from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

duke city – fourth marathon race report

I woke up at 3:30 am to have breakfast, a novelty embraced following Lora’s suggestion to eat three hours before start time. When the alarm rang I had to convince my boyfriend to stay put – this was not a coffee making opportunity, I would be back, and we still had another hour of sleep afterward. It was eerie to eat in the dim kitchen without being hungry. But bread with butter is my favorite food, and I added just a bit of Jarlsberg cheese for protein, and strawberry preserve – Einstein liked it too – for carbohydrates.

The frigid pre-start half hour chased runners into the lobby of the corner hotel, where Starbucks enjoyed a tide of brisk business. I talked to a bare-chested hero outside who upheld the theory he could prevent his body heat from going up too much before plummeting. I think he accomplished that. I also saw sensible Navajo runners wrapped in blankets, ready for the relay, a sight that in the manifold colors and lights of downtown reminded me of desolate Shiprock.

Then the seconds coalesced into the frenzy of the start, and we stepped over the mat in a long wave. We turned right on Central Avenue, the historic Route 66 of Americana fame, running through that segment of serene buildings that always reminded me of a seaside resort, as if vacation were at arm’s length. Running past the Motel Blue where I spent my first night ever in Albuquerque, not certain that one day I would make this city my own. Running on to reach Tingley Beach with its artificial lakes of improbable blue and its whimsical iron sculptures, where on July 4th last year I ran my first race ever, a 5K that placed me in my age group, unaccountable beginner’s luck.

Leaning over the fence, chatting at leisure, was the director of that race and of my last NM marathon, the one who used to shake his head over me running too much and too little at the same time. We hugged over the wire, and I pointed to the emblem of the Royal Victoria Marathon on my shirt. “Two weeks ago” I said. His eyes widened with understanding, and he shook his head again.

The weathermen lied, they lie here often, it's part of their lifestyle – the day was not cloudy as foreseen. The New Mexico sun rose into a gorgeous vault of pure blue, but the wind see-sawed through any incipient comfort, and I kept my long-sleeve on for the first several miles. We ran on the path along the zoo. I hate zoos, had never been there before. Then we turned into the Bosque bike trail. I felt good and stable, and thought I could go on like this forever.

And I went on like that for a long time, mile after mile, aid station after aid station, they were abnormally frequent enough to confuse one as to distance covered. I did not even take a watch with me, I would run as fast as I could anyhow, a watch would not change that.

I got tired eventually, somewhere close to the half-point, I had taken my shirt off and put it back on innumerable times, in tune with the sun shining brighter and the wind picking up and fading down again. The few miles before and after the turnaround were the hardest, the course winding up and down, the wind blustering, the sun glare blinding, a relentless advance against the grain. Mile markers were for some reason more obvious in the second half. I counted the miles, but I was intent on ignoring their meaning.

I wanted to reproduce in this race the best part of the otherwise gruesome experience of the Royal Victoria Marathon – I wanted to replicate the steady, unperturbed advance of the last 10 or 12 miles. And I did. I ran on and on, without wavering, slowing down at aid stations only, where I always took the time to bend over and embrace my ankles, a reply to stiffness that kept me supple and fresh. I missed the 20-mile marker, so I did not place a timely smile there, but if I had seen it the smile would have been for the first time in my marathon history genuine and supplanted by fact. It did not make any difference whether I was before or after glycogen depletion – I was on track.

The wind picked up, sand filled my eyes, dust settled on my tongue. At slow pace I passed one or two runners pulled forward like puppets on strings, and I wondered if I looked the same, a caricuture of my own being propelled by something stronger than body. All of us engaged in the same stubborn struggle, we were tracing back our morning course, resources exhausted, redemption ahead. The last mile on Central Avenue had a world-end feeling to it, and I realized I had never experienced Route 66 without traffic. The utility poles screeched harsh and metallic in the wind, and the only other sound was my breath, a whimpering orchestrated by the metronome of each step forward. Do you remember the last scene of the movie “On the Beach,” the world awash in radioactive waste?

That is how Central Avenue felt like, deserted on a Sunday morning, a few ghosts shuffling forward. I wanted to finish with grace, this was not the end of the world, just the end of my reserves, I could hold on for a little while longer. I wanted to sprint, as I did in Victoria, but the best of my exertion did not thrust me ahead, only kept me moving. When I finally turned left on 3rd street, the bells of a church starting ringing, and I knew it was noon. 5 hours. Just a little stretch left.

You were fast, my boyfriend told me as I folded on his shoulder and started crying. 5 h 3 min 8 sec, 18 minutes better than my last, 9 minutes better than the one before, a half an hour behind Shiprock.

But this was the marathon I was most in control of. And the beep of the mat as I crossed the finish line certified me as Marathon Maniac #675.


At 8:01 PM, Blogger Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Congrats on being MM#675!!

Sounds like you had a good run. I've yet to understand why ANYONE would want to run 26.2...13.1 is plenty for me. Guess I just don't get it. Hence the reason you are a marathon maniac and I am not. ;)

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Bump in the Night said...

Ah, you little maniac, you. Congratulations.

At 4:45 AM, Blogger Randy said...

Way to go MANIAC!!!!!!Way to go rock!!!!! #675!!!!! what will that make me when I hit the mat at the end of the Houston Marathon???

Great race report....felt like I was there....knowing Albequerque some helped too...but you brought it all back to life....maybe this will be my NM marathon at some point...thanks...and congratulations...

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

Are you gonna change the name of your blog to " Manic 675"? I love it!

Sounds as if #4 was your best so far.
The fact that you felt in control shows have much you've grown as a
marathon runner.

Very proud of you ! Congrats again!

At 7:36 AM, Blogger JustRun said...

I'm so amazed at the Maniac-ness when I think to just a short year ago. Wow!

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Backofpack said...

Welcome, Maniac #675, welcome! Wear that glorious, hideous yellow shirt with pride. You are amazingly strong and resilient - and you make me laugh...first 5k a year ago, MM#675 today. Congrats!

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Robb said...

Excellent report and congratulations Manic 675!

At 8:48 AM, Blogger RunBubbaRun said...

Congrats on the race and becoming an offical maniac.. You got me looking on the Manica site now to see how many stars I can shoot for..

At 8:54 PM, Blogger robtherunner said...

Embrace the Yellow! There is power in numbers :) Wonderful report!


At 1:29 PM, Blogger Journey to a Centum said...


You will look good with that yellow maniac jersey over one of your black running shirts!



At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go, Maniac! I am so impressed. You are relentless when it comes to marathons. :) I have a hard time believing you are a reluctant runner anymore.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger E-Speed said...

wow! Congrats maniac! Hope you are having fun with all of this. Your progress is impressive!

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Brooklyn said...

congrats on what sounds like a very steady race! I am so envious!

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Darrell said...

When I (half jokingly) asked you to scout out the New Mexico marathons for me, I had no idea you intended to run them all in the same year.

Congratulations on finishing another one and achieving that coveted Marathon Maniac status.


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