What happens over the course of 26.2 miles?
Crazy happens. That’s what. The morning started super early. Setting my alarm for 3:30 a.m apparently wasn’t early enough though to take care of business. Not being able to, uh. . . poop (there, I said it) before running 26.2 miles was my biggest pre-marathon fear. I tried. And tried. No go. Literally. This would haunt me for the entire race. Oh, well, gotta move on. Gia and I headed out the door and into the Crazy Taxi ride with likely the only L.A. cabbie that didn’t know how to get to Dodger Stadium. We eventually arrived, checked our bags, got in the so-long-that-you-might-not-make-it-in-time porta-potty line, then parted ways all before sunrise. (Gia was in a seeded corral hoping to BQ*. I was in the cattle call hoping to survive.)
I finally managed to meet up with with my BRF, Kalli, minutes before the race started. We admired each other’s cute running outfits and hairdos, talked about our pre-race bodily functions (or in my case, lack of), discussed our running plan (or I did anyway, Kalli isn’t much of a planner, she prefers to just run; I need a spreadsheet, a Garmin, and a mile-by-mile plan for speed, hydration, and fuel), and we even made new friends as we inched toward the ubër crowded start line.
And they’re off! Almost.
The energy level was high, light, and spirited. Speakers blared Randy Newman belting out “I Love L.A.” Smiles all around; bright, happy runners everywhere. By the time we pushed through the crowds and made it to the official start line, we both had to pee. Again. Not wanting to waste any more precious minutes in porta-potty lines, we ran behind the first bush we could find, dropped our skirts, and peed (along with a small group of guys doing the same thing who were so kind to congratulate us on our shameless bravado WHILE WE WERE PEEING! Just a tad awkward). Bladders emptied and skirts back up—we were officially ready to get our race on!
We ran and chatted for six fun miles until we parted. Kalli’s a faster runner than I am and once were were separated there was no finding each other in that sea of 24,000 bodies, most of whom were wearing green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
Running solo gave me the opportunity to focus on my plan, my form, and to experience this thing fully. I ran and danced, talked with fellow runners, appreciated all the sweet and encouraging spectators and volunteers, and prayed that I wouldn’t poop. I cried at mile ten just because I was so damn happy. At mile eleven I was greeted by the smiley, shiny faces of my family: kids, grandkids, and SP were all there with the hugest smiles ever. Their support propelled me. For the next three miles I ran solely on love—fast, light, and happy.
What?! No beer?!
Then came mile fourteen. I noticed the time on the race clock and realized that the elite runners had already finished the race! I imagined them crossing the finish line effortlessly, heading over to the beer tent for their post-marathon, St. Patty’s Day green beer, and then back to the media area to collect their $75,000 checks. I still had over two hours to run, I lost my wristband for my free green beer, and I doubted that the Asics team would be greeting me with a fat check. I started to drag. Yeah, it could have also been the hill that I was trying to climb, but once I started comparing myself to Deena Kastor, I was doomed. The more I compared myself to Deena, the slower I ran. Alas, I dug deep, got out of my head and back into my body, ready to conquer the next twelve miles.
I ran with gratitude and joy for four more miles. My body was good. Sure, I had tired feet, but a spectator’s sign reminded me that of course my “feet hurt because I was kicking so much butt!” Yes!
Then things started to get weird. Mile eighteen sucked. My calves felt like boulders, and with every stride I was certain that I’d poop right there in my skirt. And my cute, green, cotton thong panties were the worst idea I could have ever come up with. Running a sweaty 26.2 miles in a cotton thong leads to chafing in the most undesirable place. Ouch! I wondered why I thought running a marathon was a good idea in the first place. Why not just stop? I asked myself. Because I couldn’t. Because I had a goal. Because I trained to run this marathon, not walk it. Because my spreadsheet didn’t say quit if you’re feeling tired. Once again, I reset my thoughts, re-motivated myself, and kicked ass through mile nineteen until I ran straight into The Wall. Splat! Like a bug on a windshield.
Bricks are heavy
I spent the next 6.2 miles pushing bricks with my heavy, lead-filled legs. My quads were on fire, my hips in a vise. My feet screamed obscenities at me with every pound of the pavement. I turned left onto Ocean Avenue anxious to see the finish line. I looked and I looked. I rubbed my eyes and opened them again. There was no fucking finish line! Just people. More people. I was kind of getting sick of people. Especially the girl with the stupid, little, sparkly green hat that had been running in front of me for hours. Didn’t she know how ridiculous she looked? But mostly, I was getting sick of me. Where was the damn finish line? Would this thing ever end? I glued my eyes to the pavement and kept pounding. Thud. Thud. Thud. My legs kept running, but I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was actually moving. When I looked up again, I saw the big, orange finish line—the end was near. Or was it a mirage? My judgment was sketchy, at best. People cheered, yelled my name, “Finish strong, Debi!” And I knew that if someone had to tell me to finish strong, that I must look like I was dying. Hmmm . . . maybe I was.
I didn’t die! Yay!
In a surreal haze I crossed the finish line and walked aimlessly, looking around at all the faceless people, wanting nothing more than to lie down on the grass and sleep. And poop. I contemplated how sweet it was of all these people to come out and cheer us on and how rude it would be of me to shit in my skirt in front of them. Someone put a finisher’s medal around my neck then told me to follow the red arrows on the pavement where someone else told me to smile (fuck you), and took my photo.
Then I saw her: Gia came floating toward me. I think the first thing I said to her was “porta-potty.” She got me where I needed to go. We then reunited with our family to celebrate our accomplishments: I finished alive (at 4:42), and Gia not only BQ’d, but also PR’d** (at 3:32). Boom!
Are you addicted to marathons now?
I have been asked this question by so many people. No, I am not. I am hooked on the training though. In fact, I found the actual marathon itself a bit anti-climatic compared to the training. For months, I had taken my body to its limits, and dove deep into such unfamiliar territories as trust and endurance. Taking such good care of oneself with proper nutrition, sleep, hydration, and training, which included running, strength training, and yoga is an act of Self love. It was the ultimate commitment, which I look forward to continuing.
Today I started training for two half marathons in the spring. I’d then like to run a few 10k races to work on speed. I did briefly mention to Gia that I’d like to run the NYC marathon with her in 2014. And you know what happens when I say things like that to her . . . .*BQ=Boston qualify. The Boston marathon maintains specific qualifying times. **PR=Personal Record.
Okay, so I gotta know: Do you run with panties or go commando? And if you run long distances with panties, please share exactly what you wear.