Writing: A Marathon

A victory smile with sister Selena Jones. We fell over seconds later.

Me and sister Selena Jones with victory smiles. We fell over seconds later.

Not a marathon of writing, but rather writing of a marathon. Instead of crafing a witty blog post Sunday night, I was soaking in Epsom salts – having completed the Carlsbad Marathon earlier in the day. For those of you not particularly predisposed to running in a long and mostly straight line, the following is a taste of the mental fortitude (read: insanity) required to survive one of the most grueling endeavors you can pay good money for. So go grab your Ultima sports drink and foam roller and let’s begin, shall we?

In a Car
You are in your car. It is dark outside. Piles of running gear surround you.

6:08am >LOOK AT GEAR
Of note are your racing bib, a set of pins, your gel fuel and your GPS watch.

(with the pins)
You secure the bib to your shirt.
Your bib is pinned too high. You might rip your nipples off.

That’s better.

You are now wearing a GPS watch.

6:09am >GET OUT OF CAR
Done, with pain. Your muscles feel very tight.

Parking Lot
You are in the mall parking lot. There is abundant activity to the west.

6:09am >WEST
Done, with pain. Your muscles feel very tight.

Near the Start
You are in a parking lot, surrounded on three sides by an endless sea of portable bathrooms. Marathon runners mill about, enjoying the easy access to relief (which will be impossible shortly due to the 7,000 half-marathon runners en route). There is a starting line visible to the south.
You hear announcements droning on in the background.

A very excited individual is ushering people to the starting line. You take a moment to ignore him and wonder if you’ve paid your utility bills this month.

6:12am >STRETCH
Your calf muscles cramp violently in response. You are now filled with sporting terror.

6:13am >INV
You are carrying:
GPS watch (wearing)
gel fuel
a measure of sporting terror

The droning voice rises in tone and excitement.

6:13am >SOUTH

Starting Line
You are in a public street that is closed to traffic for race day. 1,999 eager runners are packed into the lane in front of you. An eager and nervous chatter fills the area near the back of the herd.

People wearing trash bags are complaining about the 50 degree weather. You stifle a cruel chuckle.

You’ve done this before. Nothing to be gained up there.
With the blast of an air horn and a resounding cheer from the crowd, the marathon begins.

You follow the shuffling herd. As you cross the timing strip on the ground, someone shouts, “Moo!”

6:16am >START GPS
You wisely remember to activate the GPS Watch. You will now be ready to panic with scientific accuracy.

6:16am >RUN

Mile 1
You are plodding along and conserving energy, just ahead of the walkers.
Spectators with signs are cheering madly nearby.

6:27am >RUN
Your solid tempo takes you past the 4:30 pace runner. You would LOVE to finish in 4:30!
A sound like an airy thump-thump-thump approaches from behind.
A man bouncing a basketball catches you and matches your pace.

Mile 2
There is a man running and bouncing a basketball here.
Spectators with signs are cheering madly nearby.
A water stop is just ahead.

6:37am >GET WATER
You slow for a drink. The basketball guy nearly mows you down.

6:39am >RUN FASTER
Your pace increases. The thump-thump-thump of basketball remains close behind.

Mile 3
There is a man running and bouncing a basketball here.
Spectators with signs are cheering for the man with the basketball.

6:47am >SLOW DOWN
Your pace decreases. You can see the basketball thump-thump-thumping just steps ahead.
At a slight bend in the road, you all must stop for the basketball guy to manuever.

Mile 4
The road is still nice and flattish.
There is a man running, bouncing a basketball, and pissing you off nearby.

He accelerates in response and mercifully vanishes into glory.

Mile 5
Just ahead the road leads up an on-ramp and begins to climb.
Spectators with signs cheer near a water stop.

7:07am >READ SIGNS
The signs offer messages about family, zombies and bowel movements.

7:07am >RUN

Mile 6
You are going uphill. A man is setting cups of beer on the sidewalk. A punk band is rocking out nearby.

7:16am >EAT GEL FUEL
Mmmmmm. Black Cherry.
The man slaps a cup of beer into your hand.

7:16am >DROP BEER
Wise move.

A surf-rock band waves at you as you pass.
You hear an airy thump-thump-thump as the evil basketball guy goes charging past you back down the other way.

Mile 9
You are at the summit. There are no spectators here as this hill sucks.

Wheeeeeeeee!!!! That was fun! This might not be so terrible after all!

Mile 12
You are running through a business park that smells of salt and fish.
Medics are here, waving sticks covered in petrolium jelly at you.

8:12am >EAT GEL FUEL
Mmmmmm. Black Cherry.
One of the medics offers you pain killers, which you decline.

8:12am >RUN
You run strong and hard, filled with sporting joy and the rush of endorphins.

Mile 13
You are leaving the business park area, looking at a sharp, short hill. A ukelele band is rocking out nearby.

8:22am >RUN
The sharp, short hill hurts. A lot. Your sporting joy splatters on the ground. You rejoin the main race course and crash into a horde of 7,000 rabid half marathoners who started running 90 minutes after you did.

Mile 14
You are being passed by lots of fresh half-marathon runners. There is a band here, playing nothing and starting at you.

8:31am >EAT GEL FUEL
Mmmmmm. Black Cherry.
You realize you could really go for that beer you don’t have anymore.
A spectator leans into your path and screams, “You’re almost there!” You ignore him and continue on.

You thankfully avoid being trampled. You are feeling nervous: This is where your stomach usually cramps up like a nightmare.

Mile 16
You are near the turnaround of the half-marathon. A sign on the side of the road invites you to keep going. A lone spectator waves a placard that reads, “Glad you picked the long one?”

8:50am >RUN
As you run, you sense that the flat looking road is actually angled downhill. You manage two miles without the need to vomit or otherwise dive into a portable restroom or large bush. Perhaps this year your stomach will cooperate!

Mile 18
You are at the final turnaround point for the full marathon course. You can confirm now that, yes, you had been running downhill. Three miles of gentle uphill are staring you in the face.
You cannot feel your hamstrings.

9:10am >RUN
You can’t do that.
A spectator leans into your path and screams, “You’re almost there!” You mutter a gruff, “Excuse me!” and continue on.

9:10am >JOG?
Fellow marathoners are falling off left and right with tight quads and rolled ankles. They protest your assistance and wave you on.

Mile 20
You are back at the turnaround point of the half-marathon course. All participants are back together for this final leg of the race. Lots of cheerful walkers and slow joggers fill the road alongside you.
You cannot feel your hamstrings.
Your hips feel sore.

9:32am >RUN
Not possible, Ace.
An elderly saviour offers you some orange slices. They taste like eternity and sunshine and unicorns.

9:32am >JOG
You continue on, adopting a bit of a duck waddle to get feeling back in your legs. As you pass a water station, a volunteer empties a cup of water onto your shoe. They apologize and offer a cup of pretzles which you hungrily devour.

Mile 23
You are in the adorable, quiant village-like setting of downtown. Tired spectators stand behind colorful signs and say little.
You cannot feel your hamstrings.
You cannot feel your calves.
Your hips are grinding sources of pain.

A spectator leans out and screams, “You’re almost there!” You snap the man’s neck and discard him in the bushes.

Mile 25
You are so close that you can feel the finish line beckoning you forward.
Strange, you cannot feel your body but you feel a lot of misery.

10:32am >RUN
You have inhaled a gnat.
Your gait has changed, you will be crippled soon.

10:32am >COUGH AND RUN
Cough, cough.
There is a gnat wriggling in your throat.
Your gait has changed, you will be crippled soon.

10:33am >SPIT AND RUN
Hack, cough, wheeze, *spit*.
You have swallowed a gnat.

Mile 26
You are near the finish line. A steep .15 mile long hill stands in front of you.
Your legs are disembodied.
Your hips are blinding points of agony.

You see that you’ve already run 26.2 miles, due to dodging and weaving. Well, that sucks.
You are passed by an energetic looking runner holding a 4:30 pace banner.

You growl and charge ahead. You blow spittle through your clenched teeth. You draw strength from the cheers of the spectators. You scare the crap out of slower runners as you pound up behind them.

At the Finish Line
The finish line catwalk is before you. The announcer is calling your name as you thunder down the flat home stretch.
There is a photographer here.

Your calf muscle asserts itself and cramps up. You stumble and nearly eat crap. The photographer flashes an evil smile and offers a sarcastic thumbs up.

10:46am >RUN
You jump/hop/flail across the finish line and end your epic journey. A kindly volunteer approaches and places a shiny medal around your neck.

Finishing Chute
You are in the finishing chute, a narrow pathway lined by chain link fence and filled with volunteers. More able bodied runners are dodging around you. There is an expo to the east.

10:47am >EAST
Sorry, your legs no longer work. You manage one single, gimpy step in that direction.

10:47am >EAST
Sorry, your legs no longer work. Another runner offers assistance, which you stupidly decline.

10:47am >EAST
Sorry, your legs no longer work. A volunteer offers chocolate milk.

10:47am >LOOK AT MEDAL
It is shiny, but it is not magical. It cannot help you walk.

10:48am >DRINK MILK
You drink it. It does not help.

10:49am >LEAN ON FENCE
Aaahhhhhhhh… Wise move.

*** YOU’VE WON!!!! FINAL TIME 4:29:53! ***

[To be followed up in 2015 when I go for 4:00 flat.]


3 thoughts on “Writing: A Marathon

    1. cordellfalk Post author

      Thanks Sarah! Only took 2 days for my hips to rotate back into place and as of this morning it’s back to running shape! Have to attack some speed work and drop the times… : )

  1. selifinos

    This is the best description of a long race ever. That guy who stands at the .1 mile marker with the sign that reads, “Almost there!” needs to be knocked off of his stilts. And I am glad I picked the short one. You’re a rock star with a non-magical medal.


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