The three and a half hour drive from Manhattan to Gettysburg was rewarded with a wonderful town and the view of the famous battlefield that represents a key four-day span in history of this country. Driving around the battlefield, one can almost feel the horrors that spread across the green grass. You can picture the bravery of northern and southern men, fighting amongst 50 caliber musket fire and cannons reigning hell all about them. It must have taken an immeasurable amount of courage to charge the field – a heck of a lot more than I have stored up, that’s for sure. The brief tour of the battlefield was….moving. It sent chills up my spine.
The evening before the marathon, I got to enjoy a wonderful meal with two friends and fellow WDW Radio Running Teammates in a historic restaurant a stone’s throw from the very spot where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. There was a tavern in the basement with an old wooden bar that harkened back to colonial days. On the main floor the dining rooms were filled with families enjoying hearty meals and great drinks. There was even a bard, strolling around the building singing songs from days long gone. It was a fantastic Saturday evening. I retuned the my hotel just outside of town that evening still feeling a bit nervous – but with a more sound perspective: running 26.2 miles on a gorgeous April morning is nothing compared to the courage it took to storm that battlefield.
When I awoke in the morning, I felt well rested and as prepared as I would ever be for this race. A shuttle bus took myself and a merry band of fellow runners to the starting area: a local elementary school. A chill in the air made us all crave the sunlight at 7am, and we stood around waiting for the time to toe the starting line. I had been nervous about running such a small race, because I knew that there would be nowhere to hide my slow, plodding pace. As I chatted up my fellow marathoners, some of which were Marathon Maniacs like myself, that nervousness began to slowly fade. It was replaced by resolve.
We slowly made our way down the block from the school shortly before the scheduled start of the race. The starting line was a line simply drawn in the middle of a street. There was no fanfare. No huge contingent of fans. No press. Two races in a row with such humble beginnings…..I loved it. It felt…pure. Before we knew it, a soft horn blew, and off we went.
About a quarter of a mile into the race I had, what I like to internally refer to as a “brainfart”. Have you ever locked your home’s front door, hopped in the car, gotten half way to your destination and then, all of a sudden, realize that you’ve forgotten the one item you needed to make the trip worthwhile back on your coffee table? Well then congratulations, you’ve experienced a brainfart. So what, pray tell, was my brainfart this lovely, sunny, warm, bright, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, beach-weather morning? My mind went over my race day checklist:
- GUs? CHECK.
- Fully-charged GPS watch? CHECK.
- BodyGlide (dear, sweet, wonderful BodyGlide)? CHECK
- Pre-race Pot-O-Crapper usage? CHECK….and CHECK.
- Properly hydrated? CHECK.
- Sun block? …………
Let me say that last one again:
- Sun block?…………
I couldn’t have been THAT big of a doorknob. No way.
(FYI – I do, on occasion, refer to myself as a doorknob when I do something utterly asinine. Why? Because it’s a fun little term and it properly represents an object that I have as much intellect as at times)
…..crap. I …..am….a….doorknob.
The sudden realization that I had forgotten sun block on a gorgeous morning where I would spend upwards of five hours in the bright sunlight was like arriving at a water stop at mile 21, reaching out for a cup of cold water, and somebody unsuspectingly handing me a cup of piping hot green tea.
I also realized that brainfarts are rather amusing to The Tool, since at the very moment I came to the realization that by the end of the race I would look like a distorted slab of bacon, he appeared on my shoulder with a smug look on his face. The war of internal words began early.
Tool: “Morning. What a gorgeous day. So – no hat and no sun block? This is like going to work in the morning and finding out that the boss took care of everything for ya. I think I’ll go grab a cosmo, sink my mitts into a big ol’ bag of pork rinds, get comfortable and enjoy your stupidity. Thanks in advance for the show.”
(I had no witty comeback. I felt like this was over before it ever started.)
Within a half a mile of the starting line, the first hill presented itself. I steadily cruised over it, knowing that each of these inclines will take a toll, and that toll will be seen in about 3 hours.
The first half of the marathon was spent either climbing up or flowing down hills. Apparently, there is not 2 straight miles of level ground in western Pennsylvania. For if there was, I would have paid a million Turkish Lira to see it. By the half way point, I had already begun to feel the effects of the sun and the hills. I was fried. Order of Joe, well done, with a side of GU. The highlights for me was seeing my WDW Radio Running Teammates at several points early on. That gave me a sorely-needed energy boost. (A HUGE SHOUT-OUT TO STEVE AND VALERIE DREW!!!!)
Fortunately the hills dissipated by mile 15-16 I think. Maybe it was mile 14. Not quite sure when they ended, because the second half of the race was spent simply trying to maintain forward momentum. I was alone at times, just as I feared. The experience of being out there, on a quiet country road, 16 miles into a marathon without a bunch of fans providing the peer pressure I required to keep waddling on was really difficult to adjust to.
It was around mile 17 that I realized how pure of an event this was. 500 marathoners. Quiet country roads. Hills. Sun. Just the right amount of volunteer support to keep you going. Just the runner and the road. Either you finish or you quit. No one around to throw you a lifeline or bail you out. You signed up for this – now you take care of business. I may have been cooked by the sun and drained by the hills, but I hadn’t quit. And boy did that ever piss The Tool off.
The Tool: “Nine miles left. Why don’t you shut this one down. You bit off more than you could chew, you schmuck.”
Me: (suddenly growing a big and brassy pair of wontons) “Oh shut up. Nine miles is less than I had to go ten minutes ago. Let’s get this over with and head home.”
The Tool: “Wow…you’re remarkably masculine today. What a change from the usual whiny wiseass I’m used to. FYI: you’re still screwed.”
Me: “I might not be the fastest boat in the water, but no one’s gonna paddle harder than me.”
The Tool: “Oh please. Who do you think you are? Henry Wadsworth Dumbfellow? You know what – I’m leaving you to fail on your own. I need a Tylonol with a Absynthe chaser just to wash away the stupidity flying around your dense cranium. Later sucker.”
The last nine miles was spent willing myself to keep moving forward. I ran as much as I could – but I needed walk breaks. As the miles added up and mile markers 22….23…24 went by, I allowed myself to experience the roller coaster ride of emotions that marathoners go through. I can honestly say this: I run 26.2 just to take that roller coaster ride. I cannot describe it. I apologize for lacking the creativity to paint the literal picture of these feelings. However, I believe it was Ken Doherty that once said that “…to describe the agony of a marathon to one who’s never run it is like trying to describe color to someone born blind”.
There’s something about that last 10 kilometers. Pain. Loss of focus. You feel like you are going to break. And then – somehow – you manage to hold it all together and soldier on. You break the tape realizing that you willed yourself to finish. The body alone could not have gotten you to this point. Running a marathon is all about the journey. And what a journey this 26.2 was in Gettysburg.
I finished feeling sore, exhausted and relieved. And in dire need of aloe.
The long ride home was spent contemplating the day. My mistakes – SUN BLOCK! My need to focus on my endurance. Drop weight. Focus more on my diet during the week – consider proper eating an additional daily workout. Train harder. I need the work.
Four down. Eight to go. I need to train harder…just not this week….for my next 26.2 was scheduled for next Sunday, May 6th in New Jersey.
If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website: www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for. It raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Being s former wish-granter for the NYC Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Thanks!
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