely unremarkable. No wind, partly cloudy, a tad humid. Yay! No worries. I checked my gear bag and jogged around the throngs for a while making some snide mental notes and pretending that I wasn’t as nervous as an old wet hen. Somewhere, way off in the distance, there was a constant yammering through what sounded like a dying bullhorn. With the exception of those with elephant ears, no one could possibly have heard what was being said.
About 20 minutes before the start, I began wandering toward my corral wondering vaguely why the national anthem was already being sung. One minute later, I was moderately startled to hear the airhorn blast that typically indicates the start. But it was only 6:45… the race couldn’t have started yet, could it? I mean, there were still thousands of people milling toward the corrals and waiting in 5-mile lines for the port-a-potties and….SHIT! The race had begun. Fifteen minutes early! With no warning whatsoever with the possible exception of Mister SqueakTone o’er the distant hills and valleys.
By the time I got to my corral, seventeen (seventeen!) corrals had already been sent on their merry way. I was firmly wedged within a morass of jogettes. You know the dream where you’re trying to run and you can’t? Welcome to my world at 6:52 a.m. on April 24, 2010.
What followed was a phantasm of weaving, shoving, elbowing, and muttered profanities for several miles. Of course, no one could hear an “excuse me” since 90% of those around me were getting down with their bad personal music systems selves. There was no other choice than to push until my arms were sore. I felt like an ass and I’m sure I was one. I was only mildly gratified to notice that I was certainly not the only miserable slob who had missed the start. At one point, a panicked young woman in a team singlet was weaving alongside me, and she just looked at me and said, “What the fuck?” And I just said, “Seriously.” That pretty much summed up the first eight miles of the marathon.
When the marathon finally parted ways with the half and the road was wide open, I wasn’t exactly feeling perky. I was angry at the screwed-up start and I was even angrier at myself for getting angry and wasting all that energy. Alas. In only a mile, we would round the bend where the nuns would be. The joyous, calm, relaxing, make-upless, sensible shoed, habit-wearing nuns at mile 13 who always smile at the marathoners with a “Yes, we think you’re wingnuts, but we love you anyway,” look in their eyes. The nuns would set things right. We turned the corner and…NO NUNS! None! (Get it?)
It was a few miles past the Nun Dearth that I seriously considered dropping out. Cheryl was going to be at mile 18. I clearly was not going to make my goal of 3:35ish. I felt like crap. Why not just give up and go home? I wish I could say that I had some sort of symphonic epiphany or that Gosh Darn it, I’m Just So Stubborn! or that I’m ALL That, but the fact is, I just kept running. No particular reason. I wasn’t in death march mode or anything, so stopping just seemed pointless. (I suppose if we’re going to be entirely honest here, I knew that I would get to beer sooner by running than walking all the way back to the car.)
The final miles of the Country Music Marathon are not a delight under the best of circumstances. The last couple miles head back toward the Titans Stadium along a charming road that winds through warehouses, stray dogs, train tracks, litter, and overpasses. This same road constitutes the final miles of nearly every other race in Nashville, so just seeing it makes me weary. Nonethless, once the stadium comes into view, there’s always a great sense of relief, excitement, visions of Sam Adams.
But not on this particular morning. About three and a half hours into the race, I think there may have been a gust of wind, perhaps a twinkle of lightning. In any event, somehow the order to Shut ‘Er Down! was issued, and all marathoners who would not be finishing under 4 hours were diverted onto the charming road previously described, cutting their race to 22 miles. I met up with these hordes with a mile to go. What should have been the final glorious mile with all its excitement and camraderie turned into a mass of people crying, arguing, and swearing. I wasn’t sure if I felt worse for myself or for those robbed of their finish.
Adding a nice touch was the torrential downpour just as we all dragged and sobbed our respective ways across the finish line. At least the crowds were supportive and cheering. Some dude in front of me had juggled three balls the entire way (note that he finished in front of me. Sheesh.), and I managed to look moderately happy in my finish photo. It was okay.
Still, the first thing I said to Cheryl afterwards was, “I am never, NEVER, running another #$^*$#@ marathon again. This is IT! I suck at marathons, and I’m over it. THE END.”
So, naturally, yesterday I was online looking for a small, relatively flat fall marathon. Any suggestions?