QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chronicles of the Myrtle Beach Marathon






Plans to run my 7th marathon began innocently enough; my thinking was that I should start doing more than one marathon per year if I am ever going to shave off those 7 pesky minutes holding me back from a Boston Marathon qualification. I offhandedly presented the information to my husband in the middle of a different conversation: “uh… um… hey… oh… I signed up for the Myrtle Beach marathon on February 14th.”

“Why?”

“I figured I needed to do more than one marathon yearly to get my body used to the distance if I’m ever going to qualify for Boston.”

“Oh. Hmm.”

“Anyway; so what’d y’all think of my chicken noodle soup? Hey, hon – did Maryland win?”

About 2 weeks before the marathon, my gentle reminder to the husband took the form of a Myrtle Beach, SC hotel confirmation emailed to his work email address: one room with 2 double beds for the four of us. As the Saturday race approached, however, the husband’s workload was too pressing; he ended up at home with the boys.

Thus it was that I found myself driving 8 ½ hours south solo. I also travel alone internationally a good bit, so I was not unaccustomed to a long trip by myself. People often lament to me how awful it would be to travel alone for long periods of time. Ha! Those people have never had small children – or even medium-sized ones! It is, indeed, pure bliss to be alone for 8 ½ + hours without the incessant noises of my beloved boys. My older son is constantly humming; I am not exaggerating (he is humming as I write this, for crying out loud). Day and night, night and day, my almost-thirteen-year-old offspring hums. It’s not that he doesn’t have a pleasant voice – actually he does; it’s just that its unceasing nature tends to render one insane after awhile (say, 5 minutes). His humming coupled with my younger son’s habitual singing, notwithstanding the inevitable cacophony, make me nervously regard my watch, wondering if it’s 5 o’clock yet.

So there I was, without the typical cacophonic background noise, peace and quiet reigning as I drove south, farther and farther removed from any humming or singing other than my own. I could listen to my iPod without interruption or complaint: “Mom, would you please stop singing?” (wonder where they get it). As an added bonus, I had 500+ driving miles during which to perform my beneficial Kegel exercises.

As I neared Myrtle Beach I encountered heavy traffic, which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem without two fighting boys who had contained themselves as best they could during a long road trip and could no longer stand it. “Stop looking at me!!”

I’m not looking at you; you’re looking at me!!”

No; again, I was blissfully alone. The only issue with the traffic was that it was past time for a potty break. I nonetheless persevered and followed the directions I had printed, getting closer and closer to the Expo where I would retrieve my race “bib” and free technical t-shirt. The directions were quite good; however, I quickly discovered as I neared my target that Myrtle Beach doesn’t believe in road signs, thus stymying significantly the out-of-towner’s ability actually to identify the streets. Whether the city council considers street signs too expensive or perhaps whether they feel that it’s just no fun to know exactly where you are, to say there was a paucity of readily identifiable street signs would be euphemistic. Using my handy blackberry’s “Google maps for blackberry,” I estimated where I was and miraculously made the correct turn onto 21st street.

Without much fanfare I successfully entered the Expo and acquired my race number/bib; I made my way to the free t-shirt counter, negotiating my way through the plethora of merchandisers (and proudly passing through without opening my wallet). The volunteer behind the stand beheld me wearily as I handed him my bib to redeem my free t-shirt. It was a rather large “medium,” so I queried whether I could trade it for a small? He looked around, and surreptitiously took the medium and exchanged it for a small, telling me: “I’m not supposed to do this; they could disallow me from volunteering again.”

The rest of the evening went smoothly. I faithfully ate my pasta dinner, found my hotel, collected the necessary data regarding the shuttle bus to the start the next morning, set out my running clothes, and obtained a fairly decent night’s sleep.

I awoke the next morning to the pleasant sounding alarm from my blackberry; recently I had switched the alarm sound and I was quite pleased with the result as I lay half awake, half asleep at 4:45 a.m. Whereas the previous sound connoted: “HEY! WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING STILL SLEEPING? GET UP NOW, FOR PETE’S SAKE !!” By beautiful contrast, my newly chosen alarm sound gently prodded: “psst. hey – you awake? hellloooo? yoohoo? no hurry or anything, but, um… it’s time for you to get up soon, ok? No rush… any time you’re ready. It’s gonna be a great day…”

I got dressed and ready (I’m guessing the reader is fine with skipping the details thereof) and headed downstairs for coffee, the fresh version of which the front desk clerk told me was available 24 hours a day. Harboring great anticipation, with which every coffee lover can identify, I lowered the lever on the coffee decanter: “phlllbbbbffllbb,” it coughed… ! Panic struck me – no more coffee! Frantically I looked around for a hotel employee to remedy the catastrophe. It wasn’t long before I identified a middle-aged man with a nametag affixed to his shirt: “Excuse me, sir; would you be able to make more coffee, please?” I stifled, hiding my anxiety pretty well if I do say so myself.

“Sure,” he said. “Decaf?”

LOL. “uh… no. That was funny, though.”

Coffee problem solved, (and here an apology to the employee is perhaps in order for the manner in which I stalked him until the coffee was fully brewed), I began to look for the race shuttle. I actually found myself quite relaxed (barring the coffee incident) since I wasn’t planning on running this one for time (or maybe it was the pleasant awakening I had experienced from the new blackberry alarm). In any case, the shuttle wasn’t materializing, so a distressed fellow runner very chivalrously offered me a ride. Being a fellow runner and chivalrous, however, did not necessarily render him socially adept. His shyly abbreviated, nervous way of speaking did not, though, enervate my gratefulness for the ride. I thanked him as we arrived and we parted ways.

After having found a significantly shorter porta-pot line in the middle of the porta-pot area (whose secret was closely guarded by my fellow runners in line, with audible whispers of “ha ha! No one else knows about this area!” and “The secret isn’t getting out, is it?”), I relaxedly made my way to the start and began without a hitch.

As is typical, there were plenty of happy and energetic conversations surrounding me as we began the first of 26.2 miles, and for awhile I was content merely to listen, chiming in briefly here and there good-naturedly.

Around mile 5 or 6, I found myself keeping pace pretty evenly with a guy in a green shirt; I joked with myself that I was “drafting” behind him, drawing advantage from his blocking the wind. Ha. Eventually we struck up a conversation and ran together, really nicely evenly paced, until unfortunately he had to stop with shin pain at mile 20.

At one point as we ran together, a middle-aged guy pulled up evenly with us, huffing and puffing and breathing laboriously and noisily. “I’ve been trying to keep up with you guys,” he huffed. As we ran together I learned this was his 10th Myrtle Beach marathon, among many other facts he shared with us, some welcome, some not so much.

The three of us next encountered a lady whom I can most readily describe as perky. A bit too happy, she high-fived every spectator possible, yelled out “thanks so very much for your support” in a thick southern accent to everyone on the sidelines, chatted with every runner whom she passed and who passed her, and joked pretty consistently that she was ready for a toasted bagel smothered in peanut butter.

The group then consisted of me and my green-shirted-same-pace-as-I-new-running-buddy, the perky lady, and the huffer and puffer. We caught up with a guy who was just taking off a long-sleeved white shirt as he ran. “I was just about to say you must be hot,” I intelligently remarked. No answer. Alrighty then. Perky lady pounced on the new blood and arduously extracted from him that this was his 45th marathon. “Whoo hoo!” she less intelligently remarked, “you should just keep your shirt off, then!” I didn’t understand either.

We rounded a corner and, out of nowhere, a pale man approached no-shirted-no-personality-man and provided him with a new short-sleeved t-shirt. Pale man jaunted along beside him for awhile, exchanging indiscernible items and ascertaining what else previously-no-shirted-man might need. “Wow,” I said. “May I have a personal assistant, too?” Again, no answer. We weren’t going to be friends, it was clear. “Hey can you get me a toasted bagel smeared with peanut butter?” perky lady inquired of the personal assistant. The three of us eventually outpaced now-short-sleeved-no-personality-man, surely as a result of not having the distraction of a personal assistant.

Huffer and puffer ran with us for awhile until he fell back unobtrusively, and I remarked to my new friend: “huh. We lost that guy.”

“Yeah; I’m kinda glad, to be honest,” he admitted. “His breathing was kind of getting to me.” Lol. I had been thinking similar thoughts but convinced myself that hearing the heavy breathing made my soft breaths a very good sign by comparison.

As we ran on, perky lady dropped back to interact with someone on the sidelines; she jogged along and was given a bagel smeared with peanut butter by someone I presume was a friend. “Huh. She was actually serious about that bagel with peanut butter,” I said. “yup,” said green-shirted friend.

Such were the characters of my 7th marathon, and saddened was I when green shirt had to stop because of shin pain. It’s what I love about marathoning, though. The camaraderie of the runners and spectators, all working together to help the runners achieve the ridiculous goal of making it 26.2 miles, is really quite heartening. As I was feeling pretty strong on the final “.2” of the marathon, I passed a guy walking. I tapped him on the shoulder and urged: “c’mon – you can make it to the end. Don’t stop now.”

“You’re right,” he conceded as he broke into a jog toward the finish.

Yes, it’s the people that you meet along the way that make it so incredibly fulfilling.

2 comments:

  1. thanks! It was most enjoyable running one NOT trying to qualify. fun talking to people...

    ReplyDelete

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