Mini Marathon Junkie

In a family of runners, I am a runner by default.
I’ve been an off-and-on runner for about 15 years. I ran track & cross country in high school and loved it.
I continued distance running in college and beyond because it offered me a bit of an escape, a chance to turn my brain off and just go.
The past few years have provided little time for training or luxury runs, so I squeeze them in where I can.

Let me start by saying: I LOVE the Mini Marathon.
I love that my entire family comes hurtling into town to run this race together.
I love knowing we’ll have a huge dinner and endless growlers of beer and bottles of wine both before and after the race.
I love the 40,000 people that come crushing into my city to run the largest half-marathon in the country.
I love the thousands of beach balls that are launched into the corrals a half an hour before the race begins.
I love the wave of adrenaline that comes crashing across you, speeding up your pulse, when the gun goes of.
I love cresting the top of a hill, and running backwards for a few steps to see the thousands of people behind me.
I love the thousands of people I will beat to the finish line.
I love crossing the finish line and the sense of completion it brings.
I love the Chocolate Chip Cookies that St. Francis Volunteers pass out in handfuls after the race.
I love the salt of the potato chips as I scarf an entire bag post-race.
The running part?
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with running.
It pretty much alternates. With each step.

My training this year has been…lackluster at best.
My long runs were averaging 8-ish miles.
And by 8-ish I really mean that’s what I told everyone when really they averaged more like 5-ish. On a good day.
So, for your amusement, here’s my [abridged] thought process through Saturday’s 13.1:

Mile One: I feel good. The wind is making my eyes tear up as we jog by the Eiteljorg, the NCAA Hall of Fame, The Zoo. Not as many people sprint for the tree line as usual. On a hot day you can see a solid line of guys dropping trow in the first 1000 feet.

Mile Two: It’s SO EFFING COLD OUT! My muscles never warm up until the second or third mile, but this year I think it might take a little bit longer… I stop at the first water station and take a few sips, but don’t stop. Not yet. So glad I wore the arm warmers and a technical on top. Oh! Looking! Elvis is running. Isn’t that nice?

Mile Three: Picking out my favorite shirts helps to pass the time. The runners back in my coral enjoy chit-chatting. We’re not pros. we’re here for the experience. I meet a nice girl who’s done this the past few years and we joke that we’re both ready for a beer. There’s a couple running together with read shirts that read “First Timer” in iron on letter across the back. The girl’s T is crooked.

Mile Four: I feel great. I stop at the water stop and take my time sipping my way to the bottom of the dixie up and keeping up a good clip on my ‘race walk’ (how I justify stopping here & there. As in: “It’s okay…it’s a race walk!”). Pick the pace back up. Wave as friendly-beer girl trucks on by. Catch up with Crooked-T First timer. Flash a smile at the Elvi (There’s two of them now). These are my people. I take a deep breath. I can do this. I get to do this. I think about my stride and about how I only have nine miles to go. Wait. Nine miles? Shit. I falter a step. Oops. Wrong thing to think.

Mile Five: I’m still feeling good, so i take it all in stride. I’m impressed with the changes to Main Street. I don’t drive out to Speedway often, but the roads are newly refinished and there’s cute little benches and shrubbery lining the street. WTF? When did this happen? I’ve got to get out more. We round the corner onto 16th street and the Track looms above us. Giant Chik-Fil-a cows line the streets. I high fived a couple, chuckling. I asked one if he had any free samples and I can hear the people behind me laugh. I feel good.

Mile Six: I’m still running. What the hell is going on here? I should take a break but I make myself run to the turn. I see hoardes of people exiting the track out of the corner of my eye and secretly hate them all. They’re two and a half miles ahead of me. I cut little deals with myself. If you run to the corner, you can walk for 20 steps… if you run through the straightaway you can stop and stretch your calves on pit wall. If you run past these annoying cheerleaders you don’t have run hear that Flintstone song EVER again…

Mile Seven: I start to slow near the Pagoda but see all the cameras flashing ahead of me. Pride’s a funny thing. I pick up the pace. I specifically do NOT smile at the cameras. But I might stop grimacing and fix my posture so that little bit of stomach I’ve been developing the past few months disappears.

Mile Eight: Good God. Are we STILL on the track?

Mile Nine: We exit the track. I grab a gatorade from the cutest volunteer I’ve seen all day and wish, for a heartbeat that I was one of those girls that didn’t turn red and splotchy when she ran. I wish I didn’t have beads of sweat on my top lip, matting down those wispy hairs on my temples and running down into my sports bra. I’m not warm mind you. I’m just sweating. In the cold. It is NOT pleasant.

Mile Ten: I get passed by a 10-year-old. FML. T

Mile Eleven: I have to pee. again. And against my better judgement I hop into an unsteady-looking port-a-potty alongside the road. I squat and the damn thing sways like a drunken sailor. I pray. LIke I’ve never prayed before. “Dear God, please, please, please don’t let this port-a-potty tip over. I don’t think I could ever live that down. And I certainly couldn’t finish the race. Please Please Please. Amen.” I dash out of that thing as if the fires of hell were in there. Which, I mean, honestly? That’s kind of what it smelled like.

Mile Twelve: This is cruel. I used to be able to see the finish line from here. But someone decided NOT to erect the giant black-and-white-checkered finish line banner this year. People are dropping like flies. My knees and my quads are on fire. I hate my life. I remember a documentary I saw about the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and how the sailors that had been floating in the water for days said that the scariest part of the entire ordeal was when they saw the helicopters finally approach to save them.The fact that they were so close to being rescued and that something could still go wrong terrified these men like no other. Suddenly, I understand. Where is the damn finish line?

Mile Thirteen: Where in the HELL is the finish line? Next year. I’m training. Really. I mean I know I said it last year, but this year I really mean it.