I say that because running a lot doesn't make much sense, and running 26 miles in one stretch especially doesn't make sense. But we did it anyway. And I guess we're awesome? Let's go with that.
Running a marathon is awesome! And painful.
It took me about an hour to pack on Saturday. Actually it took me 5 minutes to pack and then 55 minutes to just stand in the living room, staring at the sofa, trying to figure out what I forgot. I remembered my kilt. I remembered my shirt that I wasn't going to wear because I always run bare-chested, even when it's freezing. Finally I packed my toothbrush. Because who the f@*k cares.
I picked Geoffrey up and drove. Apparently his exhaust sounded like a giant wasp having an orgasm. I just think that he wanted to be able to get stupidly drunk without worrying. Which we totally did, by the way. Actually he didn't want to get super drunk, because he wanted to not collapse halfway through the marathon. But I just assumed he wanted to drink, because then I could drink, and force him to drink.
You see we're I'm going with this. I'm an asshole.
I run not because I want to be good at running. I run so I can experience life. Life is mostly pain. And running is pain. But life is also joy. Drinking is joy. Love is joy too. But drinking is joy you go to a gas station and buy whenever you want. You can't buy love. Not according to the Beatles anyway.
Pain reminds you that you're alive.
A lot of people are afraid of pain. I relish it. Pain is strength. The more pain you can tolerate, the stronger you are. I'm a guy, so that makes sense to me. But really, the more pain you can handle, the easier the rest of life seems. And I like it when life is easy. I'm lazy.
It was raining all day Saturday. The weather report promised that Sunday would be perfect for running, so I just pretended it wasn't raining. Which means I probably drove too fast.
We got to Corning and went to the Expo at the Corning Museum of Glass. There was a lot of "where the hell do we park?" that went on first, but who cares. We got lost at the museum and wandered past isles of glass trinkets. I got Pixie a glass rooster.
|At least this rooster doesn't wake me up at dawn.|
We found the actual Expo hall and got our bibs. Then we looked at a bunch of Wineglass merch that we mostly resisted buying. I was starving the whole time. I don't understand carb loading. Geoffrey ate a huge carby breakfast and was full of vigor. I had one blueberry pancake. And he kept snacking in the car, so that he was full all day. I just stared at him in a quiet seething rage. A hungry rage.
We ran into some L.U.N.A.R. folks, and Geoffrey saw some people he recognized. I just stared at all the free nutrition bars, snacks, and other food at the tables. I was pretty oblivious to my surroundings. I crashed into small children who were waiting for their moms to decide whether they wanted the pink "Running is my bitch" shirt or the neon green one. I debated eating my shoelaces.
Somehow, we finally got to Market Street Brewing Company. I jammed a bunch of beer and food into my face. It was delicious, although I didn't really savor it so much as annihilate it with my maw. I was fairly certain I was going to run out of energy after two miles the next day and fall on my face. It didn't help that I'd gotten the flu just a couple of days prior.
Geoffrey swept all my whining away like so much debris. Nothing was going to ruin his weekend!
We drove to our motel and checked in. The room smelled like cigarette smoke and the bathroom smelled like cat pee. I guess you get what you pay for. I upended all my bags and spread my shit EVERYWHERE. I refuse to live in a clean place.
Horseheads Brewery was only a couple miles away. Geoffrey said we should go there after our race Sunday. I said we should go immediately, and also after the race. I won.
Geoffrey was still trying really hard to not drink too much before the race. I, on the other hand, firmly believe that the more beer you drink before a race, the better you will do. Of course, he also believes I'm a crossbreed of Batman and Gengis Khan, and that he is a crossbreed of an eight year old girl and Jabba the Hutt. Don't think about that analogy too much. Just go with it.
We were pretty happy after all that beer. We stopped by a drugstore on our way back to the motel and bought, just, all of the candy. There was no reason behind this at all. Carbs? Maybe? One of us jokingly said, "let's get Reese's!" and the other one replied with dead seriousness, "yes, that is a thing that must happen right now." I'm not sure who won in this scenario.
|Definitely not our teeth|
There was a bunch of other silliness that happened that night, but it's kind of a haze at this point. We were like two kids who had sneaked away from home and were now bathing in chocolate. We made no effort to be mature or responsible. We did actually get to bed early, but only because we were literally ill from all the candy and beer we had consumed.
We woke up at about 5am. Actually, Geoffrey hadn't slept at all. I got up and said, "well, I guess we should go run a race." Geoffrey replied, "yeah, we paid for it and everything. We might as well." Logic.
We left our smoky messy room and drove to Corning. We parked and got in a line of several hundred people to get on busses that would take us to Bath. It was still dark out. Everyone was shivering. Nobody was tap-dancing in glee. The cold realization of what we were about to do was sinking in.
|All of these people are insane.|
|Marathon? I'm just here to poop.|
Geezis. Yes. Do you know what it's like to have your junk flapping free for 26 miles?
Folks were excited. You can't be surrounded by that much energy and not get titillated. I finally put all my stuff in a bag and put it on a UPS truck, hopefully to see it again in Corning. So I was loitering in just shoes and kilt in 40 degree weather. Screw you reality!
2000 people mashed up against the starting line. I budged like a jerk until I got close to the 3:15 pacer. My plan was stay with him for at least half, and then see how I felt. Geoffrey got in somewhere between the 3:25 and 3:35 pacers. Another buddy of mine, Tom, was in the same group with me. I never know what races I will encounter him at. He was shooting for 3:10. He kicked my ass at the last half we ran together. I started thinking maybe I should move farther back in the crowd.
Too late! The gun fired! I hit my watch. BEEP. We were off!
I always start races too fast. I forced myself to stick with the pace group. I looked at my watch. My heart rate was about 150. "I could be running WAY faster," I thought. Thankfully I didn't try. The first few miles flew by very quickly. This is easy! I thought.
After the first 10K I thought, only 20 to go! Hmm, that's still a lot. I was feeling a bit tired.
Then at 10, I thought, finally in the double digits! Only 16 to go! Um, that's still really far. My legs were asking me what the hell I was up to.
Then we reached the halfway point. Only a half marathon left to go! Except I was sore. I had been chatting with the others in the pace group, having a good time. But at about this point I pulled ahead a little bit, hoping I could run the race closer to 3:10. That only lasted a couple miles before the pace group caught up with me again.
We ran along route 86. Folks honked their horns at us. "What are you doing you maniacs?! Driving is way faster!"
The closer I got to the finish, the less it helped to say, "I only have X miles left." Time kept slowing down. By the time we reached 20, I had hit two walls. Number one was the "pain wall", where the legs suddenly hurt A LOT. Wall number two was "my legs have been replaced by lead weights." I just stayed even with the pacer, Jake.
Eventually it was just me and Jake together. At some point he had broken his sign in half to make it easier to carry, and also in case we ran into any vampires. His fastest marathon was 2:40. I asked him if running 3:15 was cake by comparison.
"My body feels like garbage," he replied. I too, felt like garbage.
We finally got into the general area of Corning. The cheering of the many groups we passed, and Jake pulling me along both really helped. But those last few miles after 20 were.... really hard. Even a rise of 1 foot felt like trying to run up a sheer cliff. But quitting at this point would be stupid. I had already destroyed my body. What difference would "more destroyed" make? I kept going.
Going on a 2 mile run is so fast and short it's almost pointless. You can go on a 2 mile run and be back home in the time it takes your friend to pee. It takes more time to make a sandwich than to run two miles. The last 2 miles of the race were the longest two miles I'd ever run in my life. They felt longer than the last 24 miles put together.
Before the last turn, Jake said, "go ahead." I don't know why he thought I had extra energy left over. I had already gone over my limit just staying even with him. Somehow, I ran faster. My heart rate got up to 177. Then I hit the home stretch and everyone was just going INSANE. Wow! I pumped my fists as if running 26 miles was, like, super great.
I crossed the finish line after having run for 3 hours, 15 minutes, and 36 seconds. I was 13th out of 87 in my division (male 30-34), 60th out of 700+ among males, and 76th out of 1930 overall. I was pretty happy with those results. Actually, I was delirious with joy. But mostly because I didn't have to run anymore.
I waited at the line until Geoffrey crossed, wearing my medal. I repeatedly rejected offers from the volunteers for space blankets and bottles of water. I was surprisingly fine, minus the massive amount of suffering my body was experiencing.
Afterwards Geoffrey and I had lunch with his kids. They had driven down to watch him race and cheer him on. He credits them for having given him the will to finish. Awesome family! They got him a super cool vintage Polaroid camera as a congratulatory gift. We went to the same shop afterwards and I got Nina a cool radio.
|Pictured: Cool radio; assorted foliage|
The drive home was an exhausting one. I had to drive the jerk all the way back to his house first before I could go home and snuggle with Pixie, who by that point probably thought I'd been eaten by wolves somewhere between Bath and Corning.
All in all it was a truly amazing day. It was an inspiration to run with so many other dedicated runners, all of whom pushed themselves far beyond human limits. And I really surprised myself to have done as well as I did. After Wineglass, whatever life stresses had been on my mind vanished. Setting an almost impossible challenge for yourself, and then conquering it, is the greatest high you can get.
|Photo CR: Geoffrey's daughter|