Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WORST PARADE EVER!

The hits just keep on coming from Sunday's maiden marathon voyage.  At some point I suppose my creaky joints will feel well enough to allow me to look at my running shoes without wanting to light them on fire.  Not quite yet. It also turns out that not only did I do a poor job of making time, I did an equally poor job of telling time.  Looking down at my trusty Timex Ironman watch ($30.00 at Target) moments after crossing the finish line I read my finishing time as 4:27.04.  That was incorrect.  What I saw as a "7" was in fact a "9".  Thus, my official finishing time was 4:29.04.  At this rate, by Memorial Day I will have broken through to the five-hour mark. 

Overall, personal disappointment notwithstanding, the marathon experience was a very satisfying one.  While I really found myself wishing at or about the twenty-one mile mark that Marathon had been settled by the Greeks only twenty miles away from Athens the reaction of the crowd as I made the final 45-degree angled turn out onto the boardwalk in Long Branch for the final .2 miles (and contrary to legend they are not the toughest) was something that I shall not soon forget.  The New Jersey Marathon puts each entrant's name/nickname (runner's choice) on the front of the bib that each runner wears.  I told Margaret that I presumed that was for ease of identification if found dead somewhere along the course. 

While that might be true, it also appears to be written there for the benefit of the crowd.  There can be no other explanation for how or why total strangers standing along the rail on the stretch run are able to not only clap but to shout out a runner's name as you run (on in my case - stagger) by them.  I spent a long time out on that course on Sunday morning.  Most of it was spent alone, either running past other competitors or being passed by them.  With the finish line in sight, it was nice to hear my own name being called out by folks I did not know.....although it paled in comparison to being about fifty yards from home and seeing/hearing Margaret and the Family Kizis doing likewise.

There were people all over the course watching the runners go by on Sunday and it was fantastic to see/hear people essentially at every step of the way.  A number of them had hoses and sprayed us with cool water as we ran past.  Several had their own makeshift water/Gatorade stops set up.  A couple had oranges.  One had beer and vodka.  Since that last stand was only about halfway in, I ran past without taking anything from them.  In hindsight, had I known had incredibly painful the cramps were going to be that I encountered shortly thereafter, I would have stopped for a couple of shots and a couple of brews.  It certainly could not have hurt. 

Children were all over the course watching the race too.  When I run in a race I am a big fan of runner/child spectator interaction.  Kids under a certain age are prone to stand with their hands out seeking nothing other than a "run by High 5", which seems to me to be the modern-day successor to us sitting in the back seats of station wagons as children, driving down the interstate and gesturing to passing truckers to blow their air horns.  I suppose that in the era of personal mp3 players, smart phones and rear seat DVD players, kids no longer look outward through their car's windows for the in-transit entertainment. At races, they like to interact with passing runners.  I am always happy to oblige.  A little human interaction while trying to keep one's mind off of ever-increasing pain levels is never a bad thing in my opinion and can - from time to time - provide a welcome distraction. 

There were also countless folks holding up signs of all shapes and sizes.  Some of them were signs for a particular runner.  I loved the surprised looks on the faces I ran past at some point between (I think) Mile 12 and Mile 15 who were standing on the right side of the road (to my right as I approached them) holding up signs cheering on "ADAM!"  As I approached them, I moved over to the right to get close to them and let out a great big "Woo!" while pointing to my bib as if acknowledging what they had done for me.....except of course they had not done it for me but merely for a fellow with the same first name.  I almost regret not turning around or at least looking back over my shoulder to see what their initial stunned reaction melted into once/if any of them realized why I had reacted as I did to their signage. 

Best sign I saw on the course and in fact the best sign I have ever seen at any race was held up by a young woman at - I think - somewhere between Mile 8 and Mile 10.  It said simply, "WORST PARADE EVER!"  There are times in life, more than others, when laughter truly is the best medicine.  At the moment we encountered her on the course, it was indeed one of those times.  Genius.  Absolute genius. 

-AK

No comments: