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stories >> 1998 - 02 - 01

Half Marathon

      A word of warning: Prodigy was cool enough to provide a few .rams of their songs, but they weren't cool enough to make them stream. So you still have to download a big fat file (169K for "Bitch" and a whopping 640K for "Breathe") if you're interested in getting the sound effects. And if you need to, go ahead and get real.

Huge, 42K racemap gif.  Let it load.

3M Half Marathon
Februaray 1, 1998
Austin, TX

13.1 miles

Official time:
2 hours, 20 mins (and change).

Big Al Watch Chrono Time:
2 hours, 18 mins (and change).
Y'see, I started my watch when I crossed the line.

Map created with mapquest and photoshop, natch.

      I'll admit straight off that I had a secret this weekend. I ran a 1/2 marathon. I didn't tell anyone because I was worried... y'know... what if I don't finish...

      It came about on Thursday when I started thinking, "Hmmm, I had a lot of fun running in that 5 mile Turkey Trot last Thanksgiving. I wonder if Runtex has a web site listing races that are coming up soon." So I took a stab at the URL and tried www.runtex.com, and I immediately popped up their fine site. A click or two more, and I was looking at the schedule of races for the next few months. There were quite a few five K's, and the big Motorola Marathon coming up on the 15th, but I saw that today there was the 3M 1/2 Marathon, kind of a warm up for the big show. "1/2 Marathon?" I thought. "I've never heard about anything like this..."
      So I checked out the 1/2 Marathon website, and started thumbing through it. I kept thinking, "Y'know, I've never run more than 7 miles in a row before." But as I scrolled around, I saw that they had a special division called "Clydesdale" for men 200+lbs and women 150+lbs. I thought "Clydesdale" sounded a lot better than "Big Fat Man" division, and I got really really stoked. I turned around to Jeff and mentioned it. "Do you think I could run a 1/2 Marathon, my man?" Jeff helpfully grunted something I took for assent, and I decided that I would sign up for it.
      I hopped over to Runtex on Friday, dropped my $30, told them I wanted to be a Clydesdale. The guy behind the counter looked at me with surprise. "You want to be a Clydesdale?" he repeated inanely. Yeah, dude. Aren't there any other Clydesdales? "Well, I wouldn't say that there are hundreds of you guys..." Yeah, cool. Whatever. So they make me weigh in to prove that I'm a Big Fat Clydesdale (I ask the guy if they have problems with people trying to sneak in to the division. He just kind of looks at me.), and then I'm off with a packet of random 3M products: Scotchgard, Post-Its, sponges, blah blah blah. Coolo burrito.
      So I hide the bag of stuff in my car, sneak back in to work, go out with Jeff for a beer at Waterloo, trade broken down car stories with the old hippy Colorado couple sitting next to us, and then I'm off home to bed and to read through my race packet.
      The next day, I get up to drive the course through. I'm looking at the map, and it looks like the miles are not at all the same distance. I'm pretty confused until I see the "map not to scale" written at the bottom; seems like the 3M guys wanted their groovy map to fit into this arbitrary running shoe shape. So on the map, the first four miles are all scrunched up into the ball of the shoe shape, and the last four miles stretch from the arch to the heel. Hmmm. I'll go back to work and make a new map later, with the unknowing help of the folks at mapquest.
      So I'm driving around, and "yes" Jennifer, that was me you saw up on Jollyville. At one stoplight, a woman pulls up next to me in her Rav4 and I see that she's also reading the map. I honk at her and point to my map. She rolls down her window and tells me that she's really lost and would I mind if she follows me? No problem, and we toodle through Mesa, Far West, and all the way down to Lamar before she waves good bye and takes off.
      Driving the course, I'm a little worried about the middle. Miles 6 through 9 go along a frontage road to the highway, and then on into a long straight boring stretch. The first six miles are through an interesting residential area, and the last four miles run right by my apartment and follow almost exactly the route that I bike/walk/drive to work. So I try to think of things to keep me cool through there, but nothing's really coming. Hmmm.
      Later on Saturday, I stop by Liz and Jason's, we watch some Discovery show on lightning, eat a light dinner (spinach and potatoes), and then I go home. Jason's a little surprised that I don't want anything to drink (ha! The secret was still in!), but he's cool with that and gives me some Blue Sky Cherry Vanilla Creme soda thing. Uh, thanks, I've got to go.
      So back on home, the race starts at 7:30, I set my alarm for 6:00, settle in, and don't sleep a wink all night long.

      Day of the race. I keep looking at my watch, so I go ahead and get up at 5:45. I take a shower, put on the clothes that I had laid out the night before, and start drinking water. I'll down four cups before I go out the door. I slap band aids onto the parts of me that chafe (mmm... Julie knows about this... in fact, there was a specific warning in the race literature about the chafe...), and it's only 6:10. The last thing I want to do is stand around the parking lot for 45 minutes, so I pull out the Prodigy CD to start getting psyched up. I eat my first Stoker bar and listen to four songs over and over: Narayan, Climbatize, Breathe , and the politically incorrect but oh-so-aggro Smack My Bitch Up. I eat the second Stoker bar, crank the Prodigy, and just look into the mirror and holler at myself "WHO'S BAD?! WHO'S THE MAN?!" and all other kinds of shit.
      By 6:50, I'm ready to rip the doors off and I'm rolling out the door. I've slipped a Stoker bar down each thigh, just in case I need some power during the race, and I've packed up a dry change of clothes. I figure I still have lots of time, so I actually drive the speed limit on to the starting line, find a place to park, and start walking around. It's about 55, cloudy, a little misty. Great running weather. Everyone around me is running, running, running, and I start to get a little intimidated. I mean, all these SOB's look like real runners. I wonder what my big Clydesdale self is doing out here. Then I see the wheelchair guys, in their sweet space age racing wheel chairs, and I start getting stoked again. How kick ass. How completely bad ass.
      I'm shivering, so I walk around a little more and listen to the obnoxious announcer. "Please get behind to starting line!" and "You people in the porta-poddies, hurry up! There's a huge line!" and "Only fifteen minutes before the start of the race!" and "There are TWENTY FIVE HUNDRED OF YOU HALF MARATHONERS OUT THERE!!!" They give the obligatory 3M speech, a quick prayer, the National Anthem, and then the wheelchair riders line up for their 7:30 start. I run to the front of the crowd so that I can see them go. As the horn blows, and about a dozen folks on their sweet sleds take off. How cool. How kick ass.
      By now, I'm going crazy from the excitement. I run back to the back of the pack (I figure this Clydesdale ain't beating anybody for time), and the horn goes off. They start playing that "Move your booty on the dance floor" song, everybody's rocking back and forth, and then we're at the starting line, and then I'm over it, and I'm running my first half marathon. Omigod. Omigod. I have to consciously throttle back and not try to run past everyone I see. By the time we're out of the parking lot, I settle into my 10 minute pace. I'll manage to keep it throughout the entire run.
      One of my plans was to keep track of each mile and try to correlate them to the months of the year. I figured, 12 months, 13 miles, close enough. I think of "January, time of resolutions" and "February, time of new beginnings" -- like running 13 miles -- and of course "April, the cruelest month." I laugh to think that the hard part of the course correlates somewhat to "August and everything after." Anyway, I give this up pretty quickly, and the only one that I think was any good was that I thought that the last mile was like December, the month of finally coming home.
      So on and on and everything's just fitting into place. I grab the water at the stops while I'm still running and feel like I'm pretty cool. At one stop, they're out of cups, so I just slam my head through the stream they have coming out of the hose as I run by. Some high school's band is out playing marches, some group of VFW accordion players are out, some fella's playing "Chariot of Fire" on his bagpipes, random families are cheering everyone on, some old fella out on Mesa tells us as we pass, "Got a good looking bunch here. All the ugly people are up front!" You keep track of the people who are more or less around you, and you keep on running.
      The only strong thoughts I remember having were around mile 6, when for some reason a wide space had opened on either side of me. I thought about how much I enjoy running by myself. The occasional run with other folks is good, but when I'm really training and sticking it down, I don't want to be talking or thinking, I just want to be running. I start thinking that it's like going off into the desert... and I start thinking, "Yeah, the Desert of Pain." I like that. The Desert of Pain and the Angel of Pain. Alan wrestled an angel and the angel was overcome. On the far side of the pain, there's just clarity and peace and forgetfulness and emptiness.
      And endorphins. Heheh.
      So I make it through the first nine miles and decide I should eat a Stoker. I'm not lacking energy, but I figure I'll follow the ski axiom, "Eat before you get hungry." It's really nauseating to try to eat these things while you're moving. But I push through it, and choke down 3/4 of a bar, which takes up another mile, and by then I have my first bout of walking. I end up walking once during each of the last three miles.
      But finally, we're cruising down Lamar, and it's less than a mile, and I can't really believe that I'm 200 yards away from finishing. Again, I want to just break out and run on in, but the people around me are the same ones I've been looking at more or less for the past four miles, and I feel kind of weird trying to ditch them now. So I catch up with one of the women in front of me and tell her "I'm sticking with you." She says something back, but neither of us are listening to each other, and turn the corner and enter the chute at the exact same time.
      Unbelievable. Give me a glass of water.
      I walk around for ten or fifteen minutes, and just look at all the crazy mad people who just did this crazy mad thing with me. They're out of little "I Finished" medals, but you can put your name on a list and they'll mail you one. I stand in line for a few minutes, but then I think, "Big Al, what the hell are you going to do with a medal like this?" So I go off to the bus, catch it back up to the Arboretum, and chant Narayan the whole way. I get back to my car, stiff and cold from the bus ride, and I put on that dry shirt and it feels just like heaven.


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