Anne set her alarm for 4am.
Just as the identity of the rapist/murderer roaming the campus trying to find me was being revealed a kleighorn began blaring. I levitated and hung suspended in the air for a moment before I fell back onto the bed.
“What the holy hell was that??” I yelled, as Anne laughed.
“I told you, you wouldn’t sleep through my alarm.”
No shit. I almost didn’t LIVE through it. Between the murdering rapist in my nightmare and the Q.E. 2 barreling across the waves for me I knew I wasn’t going to have to worry too much about porta johns on the course.
Sleepy-faced runners roamed the kitchen in the rental house. Apparently worried about famine, five people had brought 21 bananas, two packages of bagels, one package of English muffins, a personal Keurig, two dozen assorted K-Cups, peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, juice, creamer, and a grocery sack full of protein and trail mix bars. This does not include the Gatorade being mixed and Gu’s being shoved in pockets.
What I’d been casually thinking of as a longer training run than usual suddenly became a lot more real. Everyone else was there for a marathon, and there is a whole big wide world of difference between 26.2 miles and 13.1. Everyone visited quietly and went about the business of fueling the machine that was their body.
I love that part of a race morning. Focused, calm, centered, carefully considering the fuel needed, what to put in your body during the three hours between now and the race start. Not too much, but enough. Tying and retying shoes. Adjusting hats, shorts, socks, HR monitors; Garmins beeping in the quiet dark morning.
This time we drove on a real road into town which didn’t dead end and had no ancient graveyards full of dead trees and broken headstones with murder rapists hiding behind them waiting to jump out while dueling on banjoes. We parked on the levee in downtown Greenville. It was dark, cold and breezy, but this race buses you to the start line and you run back to town, so we had warm buses to sit in.
I didn’t know anyone on my bus so I settled back in the seat (first seat on the first bus going to the half) and daydreamed with my eyes half-open. A police cruiser pulled up in front of the marathon buses, lights flashing. The buses started up, their lights now flashing and beaming and they began rolling forward. I thought of the runners in there, all their goals and hopes; of my friends, all the training they’d put in, how the adrenaline would be starting for them now as the buses’ tail lights receded in the distance.
There was a BEEP and the radio announced to our driver it was time to head out – and suddenly it became real. I’m running a half marathon.
What. The. Hell. Was I thinking?
I’m a certified running coach. I know better than this. If one of the Women Run ladies came to me after five weeks of training for the 5K and glibly announced they were heading out for a nice 10 miler Saturday I’d drop my teeth and mentally call them playground names (are you an idjit?? dummy! doodoo head! What special stoopid pills did you take this morning??)
I’m going to run a Half Marathon on a training base of sixty-three miles??
The furthest I’ve run in five months is 7 miles and that was last week!
I’m an idjit! A dummy! A doodoo head! What special stoopid pills did I take this morning??
“STOP THE BUS!!! I have to get off!!!” I could hear the screaming in my head but nothing was coming out of my mouth. Odd, but fortunate. Usually my mute button doesn’t work.
I gave myself a mental slap and closed my eyes. In…Out…In…Out I breathed. Look, Terri, you start slow, you walk the water stops, you’re just out there for a little jog, not a big deal. Just go slow. Walk the water stops. You can always walk off the course if you need. Dr. K said you’re good to go.
The slowest hour of the year went by in about 13 minutes and I found myself at the starting line with two friends from home, all three of us surprised to see the others there. The horn sounded and we started up and over the Mississippi River Bridge.
Stock photo I got from the race website
The sun was rising and there was a mist in the lowlands along the bridge. We could see a barge disappearing in the fog downriver. It was quiet, not a lot of talk, the huff of breath, the shuffle of feet, cars and semi’s going by in the other lane. It was windy and I thought of Becky, Anne, and Heather, fighting this wind for 26 miles.
My goal had been to walk every mile at the water stops but they had decided at the last minute not to do the stop at the top of the bridge. At 30-something degrees those tossed cups could leave a lot of frozen liquid on the course. I ended up doing the first three miles non-stop. I picked out someone in front of me and made myself stay behind them. That sounds real good on paper, but if that girl with the backside like a 25 pound bag of potatoes in the flowered tights got in front of me all bets were off. Which is totally not PC and is mean so I probably should not have admitted it. But it is true.
Since I’m newly concentrating on my form I watched the runners pass me, and I began to see two types of stride. Some were running from their hips and glutes, hips swaying slightly to and fro. Others ran with their legs; their glutes and hip flexors stationary. Following Dr. K’s advice, I was trying to fire my glutes. It was harder than usual to make an ass of myself but I was trying. And then, it clicked. Sometimes I’d lose form. Immediately my hamstring would shout at me and I’d adjust.
I relaxed, enjoying the little boy scouts and girl scouts shouting, the middle school cheer team, the high school band. I ran by each, cheering back, slapping palms and high-fiving them. There was an old couple sitting in a truck at an intersection. I thought they were mad, waiting to cross – no – they waved and yelled as everyone came by, their cheers muffled by the rolled up windows but the enthusiasm evident.
There I was – 4 miles – 7 miles – 9 miles! I’m almost done!
I enjoyed every single step I took on that course. I thanked every volunteer and police officer I could see. I high-fived little kids and yelled Hotty Toddy at the adults but passed on the actual toddy.
John and I hung around the finish line visiting with the surprising number of people we knew from Memphis. Heather came in three minutes under her BQ time and also placed! Becky and Anne came in looking great although completely worn out from battling that wind. Becky said this about the wind, and I quote, (*&$$ (*)(%’ing #*&$ damn #$*&(&) son of *&$%&^^. Then she said this about Anne, and I quote, )(*$%* good idea )*(&$#%)*(&’ing run a &*#(*$&^ marathon in the (*)&#)*(&$ Land of your (*&&^% PEEPLES. Anne sipped her Mick Ultra, unpreturbed. Hey, the beer was free.
They refueled, we all grabbed a baby Mick Ultra and headed home; John at the wheel, Becky, Anne, Maggie and I slumped in the seats. Becky mumbled something that sounded like ^%$$ never again &*)*&*( Anne &*^%* but probably it wasn’t.
We stopped for gas at a little quick mart between the Wishy Washy Washateria and the Nette Belle Boutique and Tax Service. We looked at the tamales, the potato logs and the cajun fried popcorn, but in the end we opted for, as Anne referred to it, 22 ounces of icy cold deliciousness (Becky and I went for the 12 ounce option) and we each bought a Bud Light Lime. John got a red powerade and some crackers.
We are wild and crazy and there is no stopping us.
Betcha thought I’d made it up.