I started running to stay in shape about 2 years ago when Nicolas was a few months old. Since then, I’ve done a few 5Ks, 10Ks, and 5 half-marathons. For some of these, I’ve been in good shape. During others, I’ve decided I am not meant to be a runner and that running is soulless and/or insane. I would like to do a marathon in the next year or so, but finding the time to train is pretty difficult. Case in point, this past Sunday, January 20th, I was signed up to run in the PF Chang’s 1/2 marathon in Phoenix. This is a pretty big race with over 13000 runners finishing the 1/2 marathon this year. About a week before, I realized I should probably train for it. Going for this goal, with kids in tow, proved fairly interesting.
I usually run 4 to 5 miles once a week. A week before the race, I hadn’t done much more than that for several months. Feeling a little panicked about my lack of training, I set out on a run, pushing the little kids in the jogging stroller with Sam next to me on his bike holding a stop-watch. We ran about 2 miles, Sam shouting his encouragement all the way and that stop-watch beeping uncontrollably. I couldn’t go much farther – pushing 70 pounds and running is hard! We stopped to get a healthy lunch. Naturally, we went to Subway, because that is where the Olympic athletes in training go, and because it was right there where we stopped running. While I was ordering, Audrey and Nicolas were knocking over the life-size cutout of Michael Phelps and dancing on it. Eating a 6 inch loaf of bread left me wondering if that could possibly be healthy, and I was feeling discouraged altogether. However, after we left, a man standing around nearby at the Circle K approached me and said, “You’re so pretty and tall.” Or he said, “You’re so sweaty you’ll fall.” Even though he was at least 80 and without teeth, his statement gave me a little confidence boost, and I ran home adding another 2 miles to my training that day.
On Thursday, just 3 days until race day, the toenail on my big toe was just hanging by a thread and I had to pull it off. It had been damaged during a previous run. Yes, that was as disgusting as you think it was. I figured this was best since I didn’t want it to fall off during the race and cut into my foot. This was fascinating for the kids and they told everyone we met that my toe had fallen off which made many look directly at my hideous feet. (I hope summer takes its time getting here because my feet are nowhere near sandal ready). This led me to do a second training run of about 4 miles, just to make sure my toe wouldn’t bother me. Two 4 mile training runs the week before a 13.1 mile race? I’m good to go – it’s in the bag!
Sunday – race day – arrived. Leaving the kids in Rudy’s capable hands, I left the house at 5:30 am, drove myself to the light rail station, parked my car, and rode the train down to the start line. Waiting around in the cold is one of the hardest parts about these events – especially if you are alone. I had the pleasure of watching couples warm each other up and serious male runners wearing tiny shorts psych themselves up. I ate 2 packets of GU, which is basically frosting. A photographer approached me and asked to take my picture. She took one, then asked me to loosen up and give her a fun pose. I immediately froze and awkwardly gave her a thumbs up sign and a creepy looking smile. She snapped the photo and quickly darted away. Once the race began, I felt pretty good, and was making great time…until the 5 mile mark where the race surpassed my training achievements. To distract myself, I thought about each of my kids and I watched the other runners carefully. I saw a woman in front of me pee without breaking stride. I thought she should have gone off to the side behind a cactus or something. Thinking about this made me nervous, and I imagined myself behind a cactus with someone’s camera capturing everything. This led me to do something that I NEVER do and will NEVER do again, and that is to use the Port-o-Potty in the light of day during a race. I will simply say, is there no human decency? Back on the course, I saw a woman in front of me take a popsicle stick with Vaseline on the end of it from someone handing them out on the sideline. She rubbed the Vaseline on her arms and legs where they were chaffing, and then as I suspected would happen, she tried to get the remaining Vaseline off her hands but couldn’t. Last I saw of her, her iPhone was slipping from her hands, bits of sand were stuck on the Vaseline she’d put on her legs, and her face was very shiny. Around mile 9, I assumed, obviously, that I had stumbled onto the full marathon course or that I had turned around and was going the wrong way. I knew, in that moment, it would never end. The faces around me started to blur; the tears were welling up. I saw someone holding a sign that read, “The longest journey begins with just a single step,” and a tear rolled down my face and a sob escaped from my mouth. My stomach was hurting, my legs were burning, I knew I would soon die, and I prayed for the peace only death can bring…then, a blind woman and her guide ran past me. I silently thanked her for inspiring me and reminding me how lucky I am. I ran on. At mile 12, and old man came from behind and clapped me on the back and called me “sweetie” as he told me to pick up my pace because people were watching. I laughed and smiled at him, as well-bred, considerate, Midwestern people do, but secretly, I hoped he would trip. At mile 13, I was certain I could not make that remaining .1 mile. There were people everywhere at this point, though, cheering us all on, and I knew I couldn’t give up. In addition, there were photographers taking our pictures, and I needed to put on my picture face. (I’ve seen the pictures, by the way, and I look like I’m having a stroke in most of them or all you can see are my huge teeth shining under my visor). I didn’t finish the race with the time I wanted, but I finished and I wasn’t anywhere near being last.
Walking through the gauntlet, getting my medal, grabbing a Jamba Juice and picking up my gear, I quickly walked the extra 2 miles (not even kidding) to the light rail station to get back to my car and home to my family. My kids ran up to me, all of them talking at once, saying “Congratulations” and hugging me and showing me the cards and signs they had made for me that morning. As I slipped away to a hot shower, Nicolas said, “Make it fast, Mom.” And I did.