Monday, May 10, 2010

Mini Marathon Junkie

In a family of runners, I am a runner by default.
I've been an off-and-on runner for about 15 years. I ran track & cross country in high school and loved it.
I continued distance running in college and beyond because it offered me a bit of an escape, a chance to turn my brain off and just go.
The past few years have provided little time for training or luxury runs, so I squeeze them in where I can.
I LOVE the Mini Marathon.
I love that my entire family comes hurtling into town to run this race together.
I love knowing we'll have a huge dinner and endless growlers of beer and bottles of wine both before and after the race.
I love the 40,000 people that come crushing into my city to run the largest half-marathon in the country.
I love the thousands of beach balls that are launched into the corrals a half an hour before the race begins.
I love the wave of adrenaline that comes crashing across you, speeding up your pulse, when the gun goes off.
I love cresting the top of a hill, and running backwards for a few steps to see the thousands of people behind me.
I love the thousands of people I will beat to the finish line.
I love crossing the finish line and the sense of satisfaction it brings.
I love the Chocolate Chip Cookies that St. Francis Volunteers pass out in handfuls after the race.
I love the salt of the potato chips as I scarf an entire bag post-race.
The running part? eh.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with running.
It alternates. With each step.

My training this year has been...lackluster at best.
My long runs were averaging 8-ish miles.
And by 8-ish I really mean that's what I told everyone when really they averaged more like 5-ish. On a good day.
So, for your amusement, here's my thought process through Saturday's 13.1
Pre-race, Corral O - My extremities are frozen. It's 44 some-odd-degrees out. I have goosebumps on my legs. I tug my arm warmers up to my armpits and shudder. my nose is running and I have to pee, but I'm exhilarated. I'm here! Belatedly I wish I would have worn my iPod this year. I think they earbuds would have kept my ears warm. I find a few coworkers in the crowd. Odd that, in a crowd of 35,000 half-marathoners I run into two people that I see EVERY DAY. Crowds are funny like that. My brother-in-law bounces to the Journey tune blasting out of the speaker to our right. It's his first Mini and I try to come up with encouraging things to say like "There's beer at the end" and "I'm sure you'll beat me!". Matt insists the beach-ball release will likely be the best part of the entire day. I don't contradict him.

7:30a The Gun Goes Off - There is a general shudder of impatience and excitement in the crowd. We surge forward a few steps, then stop. It's like the worst traffic jam you've ever been in. Steps, stop, steps, stop. We stutter forward to the Start Line. The wind whistles between the buildings and someone behind me murmers "What are we doing here, you guys?" I chuckle, knowing everyone's thinking the same thing.

Mile One - I feel good. The wind is making my eyes tear up as we jog by the Eiteljorg, the NCAA Hall of Fame, The Zoo. Not as many people sprint for The tree line as usual. On a hot day you can see a solid line of guys dropping trow in the first 1000 feet.

Mile Two - Still cold. My muscles never warm up until the second or third mile, but this year I think it might take a little bit longer... I stop at the first water station and take a few sips, but don't stop. Not yet. So glad I wore the arm warmers and a technical on top. Oh! Looking! Elvis is running. Isn't that nice?

Mile Three - Picking out my favorite shirts helps to pass the time. The runners back in my coral enjoy chit-chatting. We're not pros. we're here for the experience. I meet a nice girl who's done this the past few years and we joke that we're both ready for a beer. There's a couple running together with read shirts that read "First Timer" in iron on letter across the back. The girl's T is crooked.

Mile Four - I feel a slight twinge in my picker-upper muscles and the top of my right foot. Training would have been a good idea, I guess. I hope my muscles can take this. Other than a few twinges I feel great. I stop at the water stop and take my time sipping my way to the bottom of the dixie cup and keeping up a good clip on my 'race walk' (how I justify stopping here & there. As in: "It's's a race walk!"). Pick the pace back up. Wave as friendly-beer girl trucks on by. Catch up with Crooked-T First timer. Flash a smile at the Elvi (There's two of them now). These are my people. I take a deep breath. I can do this. I get to do this. I think about my stride and about how I only have nine miles to go. Wait. Nine miles? Shit. I falter a step. Oops. Wrong thing to think.

Mile Five - We're coming up on the IMS. Traditionally this is where I take my first "walk". But I'm still feeling good, so i take it all in stride. I'm impressed with the changes to Main Street. I don't drive out to Speedway often, but the roads are newly refinished and there's cute little benches and shrubbery lining the street. WTF? When did this happen? I've got to get out more. We round the corner onto 16th street and the Track looms above us. Giant Chik-Fil-a cows line the streets. I high-fived a couple, chuckling. I asked one if he had any free samples and I can hear the people behind me laugh. I feel good. I find myself in the middle of a tight pack which cuts down on the wind shear and we charge down into the underpass and into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is a high and low point of the race for me. High point: Everyone hoots and hollers and shouts while running through the tunnel. Our voices echo and bounce off each other. Moral is high. Then... we have to head uphill. ohmychrist. My legs don't want to work. Uphill?! They scream at me. You want us to do what?!. I hear my high school track coach in the back of my head yelling at me to "Step Higher! Higher!". Alfie, if you're out there, that was suuuuper annoying... But Guess what? Bathrooms! Real Bathrooms! The hill was worth it.

Mile Six - I'm still running. What the hell is going on here? I should take a break but I make myself run to the turn. I see hoardes of people exiting the track out of the corner of my eye and secretly hate them all. They're two and a half miles ahead of me. I cut little deals with myself. If you run to the corner, you can walk for 20 steps... if you run through the straightaway you can stop and stretch your calves on pit wall. If you run past these annoying cheerleaders you don't have run hear that Flintstone song EVER again...

Mile Seven - I start to slow near the Pagoda but see all the cameras flashing ahead of me. Pride's a funny thing. I pick up the pace. I specifically do NOT smile at the cameras. But I might stop grimacing and fix my posture so that little bit of stomach I've been developing the past few months disappears.

Mile Eight - Good God. Are we STILL on the track?

Mile Nine - We exit the track. I grab a Gatorade from the cutest volunteer I've seen all day and wish, for a heartbeat that I was one of those girls that didn't turn red and splotchy when she ran. I wish I didn't have beads of sweat on my top lip, matting down those wispy hairs on my temples and running down into my sports bra. I'm not warm mind you. I'm just sweating. In the cold. It is NOT pleasant. I take a swig of Gatorade and toss my cup, gently down and to the left, into the gutter. I'm surprised when I'm nailed with a stream of cold, sticky Gatorade from my left. "oh! Sorry" the wheezing runner to my right forces out. He's twice my size, very literally, in both height and girth. How has this guy not died of a heart attack yet? My feet stick to the ground and make an awful squelch sound. I think I have Gatorade in my sock. That guys is going down. I call him names in my head. I unpin the little ziploc baggie of jelly beans from the inside waistband of my shorts. The night before, my brother and I carefully handpicked beans to tuck away for the mile-nine snack. I picked Cherry jelly bellies this year. Which is suspiciously identical to cinnamon. I lope along nibbling on jelly beans through the post-track slalom mile. My last bean ends up being a cinnamon. ugh.

Mile 10 - I get passed by a 10-year-old. This was a horrible idea. The drunkards outside the Taverns lining 10th St. slur their cheers and urge us on saying "you're almost half way!" I do a mental shake. I guess they tried? I miss the years when the leather-clad bikers would stand outside of the Hi-Neighbor Tavern handing out dixie cups of beer...

Mile 11 - We pass the factories alongBelmont and White River Pkwy. It smells suspiciously like grilling, or kosher food. Where the heck did they hide that 12-mile marker. I have to pee. again. And against my better judgement I hop into an unsteady-looking port-a-potty alongside the road. I squat and the damn thing sways like a drunken sailor. I pray. LIke I've never prayed before. "Dear God, please, please, please don't let this port-a-potty tip over. I don't think I could ever live that down. And I certainly couldn't finish the race. Please Please Please. Amen." I dash out of that thing as if the fires of hell were in there. Which, I mean, honestly? That's kind of what it smelled like. I kick high, stretching my quads, and aim for the bridge.

Mile 12 - This is cruel. I used to be able to see the finish line from here. But somone decided NOT to erect the giant black-and-white-checkered finish line banner this year. People are dropping like flies. My knees and my quads are on file. I hate my life. 3/4 of a mile to go and I have to stop and walk again. My body just won't listen when my brain screams "Run!" 1/2 mile to go and I slip into a slow jog. Where in the world is the finish line? Surely I should have passed it by now? I remember a documentary I saw about the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and how the sailors that had been floating int he water for days said that the scariest part of the entire ordeal was when they saw the helicopters finally approach to save them. Apparently the shark-infested waters weren't bad enough, but the fact that they were so close to being rescued and that something could still go wrong terrified these men like no other. Suddenly, I understand. Where is the damn finish line?

Mile 13.1 - I see Crooked-T First Timer a few steps behind me. Is this it? she asks. I turn and almost stumble. I congratulate her and she blushes, or maybe she's just dying. I"m not sure. Either way, I trip into line for my medal, my water, my Gatorade, my banana, my chips and my St. Francis Cookies. My time is not great, but I did it. As my sweat dries, the cold seeps in. Next year. I'm training. Really. I mean I know I said it last year, but this year I really mean it.
I limp over to the family meeting area and find the entire family (having been done for a good 40 minutes if not longer). Seriously. Seriously. Next year. I'm training...


  1. Me too. That's it :) PS the headband did great to keep my ears warm (under my Mini 2009 hat). I'm already amped about next year.

  2. Hahaha! I thought the same thing about those stupid cheerleaders. The Flintstones? Really?

    And as you were looking back to see the thousands of people behind you, I was looking back to see the hundreds. :)


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