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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

She's one of us now...

I’ve officially run my 8th marathon, and full of fanfare it was…. Although I had no intention of running a marathon in March, my sister-in-law twisted my arm. Last year she started a healthy eating kick, accompanied by exercise, so she started jogging… just a little here and there. And then a little more… and then a little more. After 4 months of running she announced she would run a marathon in the fall. More running…. More… moreMORE!!!! (insert sardonic laugh here). The week before the Philadelphia marathon in November, which I was also running, the miles she was logging had their revenge: she developed a horrible case of bursitis. For those of you who haven’t heard of this ailment, here’s what the mayo clinic website says:

“Whether you're at work or at play, if you overuse or repetitively stress your body's joints, you may eventually develop a painful inflammation called bursitis.
You have more than 150 bursae in your body. These small, fluid-filled sacs lubricate and cushion pressure points between your bones and the tendons and muscles near your joints. They help your joints move with ease. Bursitis occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed. When inflammation occurs, movement or pressure is painful.”

Ouch. Yup. That’s what she had. She ran the marathon anyway. She limped pathetically around the Expo the night before, determined to go her 26.2 miles… and yes, she finished!

I figured that was the end of my new running partner days, but then she mentioned she’d like to sign up for the National Marathon in March, and I am absolutely delighted that she has become the crazed junkie running addict that I am… someone who understands my love of running….the thrill of running through rain, ice, snow, sub-degree temperatures, heat and humidity…

We ran the entire National Marathon together, chatting all the way, without a goal except to enjoy it without bursitis – it was the first time I had run a marathon with a buddy the whole way, and it was fabulous to have company for 26.2 miles.

We piled up with the masses at the start and set off with the sounding gun. Unlike any other officially timed races I’ve run, the computer chip used to time us was only attached via runners’ shoelaces. Although I lace my shoes pretty well (there was recently actually an entire article written in RUNNER’S WORLD about how to tie your laces properly, and I was very proud to discover that I’ve been tying my shoes correctly now for 32 years or so…), fear still lingered that I would somehow lose the chip if a lace came loose. And so started the “chip check.” It’s fun to say. Try it now. (I’ll wait. Go ahead. Just say it. Chip check. The alliteration is thrilling). Every few miles I’d yell: “chip check!” and that would amuse us for a few minutes until we figured out how to get through the next mile.

Hopefully my sister-in-law still likes me, for as one runs along for 26.2 miles, at many points encouraging one’s partner (particularly after mile 20, but I’ll get to that), one blurts out many personal things about one’s self. Okay… I am very open anyway, but we had 4 ½ hours to kill, so I came out of the closet about some of the goofy things I use to keep myself going in a marathon. One of them is that (and this is a quote I saw… I can’t take credit for it) a marathon is a 6.2 mile race with a 20-mile warm-up. Those of you who do marathons totally get that. Everything changes at mile 20: your body, your mind, your enthusiasm, your soul. They all turn against you as you wonder why it is you just don’t stop.. and why it is you decided to do this dumb-ass thing in the first place. So… as we plodded through the miles I would count down the miles left in our warm-up, which perplexed our fellow runners but entertained us greatly.

After the first few miles I noticed she was carrying a banana which was becoming, inevitably, increasingly brown and, in my humble opinion, rather unappealing.

“Ummm…. Are you gonna eat that banana or what?”

She laughed. “Well, it’s my motivation now. I keep telling myself I’m gonna eat it at the halfway mark.”

Okaaay,” I thought… but before I had a chance to voice my dubious opinion of her plan, she blurted out, a little quietly:

“it’s my WILSON.”

Remember Tom Hanks and the volleyball in Cast Away?

This was too much for me. Everything is quite funny before mile 20, and this was no exception. And so Wilson the banana became our motivating mascot. Wilson did have a close call when we caught up with our family o’ spectators around mile 8; as we stopped to say a quick hello to the hubbies and kids, she asked her husband (my husband’s brother) to hold Wilson while she shedded layers. Seeing a disgustingly brown banana and having common sense, he chucked Wilson under the metro bus stop.

“HEY!” she screamed. “That’s WILSON!! Give it BAAACK !!” Sensing it was in his best interest not to argue, her tough-guy policeman husband hastily retrieved the brown banana and returned it to his crazed runner wife. So much for quiet…. But Wilson was back.

Every marathon has its creatively-dressed runners, and at one point we were rather steadily running behind a guy in a kilt and a tuxedo top. “Nice legs,” we commented. The cute chick running beside him turned around. “Not you,” we corrected.

Around mile 10 we turned a corner to be greeted by the very loud bang of a wrecking ball; yippee! For a block we had some pretty good entertainment of a building demolition – my boys would have loved it. After we passed 13, Wilson got digested (well, half of Wilson) and we plodded on. We ran up some slightly daunting hills where I revealed that I sometimes think of a giant hand pushing me up the hill. We arrived at mile 20 where I announced the start of the race, much to the confusion of those around us.

We were going over a huge bridge with a pretty steep rise over the Potomac River in Washington DC. “Have I ever told you I’m afraid of bridges?” she alerted me.

“But YOU dragged ME into this marathon… didn’t you look at the course? Hah hah,” I nervously chuckled. “Not much you can do about it now. C’mon… this bridge has been here forever.”

“That’s the ISSUE,” she pointed out.

“The view’s beautiful…” I offered. Whew. Down the other side and done. Note to self…

Everything was going pretty well until I noticed a bit of a decrease in energy in my trusty marathon partner… I had read about pacing team leaders and decided I needed to get creative about how to get through the next 5-6 miles.

“Okay,” I announced, “for the next 6 miles we’re going to have a theme for each mile. The first theme will either be “most embarrassing moments” or “the person who has had the most influence in your life. You choose: sappy or funny.”

“Funny,” she answered without smiling.

“Alright then… most embarrassing moments.” I started by recalling some of my more embarrassing moments in life and then turned it over to her. It worked pretty well. 5 miles to go. The next mile was funniest movies…we talked about TALLADEGA NIGHTS (“If you’re not first, you’re last”), OLD SCHOOL, AMERICAN PIE, and some others, and then our fellow runners joined in. That got us through a mile and a half or so. This was working pretty well!

Around mile 24 I ran out of ideas but at that point I could tell she wasn’t into the talking thing… it was taking all of her energy just to keep moving. So I tried something I read in a running book once (by Jeff Gallagher): I decided to pick out a person around us and make up a story about him. I won’t retell the story (you’re welcome) I made up about the poor guy in front of us (it was pretty pathetic), but it got us through about a half mile.

Then the rolling hills began. For crying out loud. At the end of a marathon. Was this someone’s idea of a joke? It’s like the scene in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK when Indiana Jones looks down into the pit at the only thing he fears: “snakes… why’d it hafta be snakes?” Hills… why’d it have to be hills? They weren’t little, either. They were steep, conniving, evil hills, and they kicked my butt. I was also becoming a bit nauseated by the powerade sloshing around in my tummy, but I didn’t admit to it.

We arrived at mile 25 and my marathon partner could smell the finish. She reminded me of my German Shepherd Sophie with her ears all perked, in full alert. Just as I was becoming increasingly nauseated, my marathon partner picked up the pace.

“What are you DOING?” I whined. “Where is all this energy coming from, you freak?”

“We’re almost there!” she gleefully and quite energetically pointed out.

“uh-huh,” I acquiesced. I was thinking of answering ala my son’s style: “whatever.”

She kept going, and I tried to keep up. At mile 25.2 I felt pretty sure I was going to toss my cookies, so I stopped to walk.

“Whatsa matter?” she asked.

“Keep going… I think I’m gonna hurl,” I admitted.

“I’m not leaving you NOW,” she valiantly offered.

“Nah. Are you kidding me? Go get your personal record, girl.”


“Yeah… go!”

Off she went. Good thing. Walking for a bit made me feel a bit better, and I finally started running again to finish the beast.

My sister-in-law shaved over an hour off of her time from her first marathon, and I couldn’t have been more delighted for her… This isn’t the most well written of my postings, but I have to say I’m quite proud of her and quite appreciative of having had a marathon partner. There is a certain amazing camaraderie among runners, particularly distance runners; it’s difficult for anyone else to fathom why anyone would push him or herself to run a marathon (or run a faster marathon), but we just all know. (My husband says: “I don’t even like to drive 26.2 miles, let alone run them”). One of the cool things about running a marathon is the human spirit you feel; you’re not only surrounded by other crazed running addicts who perfectly understand your love of distance running, but also surrounded by spectators who encourage perfect strangers to persevere. It gives you the warm and fuzzies about the world and its human inhabitants.

And now my sister-in-law is one of us… (insert evil laugh again).


  1. I'm still LLOL about "Wilson".

    Congrats to you both!!! I'm very impressed!!!

  2. Thanks... but did you say "chip check" out loud? do it now!

  3. I said "chip check"! I think one of my faves was Wilson, too. That's a classic.

    I wish I were a runner. I have always wanted to be a runner, but I'm completely athletically inept for the most part. I could do a crochet marathon probably, but that's about it.

    I ran a 3k fun-run once after being bullied into it by an insane boyfriend and the day of the event he had one of his more insane moments and was yelling at me at the start of the race saying I could go faster than I was but I was psyching myself out and getting tense. I said, "no, you're psyching me out because you're a freak that won't stop yelling at me in front of 80 other people running next to us. And what part of 'FUN run' don't you get??" He went and sat in the car like a big baby for the entire race. I finished, but it wasn't pretty.

    I switched to biking which I love and would easily do 40 miles on an "easy" day. I wanted so badly to do the AIDS ride from San Francisco to LA but moved before I had the chance.

    Good for you for having something wonderful to be excited about like that.

    Okay, I'm going back to my crocheting now. ;)

  4. Well, golly.. no wonder you're not a runner. Your psycho boyfriend made running akin to the white rat for little Albert from classic psychology! I like biking, too... it's better for you, so you should probably stick with that. lol. I'm tempted to get into triathalons (hopefully the husband won't read this) but I LOATHE swimming. Thanks for saying "chip check!" It's fun!

  5. Said it. Now can I comment?
    Great story. I despise running but I could really develop a passion for yoga. Congratulations to you and your SIL on the marathon. If you come to Boston, I'll throw water at you from the sidelines!

  6. Verrry funny sister in law.....I miss Wilson(hee-hee). Thanks for supporting your crazy sister in law....more to follow.

  7. I used to run long distance and miss it terribly. I'm impressed. You work full time, have two kids, keep a blog and run in marathons. Anything else added to your resume and I might have to scratch your eyes out.

  8. awww, don't be too impressed, Jen. I'm not very good at getting dinner on the table, dusting, or laundry...

  9. i know i know im a total slacker when it comes to updating my comments on your blogs but hell i figure i might as well do it anyways. i totally get you and your sis in law. i think that at some point in time, every distance runner has that something that gets them from point A to B. and its usually a funny something.

    ill tell you this...my race in seabrook, at the back stretch they had packets of doughnuts that i didnt see until i had already passed them and didnt have the energy to stop and turn back for them so i told myself that i would use them as motivation for my next big lap and would get some when i come back. so i used them as awesome motivation and when i got back, they were packing up and the doughuts were gone...sucked the life right outta me. lol.


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