Derby Marathon – Saturday April 30th
Flying Pig Marathon – Sunday May 1st.
Two marathons in two days…. what kind of person does that? What kind of crazy do you have to be to think this is a fun or good idea?
I got asked that question a lot going into the weekend. My answer bordered on a joking tone, as I would comment that I wasn’t sure that I could answer in a way that would prove I wasn’t crazy. After all. I don’t actually have a good reason for doing beyond, “Well. I signed up accidentally for both of them and now I have some friends joining me…so….yeah…”
The Derby was set for Saturday. And the weather for the whole weekend was set to pour and storm.
Our group headed down in waves. One guy was pacing the marathon, and so had certain events he had to attend the day before. I rode down with the other women, my friend Dianne, who was going to pace her friend through a 5 hour first marathon, offered to ride and hotel room and I was in. The guys rode down together, and had an interesting stay in a local college guy’s apartment.
The expo was strange, for sure. We buzzed through quickly because we were about an hour behind the guys and they were holding a table at a restaurant for us… by drinking… and the messages were getting a little more desperate the longer we took. We were forced to wind through the tightly organized expo maze and shops, under the guise of needing to “activate our timing chips”, but there was no official place to do so.
Dinner was a riot for us, as we relived memories from our trip to run the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon a couple years ago. From the sleepless night, the uncomfortable cots, and the ground-breaking revelations about toe socks to the jokes while on the run – we laughed ourselves into tears. And then came the major discovery of the night….the race route:
“Tomorrow, I will attempt to use my GPS to draw a penis on Louisville… or, you know, run the Derby Marathon route” – I posted to social media. Yes. The route for the race looked like a very sickly, knobbly penis. This brought all of us no end to entertainment as we ran the route the next day.
Waking up Saturday morning was a blur of sleepiness, grumps, and race nerves. I didn’t sleep too well – between a snoring in the room, the extra loud AC unit typical to hotel rooms, and the noise outside the window from prom (?? I guess??). When the alarms went off early that morning, I rolled to turn it off and was instantly bombarded with conversation… in my sleepy state, this made no sense. No human speaks before coffee. Dianne to the rescue with the recommendation to snooze button for a few, but the conversation started up instantly again the minute the alarm went off…. something about bagels and coffee… there were bagels, where wasn’t coffee… I think… I dunno. Sleeeeeep.
I begrudged my way through the morning ritual. It wasn’t raining, and the weather looked promising that we would have a couple hours to run without the storm.
Finding parking was easier than waking up. Everything was pay-to-park, and a block’s difference made the price $5 instead of $10. We met up with everyone but the pacer at their car and Jim managed to find a “secret bathroom” that was not a porta-potty (or an alley) and had no wait. We had plenty of time and had time to graffiti ourselves before heading into the masses to try and find a couple other people.
Pretty quickly after entering the crowds along the road behind the start line, we got separated. Dianne and her friend went on ahead and were gone quickly, Paul took off to find someone else, and Jim and I were left wandering slowly toward the back of the crowds without any real purpose. We eventually agreed to abandon our search for the others and join the throng slowly pulsing toward the start now. From where we stood, we couldn’t see the start line. We chatted and joked with some people around us, and photo bombed a bunch of other people’s photos. And then we were all surging forward at a walk….the assumed start of the race.
10 minutes passed before we crossed the start line. Jim and I kept an easy lope, agreeing to hold back and keep it easy so we would have energy for the next day’s marathon as well.
Miles felt long during the start of this race…and again at the end. It’s not that they really were longer than a mile, but I was struggling to keep myself interested in moving. Occasionally I would burst out some lines of a song, like “staying alive” or “Brick House”. Only once did some of the runners around me join in. I pointed out to some runners near by that the race course was a penis, and encouraged them to stare uncomfortably at the one guy near-by that was actually wearing the race shirt.
Mile 4.6 the rain started. Just a couple of droplets…but the actual rain followed quickly.
Eventually, my nerves got the better of me and I needed to pee again, but each porta potty area was plagued with long lines. I figured I would wait until the half and the full split, since that would significantly cut the number of runners on the course. It wasn’t until we got to Church Hill Downs, the horse track, that I would get relief. Feeling lighter, we circled the inner track of the landmark for the Derby. This is pretty much the best part of this race route! The horses were all out, even in the rain, being ridden along the actual track while we ran past.
Back on the course, we found ourselves catching up with Paul as he made a pit stop of his own. We hollered at him, but he didn’t hear us. We didn’t see him again throughout the course. It wasn’t long after this that we split from the half course and turned away from down town on a very long flat straightaway. It was like we ran forever. Around mile 11 or so, we saw the lead runners coming back, making it look effortless and so easy that I felt stupid for feeling like I was struggling.
But I was struggling. Now, not only did I feel too tired for running, but my stomach was starting to feel upset too. I made a few more pit stops along the run, and felt stupid for having to do so. Thank gawd Jim was willing to walk and slow down to wait for me to catch up. This kept up through the rest of the race.
The turn around for the marathon is a big loop (Or the head of the penis, if you prefer following along with that imagery) through this park. I’ve heard of this park, because it’s what all the runners bemoan. Because it’s a bit hilly. And it is. It’s lovely rolling hills that switch back and forth as they wind around the trees and landscape. It’s akin to running anywhere else in central Kentucky. Green, winding, and hilly. It was the most entertaining part. Jim fell back some at one point, and I was talking toward him over my shoulder, yelling practically so he could hear me.
“You keep getting ahead of me people are going to think you’re talking to them…. or yourself!” He yelled at me at one point.
“I am talking to myself! It just helps that you’re responding!” I called back over my shoulder as I passed a runner. The guy took his earbud out and said, “What?” looking all concerned. I heard Jim laughing as his point was proven.
“Don’t worry about it. You just proved what my friend was saying about me.”
“Oh. I thought you were my wife talking at me. She sounds just like you.”
And with that, I suddenly had a race husband. He would pass us, and we would pass him throughout the rest of the race, and he would always have a snarky or encouraging thing to say. I did meet his wife, in the last three miles. She was running him in to the finish line.
Coming out of the park we got one of the few and far -between doses of crowd support and entertainment. A small drum line set up in a bus stop. I know it’s hard, when its raining and pouring, to get entertainment and crowds along a race – and I don’t know if this race usually has a lot of crowd support or not – but it was so sparse on this day. The drum line was a welcome distraction. They drummed us out of the park and we began the long straight, flat run (along the shaft) back toward downtown.
The miles prior, and throughout the park, were barely noticeable. As the route stretched before us, the distance began to feel so long again. Jim and I continued to recite portions of songs we knew. As we rejoined with the half marathon course (for a short while before breaking off again), Jim began a dramatic recitation of Gilligan’s Island that had the half marathon crowd rolling with laughter and cheering.
We are our own entertainment.
Well. Us. And the people we engaged in conversations with while we ran.
One woman told us that she was running the race in honor of her “pappy”, who died recently. He was a streak runner for the half marathon. She wore his streaker shirt in tribute. Miles later, near the end, we would come up on her walking and struggling. As I came up beside her, I cheered her Pappy’s name and yelled “Go! Go for Frank!” Jim cheered and clapped at her. She brightened instantly and yelled, “thank you!” to us as we passed.
I knew that the marathon course would break off again, instead of going straight toward the finish (After all, gotta run that “second testie” in the design), but when it happened, it was disheartening. Prior to turning away from the finish, I. Could. Hear. It. Yes. I heard the cheering and the announcer – and I just wanted so badly to be there!
Around mile 17-18 I started to tighten up a lot, and I was feeling the pain in my ankles and hip. And. I was still feeling “off” with my stomach. I don’t know what was causing it, but it wasn’t helping me get through the race. As we made the long loop away from the finish area I was struggling. I think Jim was too, a bit, as he started slowing down more.
In the final 4 miles, I tried to keep with Jim as much as possible, but I was struggling with my mental game. It was a battle between “keep running” and “fuck it, just walk the rest of this”. In order to keep from walking, I started distracting myself by thinking about…just…stuff. My Mom (“Hey, Mom, look, it’s your idiot daughter running in the rain today“). My work and upcoming job interviews (“Please, please, please let me get this one. Please don’t make me go back.”). And the general concept of happiness (“Does this rainy and miserable-feeling run really constitute happiness to me? Yes. But… Why? Exactly?”). As I would lose myself in my thoughts, I’d pull away and ahead of Jim. And when I would snap out of them and look around, I’d feel like a jerk for essentially ditching the friend who went out of his way to wait for me all those pit stops.
By the last 3 miles, the rain was coming down hard, in sheets, and flooded the streets and my shoes. I would wait for Jim under any dry overpass or bridge that came up. We would take off together, but it was obvious in these last annoyingly rough miles, the run was very much individual for us.
I got passed, and re-passed, my “race husband” a couple more times in the last mile of the race. I shook hands with a guy that was running to train for his Ironman coming up (We chatted during the miles in the park, but he got ahead of me, until this last mile). And then I made the final two turns. At last! Taking the downhill street heading for the river and the finish line. “If you hit the river, you’ve gone too far” my head told me. Heh. I didn’t have anything left to run beyond the finish line. I struck a strut-pose at the finish and turned to wait for Jim to cross as well. I was soaked. I was starting to shiver. My stomach still hurt. My ankles hurt. I was finished.
My outlook toward the Flying Pig the next day was….well…I figured it was a non-starter. “There are plenty of races in May. You don’t have to break yourself doing that one.” My inner voice told me. I was taking account of all my aches and how difficult walking was, as Jim and I wound through the finish area to collect snacks and start the long, painful, walk to the car.
Our group managed to find each other at the car, and we went our separate ways for getting cleaned up. As I showered, as I chowed through a great burger before riding home, as I dozed in painful agitation on the car ride home, and especially while I toughed it through my first ice bath ever – all I could think was that there was no way I could wake up and do another marathon. I was broken. I was done. I was wiped out. I could barley move around my home, there was no way I could cover the wide expanse of 26.2 miles covering the hilly City of Cincinnati. No. Way.
I choked down some Advil. Toughed out a half-assed ice bath. Rolled my quads and calf (very gently) on the foam roller. All while questioning if it was worth trying. After all, “no one really expected me to actually do it. I’m a failure after all”.
But I’m not a complete failure.
I’ve just failed a lot in a couple of things lately.
But I wasn’t failing at that moment.
In that moment, the night between races, I was halfway finished.
I was…well, achieving.
I just had to…show up.
And I would.
I’d show up.
I’d at least try it for enough miles to see if I was making things worse or if I could get as far as possible before I had to break down to crawling.
I had an escape plan, if the run wasn’t going to work out.
I went to sleep that night secretly hoping that my alarm wouldn’t go off, or that we’d turn it off and forget that we needed to leave…and “oops“, I would miss the marathon.
I woke up though, on time. And things that morning, and that race, went in completely different directions than anticipated.
Click here to jump directly to the Flying Pig Marathon Race Recap!
Find out if our heroine made it to the start line. Find out which superhero she had to defeat. Find out if she got past the last miles or if she called in the plan B ‘bailout’.