....and hobnobbing with the Hatfields.
What fun! That's my main comment. This was a fun, fun marathon. About 300 runners, down to 200 after the half-marathoners made their finish. I was assigned to be a McCoy in this "feud" -- my roommates WrayJean and Kathy were Hatfields. I've met WrayJean several times at other marathons but I never knew she was a Hatfield. But I don't hold it against her. She was a right nice roomie and I'm always glad to see her. The Hatfields were pitted against the McCoys in this run, with the winning team winning the feud, at least for this year.
The race director, Dave Hatfield, had told us the night before: "This is a fun and challengin' race course. Don't be worryin' none about a PR. Y'all just go out there and have fun."
When the race director says, "Don't worry about a PR, just have fun," it's not a good sign for a fast race. But a great sign for a good time.
At the start, he commented: "Someone asked if there's a time limit on this race. Well, we've seen 8 hours.... but basically we just hope you'll finish before dark, 'cause the course is a lot easier if you can still see." Turned out, that was because the course was marked in blue arrows and blue footprints painted on the road; at intersections you had to look for the clues, like a Hash House Harriers run. There were no police officers directing you. There was no traffic competing with you after the first couple miles. And, as Dave Hatfield had predicted, "For a lot of you out there, there will be no one with you; it will be just you, God, and the road." It was lonely, all right... but lovely, because you knew that there were a lot of other lovely lonely runners out there with you forming a lovely lonely companionship meeting up with each other for a few hundred yards here and there.
There was a guy, sort of a mascot, dressed like a Hatfield (or a McCoy?) with a beard down to his chest, a rifle in his hand. He was at the pasta dinner, at the start, and at the finish. He didn't run. He was a mascot. Or a living monument. I expected all kinds of hillbilly costumes among the runners, but there wasn't a single one. Not even me in my trademark cutoffs.... I was wearing my cutesy pleated skirt from Goodwill. No one had a straw hat or corncob pipe or even a calico bandana -- I had one of those because it's part of my normal running gear, and mine was the only one. Anyway, at the start I stepped out of the pack to take a picture of Devilance Hatfield with all the runners turning the corner behind him, which put me DFL in that small running field. I caught up with the back of the pack but there I stayed the whole remaining 26 miles.
In the back of the pack, there were about a dozen folks like me, middle-age up to just plain old, most of them working on 50 states for the first, second, or even 5th time. That's right, 5th. An elderly man all hunched over with his head appearing to grow out of his chest sported a singlet displaying: "50 States and 7 Canadian Provinces and Territories 4 Times." He was running his 301st marathon. He looked like he could hardly walk.
There was a woman named Pam, running on her 59th birthday, her 121st marathon and 42nd state. Runner after runner that I ran alongside, was running their umpty-umpth or hundred-and-umpty-umpth marathon. I felt like a newbie, running my 21st marathon and 11th state.
Another woman who was....um... large-boned. Um... kind of stocky. Um... OK, kind of fat. Sporting a singlet: "50 States and D.C. Completed." So what if you don't look like a marathon runner? What does a marathon runner look like, anyway? Obviously not like the marathon-runner stereotype. This woman has run me right into the ground in sheer distance and determination. She was about my age, too.
Everyone you buddied up with, back there in the back, asked, "How many states is this for you?" Like it was assumed that everyone in the back-of-the-pack group was working on 50 states. I was one of the younger ones. I am 54.
There was a guy (not in the back, I saw him while we were both checking into the host hotel and that was the last I saw him) running his 23rd marathon in 2006. The story? He committed to running 52 Marathons in 2006 to raise money for developmentally-challenged people. He gave me a card with his website so I could donate. There was another guy, from Tokyo, who got some notoriety at the pasta dinner and made a speech into the microphone, running his 33rd marathon this year. He's writing a book on the most people-friendly and eco-friendly marathons in the world. He recently ran 8 marathons in 23 days throughout Europe. I was awed by the size of the spaghetti portions he ate.
I'm putting my money on the guy raising fund for the developmentally-challenged. Partly because of our granddaughter Abbie. And also because he was a young guy who probably has a job, although he may be on sabbatical for this. Tokyo Joe, with his car (I saw it) and his mission, seemed like he needed something to do with his time. He was a nice enough guy but a little too PC for me, with his eco-friendly marathon book. I ran with him a little in the back of the pack and he took a lot of pictures of wild day-lilies and such. So did I but mine won't ever be in a book about eco-friendly marathons.
So. The marathon. The runners. One young man had a shirt with the shape of West Virginia on the front, a star marking the site of the Sago mine tragedy, the legend "Gone but not forgotten." On the back: In memory of Marty Bennett." I asked him. His uncle. Never saw him again after the start.
Another guy had a shirt with probably a hundred names on it in childish handwriting. I guessed he was a teacher, or a soccer coach, or something. Never saw him again either.
These guys were home showering, eating lunch, and dipping into the moonshine crock shortly after I got to the half.
On to the marathon for the rest of us.
My prophylactic Imodium didn't work. By mile 3.5, half a mile after passing the portapots at mile 3, I felt my breakfast protein-oatmeal shake trying to make a dive for the escape hatch. Hang on. Porta-Pots are supposed to be every 3 miles. I had Imodium. This can't be a crisis. This is not a crisis. This is not a crisis. I had Imodium. This is not a crisis. This is a test. This is only a test. Check out the roadsides.. Can I jump the guardrail? That sheriff is everywhere, will he bust me if I go in the creek? If he doesn't, Tokyo Joe will, for sure. Hang in there. I also had to pee. Already. Ack. I started saying to fellow runners, "They did promise us porta-pots every three miles, didn't they?" Hang on. In front of a very nice cedar-siding cottage was a man in camo overalls with a beat-up broad-brim hat and a shotgun. He was grinning and yelling, "If you're a Hatfield, keep on runnin'. If you're a McCoy, stop and shake hands." I yelled, "I'm a McCoy, can I use your bathroom?" Everyone laughed. Except me.
I loved the outback-country accoutrements. The road names. The signs. "Right Turkey Toe Bridge." Followed a couple hundred yards later by "Left Turkey Toe Bridge." A dilapidated rusty truck with rigor mortis and no hood, dead and forgotten next to a sign, "Caution: Trucks Entering Highway." A beat-up old shed with authentic redneck vehicles in various states of disassembly and disease; nailed onto the shed, a brand-new beautiful sign: "Interstate Batteries: Fastest and Most Powerful." Honeysuckle. Honeysuckle everywhere. Green. Green everywhere. Alongside the funny things were beautiful green woods, green grass, green vines, green bushes... the very air was green. We ran along Hardy Creek, then along Blackberry River. And then up Hardy Hill.
Ah, yes, at mile 6, Hardy Hill, about which we had been warned. Over a mile of steady climbing. Everyone I could still see ahead of me was walking. I kept running. I was too anxious to get to the porta-pots to walk. Everyone in the BOP knew about my plight. A boy who appeared to be maybe 14, running the half, asked me as I passed him, "Did you find a bathroom yet?" FINALLY, at mile 7, there it was. ONE. Luckily, I was the only one running so I beat all the walkers up the hill and practically busted down the door. One of the most-appreciated moments of my life. Right up there with being told it's OK to push now. But 3 minutes later (yeah, only 3 minutes) I was on the hill again, and my momentum had been interrupted. And then the downhill started, which was downright painful, with my messed-up metatarsals. That looong downhill just plain hurt my feet. I groaned and whimpered. I had a hard time finding a stride I could live with. That downhill lasted forever. Or until 8 miles. Whichever came first.
My coach Mary had told me to hold back the first 6 miles and then wing it from there. Well, at 8 miles I was still holding back, and not on purpose. I just felt like it wasn't my day. Just tired or something. I'd give myself till the half to decide whether to finish. Stopped for a couple minutes at the aid table at Mile 9, took 2 Excedrin, salt capsules, ditched my visor which was giving me a headache, stretched, shot the bull with a bunch of ladies, young girls, and a man easily 600 pounds in a wheelchair with his stomach hanging down to his feet, participating in the marathon by manning a water table. You go, fat guy. You could be in bed in your house watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island and needing help to turn over, but you're out here in your wheelchair handing out PowerAde to marathoners. You go, fat guy. You rock.
Soon I met up with Pam. BTW, my porta-pot stop had relegated me again to DFL. I had to catch up again. I walked/ran with Pam for 3 or 4 miles, leapfrogging, getting ahead, stopping for water, catching up. We talked. She was running in honor of a friend with melanoma. I told her about Holly. She was on a cycle of run one minute, walk 30 seconds. I was happy with that. But she started running through her walk breaks and after a while she said, "You go on. You're way faster than I am." I said, "No, really, at this point I'm just planning on finishing before dark, like Dave Hatfield said." A quarter-mile later Pam said, "No, you go. You're way faster than me. I'm trying to keep up with you and if I do that I won't make the finish." That I understood, and I went on. She finished maybe 5 minutes behind me. Pam did not look like a marathon runner, either. 121 marathons and she had middle-age spread all over. Looky here, world.... you don't have to be skinny to be in shape. How many of you pumped-up muscle-builders or skinny elliptical patterers can run 121 marathons???
So Pam and I hit the half together, and my Excedrin had kicked in and I was feeling better, and I ditched my option to ditch. If I continue past the half, I'm in for the long run. Period.
But I was slow. Not just because I kept stopping to take pictures. I was just slow. Working in the gym, I've been taken in somewhat by the high-protein muscle-building mindset and I hadn't carbo-loaded well. Proof, world, Body-for-Life is not the diet for endurance athletes. I kept swigging from my honey flask, and I ate a few bites of bananas at aid stations (ick, didn't want to stay in my stomach) and drank PowerAde but I was dipping into muscle tissue for calories, I think. My quads hurt way sooner than usual. And for the rest of the race. And they still do, 2 days later. So I won't do THAT again.
Coach Mary has me scheduled for 2 whole WEEKS of NO RUNNING while recovering. Biking, yes. Swimming, yes. But no running. And in the second half, I kept thinking, "All I have to do is finish this race I won't have to run for TWO WHOLE WEEKS!!!!" Yippeee!!! Just get to the finish and I'm off the hook for TWO WEEKS!!! WoooHOOO!!! It was something to shoot for. My reward for hitting the finish line.
Around mile 21 I thanked a water-table guy, old guy, for hanging out all day waiting for us back-of-the-packers. He said, "Nope, gotta hand it to ya, y'all are doin' somethin' I couldn't do in my dreams. And y'all here are lastin' a lot longer than them folks as passed here 2 hours ago." I told him, "Thanks! You got the REAL ENDURANCE SPECIALISTS here!!" He called after me, "That's fer sher!" Geez... someone who understands!!! And a lay person at that!!
Somewhere around mile 23 I got a second wind. Started running blistering 11:30 miles instead of the 12:xx's I'd been running. I just felt stronger. Maybe it was 'cause the old guy understood.
So I ran into the final stretch, into the finish chute, to the PA's announcement, "Here comes #24..... Um... letssee... Ellie Hamilton!!! From.... ACCIDENT, MD????" Yessireebob, that's me, Ellie Hamilton, Accident, MD, and I crossed the finish line cheering with my arms up, and it was done.
I met up with Kathy, who had done the half, and a few minutes later, WrayJean came in. She had been ahead of me most of the race but we traded places around mile 18. The payback was, WrayJean still looks great in our post-race snapshots; I look like hell, with my hat gone, my hair a mess, and my mascara smeared under my eyes.
Maybelline Unstoppable Mascara isn't. Or, if you read the fine print, it says: " *Under normal conditions." I guess running a marathon isn't "normal." I sweated so much, the dried salt on my legs looked like I'd been playing in a sandbox. Even though the weather never once felt hot. It was cloudy, low 70's, few rain sprinkles. I never was hot, even felt chilly sometimes. But sweated like a hog. Maybe I'll skip the mascara next time.
Don't be sucked into the body-building gym mentality and diet the week before the marathon.
Don't give a little camera to a photographer on a marathon course. I took over 50 pictures, and left the race to compose them properly. Spent probably 20 minutes taking pictures.
Unless you're competing for your annual income, a marathon should be fun, with joys and woes shared among participants, and laughter and hugs at the end.