Marathon Musings — and Then I’ll Stop, I Promise


Just a few more words about the marathon, really. I’m sure it can’t be nearly as fascinating to anyone else. Except maybe my “teammates”.

Yes, we had a team. We called ourselves Team X — well, not really, but I’m not revealing Ms. X’s real name in this blog. So for these purposes, we’ll be Team X, because yes, Sophie’s teacher was our leader.

And for that I’ll never forget her, for her gift to me this year has been twofold. Looming large, of course, is all she’s done and will do for my younger daughter, but she’s given me a little something special, as well. Right now it’s taking the form of a massive blister on the bottom of my left foot, but I’m sure that eventually the throbbing will subside and I’ll be able to focus on the part of me she made just a little bit stronger by convincing me I could do this.

I told a bit of the back story in a piece on the local NPR affiliate, which you can listen to here:

But I wasn’t able to tell the whole story there. Nor will I here — trust me, you don’t want the whole thing. Bottom line, as I put it in the radio piece, I’m not a competitive sports kind of girl. I mean, I’m REALLY not. So when Ms. X (Sunday’s was her fourth half-marathon) suggested a group of us race 13 miles, I was not interested.

I strongly believe that — particularly as an adult — one should remain firmly within the boundaries of one’s comfort zone, in order to succeed. That’s not to say I don’t ever challenge myself, but I do it on my own terms: with a tough writing assignment. Or maybe a craft. Childbirth — yes, that was out of my comfort zone. But with a great reward.

I hate to be a killjoy, but that teal and silver medal they handed out Sunday is just not the same as a newborn. Or maybe I’m just bitter. More on that later.

For various reasons (mostly peer pressure and the desire to hang out with friends) I left my comfort zone for a pair of Asics. From September to last week, we trained.

For me, it wasn’t enough.

Sunday morning, I knew I was screwed. I’d actually managed to GAIN weight during the training (I focused my willpower on the walking, abandoning the will to forgo Christmas cookies), I was exhausted (full time job plus full time kids and husband plus half-marathon equals insanity) and my feet hurt before we even started.

We waited about 45 minutes in our corral. When the horn blew and my friends took off, I prayed for them to leave me behind. I kept up for nearly a mile. It killed me, and they were hardly speedy — just a bit over a 16 minute mile. (We needed an average of about 18 and a half to finish on time.) I could feel the shin splints starting. The blister that’s throbbing as I write this started then, too.

“I have my Shuffle!” I announced to Mrs. B-C, the one still with me. “Go! Go! Catch up with the others! I’ll be fine!”

For the entire 13 miles, that’s how the conversation went. I thought about how I could free this poor woman, who could clearly keep up with the rest, but so kindly refused. She’s just that kind of person. I considered sitting on the ground and refusing to budge til she went ahead, or hiding in a Port a Potty. But I knew she’d just wait and I’d slow her down even more.

“How’s Mrs. B-C?” I asked our friend, Mrs. M, yesterday evening.

“She’s fine. A little stiff,” Mrs. M replied.

“Really? She kept saying her knee was killing her. Do you think it was? Or could she have gone ahead?” I asked.

“That’s what’s so great about Mrs. B-C,” Mrs. M answered. “We’ll never know.”

I love all my friends, but yesterday I wanted to plant a big, sloppy wet one on Mrs. B-C. Of my three teammates (there were others on Team X, including Ms. X’s mom, but four of us trained together for the most part) she and I were the most distantly acquainted when we started training. On a typical day, our paths just don’t cross as much as the rest.

But walking the canals from Tempe to Mesa, I learned so much about this smart, funny woman whose kids I absolutely worship. Now I know why they’re such great kids. They have a truly remarkable mom.

All that would have been more than enough. I would have been so happy on Sunday to dig my Shuffle out of my sports bra (if it was still functioning — here’s a piece of advice, ladies: don’t store your iPhone in your sports bra during a sporting event; mine didn’t work all day yesterday, after I overheated it with my sweaty boobs!!!) and walk the marathon with Vampire Weekend and the Fratellis, knowing my friends were making their best times.

It’s not like it wouldn’t have been the first time. My entire life, I have ALWAYS been last in anything sports related. Really. I know you’re thinking the same thing, but you’re a liar. You weren’t last. It was ME. I was last. Which is why I was scared all day Sunday to turn around. I figured I’d be dead last in the largest marathon ever.

I wasn’t. Ray promises there were “hundreds” of people behind us. And I crossed the finish line with Mrs. B-C by my side, despite my constant begging. We were a motley crew, joined serendipitously by my good friend and colleague Colin (check out his column, Spooning, at — hilarious). We bumped into Colin on about Mile 5. He stood out from the crowd, in plaid Bermudas, an Atari tee shirt and running shoes I swear were circa 1976.

Judging from Colin’s text message today (something about needing a wheelchair) and the fact he did not train at all (except for walking the dog around the block) I feel comfortable saying he didn’t slow down much for me. But Mrs. B-C, I know she could have gone faster.

I texted her this morning to apologize. Yesterday when we crossed the finish line, they handed us yellow slips of paper that said we’d get our medals in the mail. The rest of Team X got the slips, too. But this morning I checked our times online. Mrs. M and Ms X crossed the finish line at 3:51 and 3:52.

Mrs. B-C and I crossed at 4:03. Four hours was the cut off. We don’t get medals.

I surprised myself by caring. I had sworn that I would consider this whole thing a success if the police didn’t sweep me off the street with the other late finishers (something rumored to happen after four hours) and that didn’t happen. So I won, right?

I might well have. I know I couldn’t have gone any faster. I didn’t stop once, not even to pee. I suppose I could have brushed past Ray, Annabelle and Sophie, who met us a quarter mile from the finish, but I can’t imagine I stopped to see them for three whole minutes. No, I can take some pride knowing I went as freaking fast as I could, slow as that was. I have the blister and the aching muscles to prove it.

As for Mrs. B-C? I guess we’ll never know. And maybe, like she keeps insisting, it really doesn’t matter.



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3 responses to “Marathon Musings — and Then I’ll Stop, I Promise

  1. You know, it’s amazing to meet people that actually are as nice as that. And they all are, aren’t they?


    By my count, I figure you’ve got a good 13 miles worth of words to go for this, you don’t have to be done!

  2. Loved this entry – thank you. I am an Australian living in Spain and training for my first marathon at the moment (I have 14 weeks to go) and I am struggling to pace myself to finish the event in the required 6 hours or I will be sharing the roads with the Spanish Drivers.
    I love reading about other peoples running stories.
    ps: i am thinking your Mrs B-C is pretty wonderful too 🙂

  3. colin

    I am utterly surprised that the Breast Milk temperature GU didn’t make the commentary.

    I feel like it was a bonding moment between us. Feeding from your warmth on many levels.

    Thanks, I would have never made it to the finish line without you.


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