May 2, 2007
Event: Nashville Country Music Marathon!!!!
Fear and Loathing on the Marathon Trail
The way, much too loud, ring of the hotel phone interrupted my fitful slumber at the ungodly hour of 4 AM. Thirty seconds later, the alarm on the complimentary radio-clock alarm sounded, making me jump through my skin a second time. I didn’t feel very rested, but the grogginess cleared quickly as it occurred to me that the long awaited day was finally upon me.
It had also occurred to me that this was my 5th marathon in a year. My body was tired, not only from the inadequate sleep from which it had just endured, but the brutal pounding it had received over the last year. In April the Derby Marathon, June the San Diego Marathon, September the Akron Marathon, December the Memphis Marathon, not to mention all the 20 mile training runs in between.
As I went about the tasks of waking up, my thoughts turned to the excitement of the day ahead. My mind began to wander and as always, I became philosophical about the marathon. Fear and loathing once again came to mind.
In a marathon, even if it’s your 10th marathon, as it is mine, negative thoughts are always in the background of your mind. The primary fear in all marathoners’ minds is not finishing the 26.2 mile course that lays ahead. Some fear not performing to their own standards. Others fear finding themselves running in a blinding rainstorm or blazing sun. Still others fear having some unforeseen calamity happen, like stepping off a curb and turning their ankle. All hopes of a new PR, not to mention 6 months of training and an entry fee, dashed with a single step.
The loathing of the marathon is the loathing of pain. The loathing of having to exercise your muscles for a long, long time, over a long, long, distance, to the point of pain. Pain, that if possible for the mind to recreate, would keep a person from ever doing a marathon again.
The loathing of running for the same amount of time it takes to drive a car, from Louisville, KY to Knoxville, Tennessee. A distance that most people have never walked, much less ran. It is the distance that killed Pheippides. It is a long time to run, and as much fun as the marathon may be, the long period of running and pain that goes with it, is the reason most people never try it.
The fear and the loathing of the marathon are what make it what it is. One of the greatest personal challenges a person can undertake. It is the challenge of overcoming physical pain and negative thoughts. It is the pride of starting something tough and finishing it. It is the distance that killed Pheippides. The distance that killed Pheippides is what we run for fun.
My wandering mind began to focus on the task at hand. Getting ready for the marathon. Joe, Jon and I began putting on our running gear, laid out ready to go from the night before. We drank coffee and ate bananas and bagels, fueling up for the day. We discussed our running strategies, where we would meet after the race and headed out to meet the other NQRFPTR’s.
The girls were piling into the car as we left the room. We followed them out of the parking lot for the trip to the LP Stadium. We had decided to take the shuttle from the finish to the start line to avoid problems getting back to the hotel.
We quickly found that traffic was going to be a problem. Cars were backed up on the interstate for a few miles. After a few minutes of stop and go riding, my eyes began to grow heavy and I drifted off to sleep. I slept all the way to the stadium and felt very rested on our arrival. I found later that it took 45 minutes for us to drive 6 miles. We exited the car and after the girls visited the Porta Potty, we boarded the shuttle and made our way to the start line.
Arriving at the park was an uplifting moment. Music was playing, people were scurrying around, dropping off clothing bags, eating bagels, drinking coffee, talking and generally getting excited. I was no exception as I drank a couple of cups of coffee and made my way, with Joe and Katie, to the 4 hour corral.
Joe and I were standing in the 4 hour corral, when we met up with Annette and Steve. We decided that Annette, Joe and I would run together and Steve would go ahead. I went to set my IPOD, and discovered that the battery was dead. No music! No distance meter! Bummer!
When the gun sounded, it took a few minutes to arrive at the start line. (Wave start) When our time came, we quickly took off and settled into a 9 1/2 minute pace. At the ½ mile mark we ran past our first band. They were great. Band after band greeted us as we ran through the streets of Nashville.
The crowds were also great. There was a group of cheerleaders dressed as Energizer Bunnies. There was a church that had a choir signing on their front steps. People cheered encouragement at every turn.
Some of the runners were dressed in funky costumes. Elvis, of course. One man ran in a dress, as Minnie Pearl. Two girls ran with Tu-Tu’s over their shorts. One guy had on a shirt that said: “This Sucks!”. (I saw him in at one of the twenty mile marks and he had lost 2 or 3 letters.) We passed lots and lots of Team in Training groups. (Even one group from the Louisville area.)
We continued our pace and even began to pick it up. I thought if we picked up a few seconds on each mile, we would pick up the few minutes we were behind. The sun was out, not a cloud in the sky. What a beautiful day. I was a little bothered by the sun, but except for the sweating, it didn’t seem to affect me. I was feeling great and knew today was my day!
We made every effort to hit all the water stops and walk through them, as we drank. We soon came to the 11 mile mark, and the half-marathoners split to the right for their trip to the finish line. We split to the left and settled into our next 15 miles. We were still telling stories and talking about all kinds of things.
We came upon a spot where the elite runners were passing the 18 mile mark. They were truly flying. I saw the leader run past and several other runners with rock hard abs. I liked the “out and back” parts of the course, because it gave an idea of where you needed to go and where you had already been.
We finally arrived at the 15 mile mark, and the sun was beginning to get to me. I had eaten several Power Gels and was becoming a little nauseated. We came upon an industrial park, and wound through it, to a 6 foot wide, paved road, that ran along the Cumberland River. It was a beautiful area. The blue sky, the fluffy clouds, the green grass, the green river, the sun. THE SUN. It seemed to blaze down the further we ran. I began to sweat more and the gel was beginning to roll around in my stomach.
The more we ran, the more nauseated I became. I finally told Joe and Annette to go on. I had to walk for a while. I walked to the end of what we called, “the Riverwalk”. (It reminded us of Louisville’s Riverwalk.) Joe and Annette soon left me behind. I jogged down the extremely steep hill that went back down to the industrial park and came upon a stand with Vaseline. I grabbed a stick full of the goo and slathered it on between my legs and under my arms. It really helped my chafing.
I resumed running again for a few miles. The more I ran, the more I became nauseated from the gel. Several times I thought I would surely throw up. I never did throw up, but wished I could have. The bouncing motion of running seemed to aggravate my nausea. I was reduced to a series of run/walks. I would run until I thought I would throw up, and then I would slow down and walk for a while.
The miles slowly went by, and I finally came to the 20 mile mark. It gave me quite a feeling of encouragement. I tried really hard to continue running the remaining 10K, but the dehydration and nausea were too much to bear. My walk breaks were becoming more frequent. I managed to make it to another “out and back”, around the 25 mile mark. I saw the runners coming out of a park and even saw Annette, Joe and Jon heading to the finish. It also gave me encouragement.
I met a girl in the park that was also struggling. It was her first marathon and she was thrilled to be at the 25+ mark. She helped me a lot to stay focused. We began a series of running downhill and walking uphill. Somewhere between 25 and 26, a girl in front of me stopped to puke. She gagged and wretched two or three times and went right back to running. I was so envious. I wanted so bad to throw up and rid myself of all that gel and Powerade in my stomach. It never happened.
When I came out of the park, I saw Emily and Amy headed into the park. They looked like they weren’t feeling very good either. I continued on until I came upon a single spectator, who told me that the overpass ahead was the 26 mile mark. It gave the boost I needed. I began to run again and gradually came to the overpass. I could hear music and even began to meet those condescending jerks who run back toward the runners wearing their medals and eating bagels. I knew I was close. Pretty soon, I saw the runners ahead turning toward the finish. The crowds became heavier and I began to pick up the pace. I was still fighting my growing stomach distress, but I could smell the finish line.
Soon, I saw the finish line. An archway of balloons beckoned me on. I ran as fast as I could, (which wasn’t very fast), and crossed the finish line at 4:51 minutes. The worst time I have ever had. I was disappointed, but pleased with myself for overcoming adversity and never giving up.
A cute little teenaged girl placed a medal around my neck and someone else placed a space blanket over my shoulders. I stopped by the ice water tank for a cold towel and placed it on my neck. I was beginning to feel better. My disappointment soon turned into relief as I began to mingle with the other runners. I picked up my free pair of Spenco sandals, ate some food and found Kristy. We met up with the other NQRFPTR’s and headed out to the shade for our free beer.
We gathered around a tree at our rendevous point and discussed the race. Gradually, all the others began to show up. Soon, Maria and Sylvia appeared from nowhere, ecstatic over finishing their first marathons. I hugged them both and congratulated them on their accomplishments. The marathon truly is a spiritual experience.
We later met for dinner and beers at Outback Steakhouse. We had a great time and later attended the Sarah Evans concert. The evening was fun, but not the fun night out we thought it was going to be. Everyone was pretty trashed and a few of us dozed off during the concert.
Marathon # 10 was now in the bag for me. It wasn’t a great performance on my part, but I got the same medal as everyone else and had a super time. I’m ready for the next one. Fear and loathing? Not on my watch!
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