Marathon brings Good, Bad & Ugly
By Sue-Ellen Sanders
The first good thing was the weather. As we drove our rental car into Duluth, just two hours north from the airport in Minneapolis, the air was cool and crisp, perfect for the marathon race I planned to run. Unfortunately, that was the day before the 26.2-mile race.
With over 9,500 runners competing in this, the 30th annual Grandma's Marathon, the pre-race logistics were quite complex. We planned to get up early, at 4:30 am, to get to our friend's' hotel room, where we could take one of the many runners' buses to the start. That was bad, but not terrible. Since Minnesota is on Central time, my body would feel like it was really 5:30 anyway. Except that my husband set his cell phone alarm to go off at 4:30 Eastern time, so we got up at 3:30 am Central time by mistake.
But, Marty did fly 3000 miles with me so that I could run this race. Certainly, giving up an extra hour of sleep on the morning I was set to run 26.2 miles was not too much to ask. Besides, there were bigger challenges ahead.
The morning of the race had dawned warm and humid, and we stripped layers even before we boarded the bus that would take us to the race start. That was not good, but our little contingent from the Treasure Coast, Tom Perona, Kathy Kiper, Brenda Wilson and myself, had trained in Florida heat, so you would think we would be prepared. Not so much, as it turned out.
After 10 or 20 miles of the race, depending on how fast you were running, it turned bad and even ugly, as a record eight people left the road race by way of an ambulance to the hospital. Another 500 were treated at first aid stations along the way. That doesn't't count the hundreds that probably stopped by aid stations along the way, like Kathy, who stopped for ice for leg cramps and I, who stopped for Advil for a killer heat headache.
You expect to have aching muscles and headaches during the hours spent running a marathon, so I was prepared. I had little plastic baggies with energy block chews safety-pinned to the waistband of my running shorts and another little baggy with Ibuprofen tablets stuffed into that little key pocket of my running shorts.
Unfortunately, when I stopped to use the porta-potty at mile 8, my stash of (legal) drugs slipped down the potty. That was the first blow to my mental status.
It's been 16 years since the last time I ran a marathon, so there were some things I forgot, that the running books don't tell you. Mainly that, if you wear a shirt that identifies you in some way, wherever there are people cheering along the course, even if they don't know you, they will call out words of encouragement. One marathon, I wore a Gator shirt and got a jolt of energy each time someone called out, "Go, Gator girl."
This time out, I was wearing a plain white singlet and green shorts. The best I got was one time when someone yelled, "Looking good, green shorts."
Running slightly behind me for most of the last ten miles was a girl named Sara with her shirt clearly marked with her name. The whole race, I heard, "Go, Sara." I was ready to run over to the sidelines and beg someone to call my name.
I ran steadily and not unhappily, until about mile 18, when the 85 degree heat and the 95 percent humidity got to me. My half-marathon time extrapolated, would have brought me to my marathon goal time of slightly over four hours. But, wait, there was more!
The weather was so dramatic that I took multiple glasses of water and sports drink at every water stop and had to stop at three porta-potties along the way. The heat had fogged my mind and I plodded along, determined to finish. Black flags posted along the way marked the first time in its 30-year history that the marathon officials had to warn participants to slow down because of adverse weather conditions. Am I lucky or what?
My husband, Marty, and Kathy's daughter, Brittnee, were at the 24-mile marker calling out my name. By then it was too late.
I finished the race about 30 minutes beyond my hoped finished time, but still in the top 1/3 of the field of nearly ten thousand runners. The heat affected Kathy and Tom as well. Tom's time was about 10 minutes slower than usual, although he finished 326th and Kathy finished 2'668th.
Brenda, our 48-year-old friend from Stuart, one incredible runner, posted her second-best marathon finish, completing the course in 3 hours and 4 minutes despite the record heat and humidity. She also received a third place award in her age group and finished 178th out of a field that included world-class elite runners who hailed from Russia, South Korea and Kenya.
The good news is that I did beat Sara, whoever she was. Also, good was that Kathy and Brenda showed me how to pee like a man, a skill sure to be useful in the next marathon. But, that's another column.
Sue-Ellen Sanders writes about family issues every week in the Hometown News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.