DISCLAIMER: This is not about writing, and it is probably going to be lengthy, but I think you will still enjoy it and you might even find some inspiration from it. Also, I essentially wrote it in my head WHILE running a marathon with an injured leg. Also, there’s a liberal amount of profanity, here. And, now, without further ado…
Eleven years ago, I ran my first marathon–the Lewis & Clark marathon in St. Louis. It was the beginning of my “race career.” I figured “Well, might as well start off big, right?” I trained for three months in the summer heat and, even then, I had no idea what I was getting into. I finished somewhere around 4 hrs 30 minutes. It wasn’t the best experience, but it was still great.
Then, I had cheap running shorts, a cheap running shirt, cheap shoes, and a 2 GB iPod Nano hand-me-down. I brought no water or nutrition with me during the race.
Fast forward to 2018. I have excellent running gear, a phone, bluetooth earbuds, Gatorade, and sports nutrition food. I’ve matured in my running methodology.
Maybe not so much in my blatant disregard for my own health.
I’ll spare you the specific details. Let’s just say I had a marathon to run, and my left leg had been injured for a couple of months. I stayed off the leg (mostly) for those two months, eschewing any real marathon training in hopes that the leg would heal and I’d be able to power through the 26.2 miles.
When it came down to it, it wasn’t going to matter. I WAS going to not only participate in this marathon; I was going to FINISH it.
It was the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, OH, just a couple of days ago on May 6th. As expected, my leg was not near 100%. It still hurt a little and I knew that running on it would make it hurt more.
But I am stubborn, obstinate, foolish, and sometimes make terrible decisions. But I realized all of this going in, so there were no surprises! I knew the consequences, but, when running is involved, the word “quit” is not in my vocabulary. “Shit,” “damn,” and “fuck,” on the other hand…yeah, those are traditional lexicon for me. I had paid my money, I had signed up, and it was a seven hour drive. More than that, my wife was running–her first marathon. I was supporting her all the way. It’s much easier to train and stay focused when someone else is in it with you. Also, I didn’t want to be left out.
The drive to Cincinnati was uneventful. My in-laws and daughters were in one car and my wife and I were in the other. It was kind of like an escort mission in a video game–you know, where you have to stay close to someone and keep them from being killed by savage dung beetles or something. We felt the need to stick together.
Also, I hate escort missions. I usually have to reload my save a dozen times.
Anyway, hotel, check in, blah blah blah. There’s this thing about hotels that bewilders me. All of the budget hotels have far more amenities than the more expensive hotels. This I do not understand. Why is there no microwave in this room? We paid an arm and a leg for it!
Another side note. There was a Taco Bell less than a block from the hotel. This is significant because it is apparently THE MOST POPULAR LANDMARK ON THE PLANET. Why? Every time we asked directions, Taco Bell was mentioned.
“Well, turn left at the Taco Bell” or “You’ll want to head to Taco Bell and then hang a right…”
My wife’s phone even navigated us via the damned Taco Bell. “Turn right at Taco Bell. Your destination is on your right.” I crap you negative. It’s like this restaurant paid everyone, including Apple Maps, to become a significant landmark. I’ve never had a GPS give me directions based on a fast food restaurant…so terrible, but so tasty!
We hit the expo. The expo is HUGE. Like “this looks like a major convention” huge. There were so many booths, some of which were head-scratchers. What was Geico doing at a running event? Whatever, I guess. Got a nice blanket and a poster. I had no real use for any kind of souvenirs. There was only one souvenir that mattered. I did buy a magnet, though. More on that later.
Woke up ready to go. The leg was as good as it was going to ever be (without another month of rest). Breakfast consisted of coffee, an RX bar, and three Ibuprofen. Oh, and a healthy dose of “WTF have I gotten myself into?”
Fast Forward some more.
We had about a mile hike to the start line. Yes, we turned left at the Taco Bell. I am not even kidding you. We walked across the bridge and ended up outside of the stadium where the Cincinnati Bengals play. My youngest daughter calls them the Cincinnati Bagels. Upon seeing the stadium, I wanted a bagel. Probably a cinnamon crunch bagel, though, those are amazing. And the pumpkin spice bagels won’t be out until–wait, I’m off on a tangent.
It took 15 minutes for my corral (corral E) to get to the starting line. There were that many people in this race. It was a cool 55 degrees and the sun was just beginning to think about rising. Lazy ass sun. I’m out here, about to bust my ass with a busted leg and the sun is just all like “Hit ‘snooze’ please.”
I chose my Captain America running shirt, because that tends to be my go-to default. I’d brought Iron Man as well, just in case.
I love race day. I love the night BEFORE race day. It’s all amazing. I always soak it in and get lost in the moment. I tried to do that this time but, man, it’s really tough when you know that you have 26.2 miles to go and you’re not sure a) how long it’s going to take and b) if you’re going to be slithering or crawling over the finish line. But the starting line was there. I crossed it. No turning back.
“Hey, this feels pretty good!” I thought, after a mile. I sped up a bit. I was running a little more gingerly on my left leg, but it felt better than I thought it would. The three ibuprofen were doing their job. Another mile down. I apparently had no problems with my conditioning. I was running faster than I had intended and I felt great.
Another mile down. Another. Another. I was passing other runners! I passed two ladies in Wonder Woman running outfits. “On your left!” I joked, even though I was coming up on their right. I’m a dork, but most people get a chuckle out of it.
Except monsters who’ve never seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But they live a half life anyway.
The support along the route was great. People just show up to cheer on random strangers. They made signs an gave me high-fives and shouted words of encouragement at me. One guy yelled “Team Iron Man!” and I had to stop to beat the crap out of him. Just kidding. I saluted and grinned. He got a kick out of it. (I got his name and address and I’m sending Ant-Man over to kick his ass later.)
One guy was wearing Captain America outfit, complete with shield and a pig’s snout. I crossed all lanes of running traffic to give him a high-five. The scenery in a lot of areas was breathtaking. I wanted to stop and chill for a while, but I kept running.
I high-fived my daughters and in-laws, which gave me a huge boost of encouragement. (Their signs were awesome, by the way.)
The leg was still feeling amazing.
…until it wasn’t.
I was on borrowed time. I knew it would happen, but I didn’t know when. Around 10 miles, it started screaming at me. I took two more ibuprofen, a no-no unless four hours have passed. This was after less than two hours. But, as I’ve already established, I quite often make TERRIBLE decisions.
I run-walked the next three miles. Then I faced reality.
I had 13 miles left to go. My leg was done. It was pissed off and painful. Running was no longer an option.
“Fuck you, leg,” I said. Yes, I actually said this. “Suck it up. We’ve got 13 miles left.”
I walked. But here’s the thing. I desperately wanted to see my wife cross the finish line. I would have quit and taken an Uber to the finish line if I knew for sure I wasn’t going to make it. I had no idea where she was or how fast she was running. She started in a corral behind me, and I know I was making great time for the first 10 miles.
I sucked it up and walked as quickly as I could. And, by “walk,” I mean limped. My right leg bore most of the weight. After a couple of Runkeeper intervals, I realized I was probably walking 4-4.5 mph. I had three hours of this ahead of me, unless I was forced to slow down. Also, remember that lazy-ass sun? Yeah, it decided to show up…and cook everything. The temperature was rising quickly, and it was hot
I turned a corner and ran into a hill. This wasn’t just a hill. This was “Fuck You.” That’s what I named it. “Fuck You Hill.” Because that’s what I said the entire time I climbed it. Uphill hurt. Downhill hurt. Flat ground hurt. But uphill hurt the worst, and I was already tired. I uttered new and innovative profanities while climbing that hill, but I conquered it. “What’s next?” I asked. Terrible question.
Eventually, I was passed by the Wonder Women (who were kicking ass). They complimented me on my shirt.
A few small highlights:
- Someone brought a pig with them to watch. I saw either another pig or the same pig twice in two locations.
- At one point, bacon was handed out along the route. It was amazing.
- People were throwing Nerf footballs at us to catch. I failed to catch mine and yelled “It’s OK! I play for the Cleveland Browns!” which, thankfully, everyone thought was funny.
- Another group had Nerf basketballs and hoops set up. I did not score a basket.
Every time my left foot hit the ground, I uttered “fuck.” I racked up 50,000 steps during that marathon so, I figure, at least 20,000 were “fucks.” I liberally sprinkled some heavier metal songs into my playlist, which helped quite a bit, actually. But I was at about 20 miles in and I was beginning to realize just how bad a decision this was. Six miles was another hour and a half at least.
Have you ever been hot and cold simultaneously? Wanted to laugh and cry at the same time? That pretty much sums it up. I’d made it this far, but I still had far to go. The crowds along the route were thinning out, mostly due to the fact that the locations weren’t all that convenient. The air was hot, and my leg was screaming at me.
More ibuprofen. Didn’t do a thing for the pain, so I new that it had to be probably far worse than I was feeling. When it wore off, I’d see just how much damage was actually done.
“Just an hour and a half longer.”
Then “Just an hour and 25 minutes longer.”
I was counting down. But your mind plays silly games with you sometimes, after you’ve been at it for a long enough period of time. “What if your leg breaks or you simply can’t keep going? What then?” I told it to fuck off. But, man, my right leg was so sore from basically being the only functioning limb.
One group of people holding signs was fanning runners with the signs. It felt really good. I asked if they could just follow me the rest of the way. They said they couldn’t.
4.2 miles left. For me, that’s not a lot in terms of running. In terms of walking, though, it’s an eternity. It’s about another hour.
In every race, there is an overwhelming feeling of elation when you finally see the finish line. It gives you an indescribable burst of energy and confidence. Even the most fatigued runner finds it within them to suck it up and sprint that last distance. Often they scream in triumph or cry or laugh or whatever. I think I felt all of that at once.
I couldn’t sprint. I wasn’t even sure if I could run. I galloped. I moved my ass that last tenth of a mile and I galloped across the finish line with my two daughters and my in-laws cheering me on, screaming at me.
And that, right there, made it all worth it. I was hot, exhausted, and in immeasurable pain, but I finished. Of course, it’s not encouraging when three medical staffers immediately rush over and ask if you’re OK. I must have looked terrible. I shrugged them off and slowly walked toward the wall of people holding medals. They slipped one over my neck and, I actually can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure I cried.
And swore. A lot. Quitting wasn’t an option. I would’ve preferred to have actually RUN a majority of this race, but this medal means a whole lot to me for more reasons than simply “I ran another marathon.”
An hour and a half later, I was cheering and screaming as my wife crossed the finish line. I realized, at that moment, that seeing her finish meant more to me than anything else. I’m so proud of her. Even if she reads this, she’ll still never know.
I got my souvenir. It’s the only souvenir that matters, and I love it. Yes, the other side is the pig’s face. I prefer it’s butt. Why are you surprised?
We conquered. Pigs Have Wings!
I had expected this blog post to be funnier. It was HILARIOUS when I wrote it while running…and swearing a lot. I’d do this race again. I would NOT do this race again with an injured leg.
As for the medal, it sits on the wall, capping off 11 years of running various races.
In case you’re curious, I’ve been icing the leg and it’s currently in a boot. I made one terrible decision, but I know better than to make TWO.
Oh, and here’s the magnet. The back of my car appears to be made mostly out of plastic, which is great if I’m trying to back over Magneto. Otherwise, this was the only location it would stick.