February 5, 2007

A marathon starts at mile 0

Tonight, my mom, sweet mom, asked me, "How long was the marathon you ran?" "Ummm... 26.2 miles." "Wow. That's a long marathon." "Ummm... Mom. All marathons are 26.2 miles." "Oh. Really? Well, now I know. You learn something new every day. I'm so proud of you."

Anyways, I'm alive. My mom is proud. E is proud. Many of my friends have let me know that they are proud. I beat an 86 year old man by at least 2 minutes, so I'm proud [grin]. Also, I didn't expect the marathon itself to be so fun. I must say, I have become a complete and total convert. Assuming I recover, there will be another one on the schedule for the winter.

I worship the ground that Hal Higdon walks/jogs/runs on and recommend that everyone who wants to experience a *pleasant* marathon read Marathon--The Ultimate Training Guide. I read it last year in prep for the marathon that wasn't and I read it again this year. I attribute my lack of injuries, my ability to complete the entire race relatively pain free at slightly better than my targeted pace, and my physical stamina (read: I did NOT hit the wall) during the race to following the advice in this book.

The focus on a *pleasant* marathon is huge, in my opinion. I saw too many people on that course who were breathing much too hard, grunting, limping, etc. They did not appear to be enjoying themselves. Sure, professional athletes sacrifice their short term physical well-being for the sport. But that's their JOB. This, you crazy runners, is supposedly your HOBBY. I mean, let's be honest, if I saw you at any point on the course, you were never in contention for the winner's circle. So you might as well slow down to the pace where you can enjoy yourself.

To pass the time, I dedicated some of the miles to various people. I did my best to spend the mile thinking about that person and having an imaginary conversation with them while they ran to my right as we talked about happy shared memories, and I imagined what they would think of what I was seeing and feeling on the course during that mile.

I offered up miles to some people and let them pick. E chose mile 7. His rationale? "I want something easy, near the front, so that at the end you don't finish and look at me with hatred saying, 'YOU! Your mile SUCKED!'" So, he picked 7. At 6.15 miles I realized it was already the 7th mile and that I should be appreciating E and thinking about him and how he'd like this portion of the race. Instead, all I could think of was E's take on zero-index vs. one-index and how it was proper that I realize that like all proper arrays, the miles in a marathon start at zero, not mile 1.

At mile 11, I started the imagination phase of the race. Grandpa Jack. I hadn't spent a long time thinking about him in quite some time. He passed away when I was 12. He was a math and logic guy. I imagined talking with him about my practice of law and how it was both verbal and something that math and logic guy would enjoy.

I had Grandpa Jack hand me off to Grandma Mary. She was never one to exercise much, so I imagined her making light of my predicament. I imagined telling her that she was one of the more zen people I ever knew and that the older I got, the more I was seeking this state of mind. I imagined asking her for some guidance. At just this point, the barefoot runner Ken Bob ran buy and smiled at me, telling me to have a good race. Ask and ye shall receive...

Grandma Mary handed me off to mom. Sweet mom. I imagined her babbling at me with overflowing love and affection, discussing everything and anything that occurred to her to get me through all of mile 13. And then it was the half.

JayKay got mile 14 and waited for mom to say goodbye in my imagination before she busted out with, "I've got one word for you: Caribou!" This is not funny to anyone except us. But, like JayKay in real life, my imaginary JayKay made me laugh for an entire mile with memories of crying at the McDonald's commercial during the Olympics, pouring wine over a baseball player, true friends will gag each other, blowfish on the windows, mookie rike, and stadiums, lots of stadiums.

Mile 15 I spent chilling with AS. It was a slightly tough mile, but AS is tough and together we laughed at the hill and what people were slowly starting to get quite frustrated about.

Mile 16 I spent imagining myself alongside nish. Unfortunately, I didn't have to imagine the watch of a canadian woman that liked to buzz, beeb, and ring like a bad cell phone every 15 to 30 seconds. It was horrid. I hated the noise. It started to really annoy me and in my mind, Nish agreed. So I took off at a faster pace and left the watch-woman in the dust.

Mile 17 I spent imagining myself running with AIW. I slowed the pace because he would want me to be slow and steady (also, I was exhausted from mile 16 with nish). Unfortunately, the watch-woman returned. I imagined AIW was as annoyed as me, so we picked up the pace and left the watch noises behind.

Mile 18 was my niece. Ironically, it was also the first mile where there were children stationed to cheer you on. All sorts of young, adorable, bright, shiny, loud, enthusiastic, high-five giving children. I could not help but think that my niece would be happy amongst those kids. And I also imagined how great it would be to have my child-niece's legs at this point.

Mile 19 was my bro. I imagined him starting the mile by telling me I was crazy but that he was proud of me, none-the-less. Then, all the cheering people on the course were young baseball players with unkept hair and breaking voices. They reminded me of him in his youth and almost made me teary with nostalgia. They were so sincere and enthusiastic in their cheering for us, it was amaazing.

Mile 20 was my sis. Again, my imagination kicked in and made the experience more fun. Mile 20 was full of gangly teen-age girls, most of whom yelled cheers at the runners. They all reminded me of my sister when she was their age. Beautiful. Long-limbed. Like giraffes. Or Colts. Only yelling at you to run faster in a way that is adorable and inspirational.

At the end of mile 20, I stopped to walk for gu and imagined a chat with A, to whom I'd promised mile 21. She's mentioned that in her marathon mile 21 was approximately where she started dedicating miles to the body parts that hurt the most. I imagined a conversation with her where I was honest about how much my knees hurt, but also, admitted that overall, I was holding up nicely.

Mile 22 was H. I imagined her, like my brother, laughing at my craziness. But, I also imagined her expecting me to run up the hill. After all, I was crazy.

Mile 23 was lucky_girl. There were hills. I could hear her voice saying, "I *hate* hills." I imagined myself coaxing her up the hills for the entire mile. It worked.

Mile 24 was R. Lucky_girl hung out in my imagination for a brief 3-person imaginary run. Then, it was just R and me. I imagined telling R about the girl with labored breathing from lucky_girl's mile who kept catching up to me and then falling behind. I heard her approaching again and turned to her, saying, "What pace are you shooting for?" She GLARED at me. Then, she took off her fuel belt/water bottle carrier and threw it at the nearest house to her left. It hit the house with a large bang. Immediately, R's voice in my head shouted,

Fuck that shit. You don't need her. Let's dust that bitch.

Hilarious! First, if you know R, she'd never actually say this unless it was a joke. Second, who says "dust" to mean go fast? Anyways, this got me to speed up so much that I never saw this girl again. Sweet!

Mile 25 was Miss E. I started the mile imagining telling her how much I appreciated having a running buddy. Then, a group of 4 women runners caught up to me. They made room for me. The were clearly using me as a pacer, but unlike bitter-one-who-threw-water, they silently welcomed me into their group. After 8 minutes or so, we started to drift apart. They had a group commitment and one of their members was slowing. So they all slowed. They were much more committed to staying with one another than being a minute or two faster. I thought this was a very appropriate thing to experience on E2's mile since both of us have done races where we finished with the other person because we wanted to, regardless of whether we could have gone faster.

Mile 26 was dad. I was scared. A few times prior to this mile, I'd thought of him and started to cry-breathe. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my imagination brought the dad of the soccer side lines. Immediately, after I imagined him saying hello and commenting on the gorgeous southern CA weather, I could hear him saying, "see that girl with the ponytail? You'd better pass her." And then, "that guy over there? He's just asking to be passed." Mile 26 was fast. And difficult.

Mile 26.2 was gran. She's been through more in her lifetime than I can imagine. So, I thought it fitting that I dedicate my last few feet of the race to her. It's kind of silly to think about not having the willpower to finish the last 1/5 of a mile when you're thinking about everything the 80-year-old mother to your recently passed away father has been through. So I thought of her and then crossed the finish line in a state of glorious, triumphant, huge-grin, numbness to physical pain.

I did it, AND I spent time imagining and revisiting relationships that are important to me. It was a great weekend.

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