I had decided to do this for two reasons - one, my trainees were doing the relay so I’d be able to see them on all legs and two, I wanted to get some pacing practice for Albany. Both pretty much turned into pipe dreams around mile 1 since I had contracted a nice, acute case of bronchitis over the weekend. But in the true spirit of idiocy, I decided to do the run anyway. Smart decision numero uno.
It was cold and windy which made for a pretty tough first loop. Well that and the fact that the first loop is long. It has an extra couple of miles tacked on, mostly downhill. When you get almost to 10 miles, you run into a parking lot where the relay team switches to runner number two and the marathoners, well, just keep going. It was here that I decided to pull out. I couldn’t breathe, I was wheezing so hard that my eyes were watering and the low amount of oxygen was causing my muscles to revolt, which is completely understandable. I’m no biology major but I’m fairly certain that oxygen is a fairly important component in running. So after 10 brutal miles up and down hills and in the cold and wind, I thought, hey, that’s enough for me. I’m sick. I need to go home and r— oh, well, who is THIS?!? “This” would happen to be none other than heart-throb Bobby Gill. Bobby is very easy on the eyes and what better treat on Valentine’s day weekend than a very fast, ultra-runner, yelling “Hey, BARKLEY!! WHY YOU WALKING, BARKLEY?!?! Smile for the camera, Barkley!!!”
Clearly, I am torn - he’s cute and but yet, spouts words that refuse to allow me to drop out or even walk (Note to self: talk this one into coming to every race… my dream of becoming an Olympic marathoner would easily come to fruition) After this, I cannot drop. Not yet. I must continue, regardless of whether or not he’s got one pant leg jacked up (wtf, Snoop Dog Gill?!?!). So I do, out for loop #2.
By about mile 11, I sound like I’ve put away a pack and a half of Camels for the last 20 years. I’m walking the uphills, trying to run the downhills in between hacking cough. My cough medicine I had been taking, obviously doing the trick. Suddenly, an angel in the shape of a 61 year old man wearing a t-shirt and shorts appears next to me.. dad? Is that YOU? What are you doing here?? No, it’s not dad - that’s the meds talking. This is a nice man named Dave who asks “How’s your run going?” “Well Dave, it is shitty, now that you ask.. ” or rather “HACK-HACK, NO-HACK, D-HACK-HACK AVE, it’s HACK HACK s-s-s-hack hack, bad” He proceeds to talk to me, not asking a lot of questions but occasionally looking at me and offering fatherly advice “drink water at the next station”, “don’t try to talk.. breathe…” He proceeds to regale me with stories of his marathons (over 120 now) and the fact that his daughter is an opera singer. He tells me what he made his wife for valentine’s dinner (Salmon with spinach and pasta) and about all his food allergies (peanuts, shellfish, eggs) Typically I would be annoyed, but right now, he’s keeping my mind off the discomfort flowing from my chest and the labored breathing that requires me to walk every few feet in order to get a full, deep breath. Somehow, while he’s talking, we’re speeding up. And I’m finding a rhythm. We approach an 8:30 pace. It’s feeling ok. I’m good, I think I can do this. And then suddenly we are back at the relay point. There is now one lap. And Janice Joplin has stopped singing “Me and Bobby McGill” (SWEAR TO GOD, every time I see him that song plays in my head) Ok, I can now, bail out! I’ve put in a tad over 17 miles, I can call it. And Dave says, “Oh but you can’t quit - only one loop left, you look great and hell, you can walk it if need be. But don’t quit.”
So loop 3 starts and we are still together. Coach Peter sees me and offers assistance but echos Dave’s sentiments - “hang in there…” I don’t think Peter’s seen my look this bad. And speaking of looking - I may have looked bad as in sick, but I was wearing my new UA outfit and shoes. So at the very least, I was sporting some wicked hot threads and the most comfortable running shoes I have ever worn. I am NOT LYING. Revenants. Where have you been all my running life, you magnificent shoes?!?! < end shameless sponsor plug > Even though I looked haggard, I was dressed to the nines. And if you can’t feel good, at the very least, you can look good, right?? We continue. And we talk about love and life and running. And I feel like I’ve known this guy forever. I still have to walk the uphills but I manage to catch him on every flat and downhill. And suddenly, we are past mile 22. And there is an end in sight. Sort of.
The last 2 miles of this race go back up the hills we came down in the beginning. And boy are they hills - they extend for a better part of 1.5 miles or so. As one who’s never EVER, walked across a finish line, I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it now. I might be blue int he face and on the verge of puking, because now, all the cold meds and gatorade are mixing into a toxic stew in my stomach that screams “thar she blows” with every bounce. I was pretty sure I might be sharing that with the outside world at some point, very soon, even if it meant throwing up ON me and my pretty UA jacket. Of course, that would require a deep breath to do that and right now, that’s not happening. So I was able to continue running up that very long hill, past Dave, past several others past even more. And then down to mile 26, only .2 more! OMG! Suddenly, finish line! Right up ahead. Right there next to the camera man.. wait. What are they saying? “Barkley??” Oh, well, it’s none other than ….
“Freedom’s just another word, for nothing left to lose.. nothing and that’s all that Bobby left me…”