I'm currently training for a marathon. I tell my friends it will be my first "real" marathon. In fact I'm kind of vague on the point.
I often don't mention that I've already done a marathon. Why? Because it was embarrassing.
I ran the Lake Placid marathon with my brother, Alex. And we were brutally under-prepared.
But here I am writing about it publicly. We all start somewhere. Some of us are smart and run hard and long before we even think about doing a marathon. And some of us are idiots (like me), who jogged a couple of miles and thought a marathon would be no big deal.
FYI, yes, it is a big deal.
Alex and I had actually run the Lake Placid half marathon the year before (in 2011). We enjoyed the beauty of the Adirondacks, drank a bunch of local beer, ran 13 miles (slowly), drank a bunch more beer, and considered the experience a success. And then said to one another, "well, we ran the half, now we have to run the full." But doubling 13 miles isn't quite the same as doubling - say - a run around the block.
My "training plan" for the full marathon was my usual sporadic once- or twice-weekly run (averaging 10 miles a week; by comparison I'm doing 50 a week now). I did a single long run of 16.65 miles exactly one week before the full marathon. There are zero legitimate training plans that say that this is a good idea. But I was feeling pretty good. I figured some magic mix of beer and endorphins would power me for the full marathon. And to be fair it did.... for about half the distance.
So Alex and I met once again in Lake Placid. This time we had a friend along. He didn't run, because he wasn't dumb. He was there to eat and drink and have fun, because he was smart. Also he was there to throw our corpses into the trunk of his car at the end of the race. We prepared for the race the night before in our typical fashion: By eating too much food, drinking too much beer, and staying up far too late. But we were two young men staying in a cabin soaking up the joys of life. We would pay for our youthful bliss the next day.
I got up early the morning of the race. Even being a relatively inexperienced runner, I still knew I would have to take about four (4) poops before I was ready to run. My body was dumping everything it could, much like a sinking ship pitching extra weight. Alex and I pinned our bibs to our shorts. We didn't wear shirts, because we wanted everyone to be awestruck by our lumpy torsos.
We got to the starting line, surrounded by about 400,000 fellow runners (give or take). The mood was elating! Some part of my brain was treating this like a quick jaunt, followed by a greasy lunch. I think it was preemptively doing damage control for the torture I had volunteered for. Like whispering to a dying patient, "it's ok; everything's going to be fine."
The first 3 miles around mirror lake were great. We ran too fast, sucked in the delicious mountain air, and gazed delightedly at the surface of the water, hoping to catch a reflection of the god(s) smiling down on us. The rest of the first loop was good too. We were familiar with this. We had run it before. Every step we felt, "we got this!" Then we got back to Main St. and realized, "we have to do all of that again."
And that's when it became a trial of survival.
There was no run around the lake this time. Instead they added a couple extra terrible miles through an equestrian park. The whole time we were weeping, "we're not even on the main loop yet! We're just running down this stupid dirt driveway!" And whereas the first 13 miles had flown by, we now felt every single slogging step. There was no joy. Although we at least faked it every 5 miles:
|Are you awestruck yet?|
At about mile 18, farther than either of us had ever run in our lives, we suddenly realized that we were dying. The only thing that gave us any cheer was seeing other runners give up and get golf caddy rides back to the city. Although that cheer was also mixed up with intense jealousy. Those were people who were eating sandwiches and drinking beer. Our beer!
This was a dark period. The entire world was the yard of pavement before us. The trees mocked us with their almost-shade. Even the slightest dip in the road felt like you had just fallen into a ravine. Every hill felt like trying to reach the moon via a ladder. Occasionally an obese 60 year old would pass us.
Then at mile 24, we gave up. We stopped running. And at this point we both learned: Walking is incredibly difficult. But we were close to the end, so so close. I honestly felt I would be running this marathon for the rest of my life, but the mile markers didn't lie (not like the GPS on my damn phone anyway). At mile 25 I got a second wind. I was going to finish this race running, damn it!
Little did I recall, the race finished up a massive massive hill. And it wasn't a straight hill either. It zigzagged back and forth like an asshole. Every time you thought you were done, you'd round the bend and "noooope, you're not anywhere close to done." But I didn't care anymore. I was having an out-of-body experience. I ran up that hill like a pack of wolves was chasing me.
Somehow, I hit the final stretch. I slowed myself to barely a jog so Alex could catch up. We'd suffered together for so long, I couldn't leave him in my wake. And then, at just shy of five and a half hours, we crossed the finish. I was still a bit of a jerk though, and finished a few seconds ahead.
|Still a jerk.|
It took about 3 seconds for my brain to completely wipe out the entire day up to that point. I was exuberant. I felt like I had just survived a week in the Amazon jungle with nothing but a rusty knife and a pack of crackers. Of course there wasn't much in the way of people to cheer our victory. We did come 336th and 337th out of 358 finishers. Not exactly head of the pack. But victory is victory!
After that we had a greasy beer soaked lunch at Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. We bid adieu to our friend, who was a little perturbed at the great quantity of sweat we'd left in his car. Then Alex and I limped back to our cabin with 2 packs of beer, ordered a large pizza, and spent the rest of the day alternately gorging ourselves and falling unconscious. It was a glorious, painful, self-abusing, and truly amazing day.
|Our propped up cadavers.|