Author Topic: The Half-Marathon of Doom  (Read 3449 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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The Half-Marathon of Doom
« on: May 02, 2010, 08:08:51 pm »
The Half-Marathon of Doom
4/28/2010 11:30 PM ET By Clay Travis

I hate jogging. But I'm also married. So last January when my wife came to me and told me that I was running in Nashville's half-marathon come late April, I acquiesced. My wife was of the opinion that we didn't do enough activities together as a couple, that we didn't share enough common interests. So, as relationships often go, this meant I would do something that she liked to do and that I hated.

Jog.

For a long time.

So we began to train. After six weeks my wife dropped out, citing pregnancy as an excuse. As if. So now I was alone in my quest to run half of a marathon, 13.1 long, agonizing miles. Prior to training I had never run more than six miles. My rationale for why I'd never run more than six miles was fairly straightforward--running more than six miles was a lot like running less than six miles, boring. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I trained long enough and broke through the six-mile plateau I'd experience the heretofore phantom "runner's high" or, at some point, receive my own long-fabled El Dorado of running, a second wind.

Maybe, at long last, after fifteen years of occasional bouts of running outside of sports, I just hadn't cracked the magical code that would lead me to jogging nirvana. I could be the smiling Buddha of Northwest Nashville's streets, a Svengali of the stride, a modern-day Forrest Gump. (The link is to my story about why I hate jogging that I wrote last year.)

I broke through mile-marker after mile-marker on my own personal journey to running redemption. Seven miles, eight miles, nine miles, 10 miles, they all fell at my feet -- now clad in brand new shiny New Balance kicks -- and still ... nothing.

Except, that is, bloody nipples.

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ShareAnd let me tell you, bloody nipples are not signposts on the path to nirvana. They burn in the shower. And they make you feel weird, really weird. In fact, and this might be irrational, but I'd like to suggest a addendum to the hoary cliche, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," And that is: "If your nipples bleed, you are in danger of imminent death."

Or so I thought.

But then I talked to runners. In soft, conspiratorial whispers, I confessed to my malady. "My nipples are bleeding," I softly whispered.

And the runners laughed.

Patted me on the back, giggled, even, "Of course, they do," they said, "That's normal."

It was at that point that severe trepidation set in.

But several months later, I found myself on vacation in San Diego polishing off a hilly 9-mile run without any issues whatsoever. (My nipples now had calluses, which sounds even grosser, I think, than merely bleeding.)

I never ran more than 10 miles, which had me a bit nervous, but everyone I asked about this told me that I was in good shape for the half-marathon.

"Don't worry about that, you'll get such a surge of adrenaline that it will carry you through the first few miles. You won't even know you're running," said my friend Tardio, who would be running his second consecutive Country Music Marathon. Last year he ran the half-marathon in 2:01:10. This year his goal is to break two hours.

"Also," he said, leaning in closer to impart greater knowledge, "there are lots of really hot chicks who run this thing. All in good shape. You get behind one of them and you just draft off her ass. You won't even realize how long you've been running."

So advised, my wife dropped me off at Nashville's Centennial Park early on the morning of Saturday, April 24th.

She gave me a kiss, waved, and my son, two years old, piped up from the back.

"Daddy jog, daddy jog!" he squealed.

Thousands of runners, our numbers pinned to the front of our shirts like criminals on work release, milled about, stretching, cajoling our muscles to respond to the coming challenge. And the run was only the lesser of evils, a major tornado system was forecast to arrive in the city just as the half-marathon was scheduled to end. As omens go, this was a bit foreboding, a potential sign that the Gods did not want or need me to run.

"Daddy will jog," I said, as if I was General Douglas MacArthur surveying the Pacific Islands that would soon be conquered.

I waved goodbye to my family. Now there was only one problem, I already had to go the bathroom.

So let's begin with the numerical countdown of my jogging distances.

-500 yards

As some joggers are beginning to depart, I take advantage of a homecourt edge and, rather than search all the port-o-potties for one with toilet paper, cross the street and walk into the lobby of a Holiday Inn Express on Nashville's West End Avenue, just behind the start of the marathon.

Here, on the positive side, I luxuriate in toilet paper and my surroundings. On the negative side, while here, my running group, those poor saps who planned on finishing their half-marathons in around 2 hours and twenty minutes, depart on their journey.

So too does everyone else, it would appear, who is planning on finishing in less than three hours.

In fact, while I don't know it yet, because of the onrushing tornadoes the start to the half-marathon has been bumped up by fifteen minutes and by the time I begin, forty-five minutes has already passed and only old women, walkers, and pink hula-hoopists -- no joke -- are left around me.

Start

As far ahead as I can see a tremendous mass of people fills West End Avenue. All of us are headed for downtown's riverfront, the first two-mile distance.

Earlier, as I'd noted, everyone reported that I would fill a tremendous adrenalin rush, a oneness with nature, that would transcend all prior running feelings.

I would not feel the first few steps I took because I would be gliding on air.

Instead, I feel nothing.

The only sound I can hear is from my wife's iPod. (Evidently I am the only human left on Earth who doesn't have his own iPod.) As such, I'm listening to an angry lesbian sing about being an angry lesbian. I flash a song ahead.

Another angry lesbian.

Things are not going well.

Mile One

I have yet to see an attractive woman.

When I see my friend Tardio after the race, the first thing he will say is, "How hot were all the girls? I drafted behind one for 12 miles."

Tardio will fail in his goal this year to break two hours in the half-marathon. This year he runs 2 hours, 50 seconds. Yep, he shaved twenty seconds off last year's time, less than 1.5 seconds per mile faster.

The only positive from the race so far?

I've done a good job protecting my nipples, band-aids plus athletic tape. Affixed by my wife in the bathroom of our house while my son squealed and danced.

"Daddy's nipples are gone!" he screamed, "Daddy's nipples hurt!"

My son, inexplicably, learned the word nipples based upon the one time I complained about my nipples bleeding in his presence. Since that story he has been obsessed with the health of my nipples.

Occasionally he will stop what he's doing, coloring pictures at a restaurant, let's say, look up at me with a serious expression on his face and say, "Daddy, your nipples okay?"

Mile Two

Now we're downtown in Nashville, moving downhill for the first time among the honky-tonk bars. In theory this is better than moving uphill, but it's also about this time that I should be hitting my stride, warming up. Instead I can barely breathe.

Partly this is because I am allergic to every allergen on Earth and the fine people at Nashville's marathon have scheduled their marathon at the apex of Nashville's spring. (By the way, I've exaggerated a bit by saving that I'm allergic to everything. Actually, I'm allergic to 14 of the 16 things they test you for at Vanderbilt University's allergy clinic. I am not allergic to mold. So if the marathon route includes any cave systems, I'll be fine.)

As far as I can see, I'm surrounded by old women. It's like I've suddenly found myself in a post-menopausal race to death.

I have no idea what my pace is, but I'm certain that it's measured with a sundial.

Mile Three

At the rise of a hill near Nashville's Music Row, I can see my house beckoning in the distance.

For a moment I contemplate making the turn, jogging on home. But I don't have a key to the house and my wife and son might not be there.

So I persevere.

On up the hill and past a huge digital clock that is counting down from the moment the marathon began. Since I have no idea what time I started, I have no idea what my pace is.

A woman beside me slips on a paper cup and goes down ... hard.

I feel like I'm on the Trail of Tears.

Mile Four

I curse aloud for the first time as a new hill looms. The designers of Nashville's half-marathon course have eschewed fancy contraptions such as even terrain. Instead this course consists almost entirely of hills and downhills.

It's like jogging in Switzerland.

I believe I curse softly to myself.

But a shirtless man in cowboy boots and an oversized, red-foam cowboy hat hears me.

"You got it, man," he says.

I get a glass of water for the first time and attempt to drink it while still moving.

I don't know why I do this. Because it's necessary that the eight seconds I stop running not be wasted from my time?

I fail at drinking while jogging.

And by fail, I mean choke myself and nearly drown.

I've only seen people drink water while running before on television and they've always made it look easy. Only, it isn't easy.

In fact, it may be impossible to master without practice. If you don't believe me go outside during your lunch break and try to drink a cup of water while running across the parking lot.

But be sure there is someone there to watch you. So you don't drown.

Mile Five

We're now on Belmont Boulevard and runners who are several miles ahead of us are wooshing past on the other side of the road.

It's very tempting to consider making a turn here and shaving off three or four miles from the run. Not because I want my time to be better or so I can lie about how fast I am, but just so I can be done.

The tornadoes don't appear very close. Instead it's humid, the air is heavy and people are sitting on the side of the road cheering us on while drinking alcohol and eating food.

I hate these people right now because they are clearly smarter than we are.

In fact, I'm fairly certain I could drink 13 beers much faster than I could run 13 miles. Why didn't I choose to do that today instead?

Mile Six

I spend this entire mile trying to think of a worse athletic gift to have than the ability to run long distances at a fast speed.

I decide there isn't one.

Ultimately, I rely on these five principal grounds:

a. You are always doing the exact same motion.

Even if you're a really good runner you basically repeat the exact same motion: Lift right leg, lower right leg. Lift left leg, lower left leg. Pump arms. Repeat several thousand times until finished.

How much more boring can any sport get?

b. You can't share your sports gift with anyone.

For example, if you're a good golfer or a good basketball player, other people who aren't any good still enjoy playing with you and gain satisfaction from your gift.

Ergo, if Tiger Woods and I are playing golf, I can still play alongside him even though he can drive the golf ball 350 yards and birdie every hole. We can still hang out in the cart amidst my eight strokes, discuss the porn stars that he's had sex with, have a good day.

Same with say, Kobe Bryant, on my pick-up basketball team. He can still dunk on people, make no-look passes, the game isn't as much fun for him, but it's infinitely cooler for everyone else on the court to be able to play with him.

It's this way with most great sports gifts.

But not distance running.

c. Aside from increasing your endurance, what skills can you work on when it comes to distance running?

Most sports become more enjoyable because you can work on subtle intricacies to make your game better. In other words, they have multiple parts that allow you to make your end product better. Think putting in golf, free throws in basketball, dribbling in soccer, picking up spares in bowling.

The nuance of the sport and its challenging parts that make up the whole make it more fun than it otherwise would be.

But other than the distance of the run, what changes with distance running?

Nothing.

d. You have no teammates.

Ultimately you're all alone. Which makes running the perfect rehearsal for death.

e. It's still really hard

Endurance running doesn't come easy to these guys or gals who are good at it. Ultimately someone will run the half-marathon in 1 hour and six minutes. That's barely over five minutes for 13 straight miles.

It still sucks even if you're good.

You can try to rebut these arguments as to why endurance running is the worst possible sports skill to have, but you'll be wrong.

It is the worst and there isn't a close second.

Mile Seven

I make the mistake of starting to count backwards. As in, once I finish this mile I'll only have 5.1 miles left.

That's when I realize that I still have a long way to go before I'm finished.

At this point people on the side of the road are passing out orange slices, bananas and apples. I devour the orange slice.

Three, actually.

It's the best part of the race, how good the juice tastes. I've never thought an orange tasted better. It's the most enjoyable part of the race so far.

Then I do the math. Based on my entry fee, I've paid $33 for each orange slice, more than a Las Vegas lap dance.

Mile Eight

I stop running.

I know, i know, I suck.

You're supposed to run the whole thing without stopping! At least that's what runners say.

Well, I have nothing left. Also, and this is a new theory I develop at this point in the race as well: running is for people with really low self-esteem.

Why?

Because people with really low self-esteem always believe they are going to fail and then when they don't fail -- by sheer dint of metronomic movement -- completing a run gives them a moment's brief satisfaction. I think a runner's high is really just what people with normal self-esteem feel like every day.

I don't have low self-esteem. In fact, I may have the exact opposite flaw. Which is why I automatically assume I can do anything.

In other words, failing surprises me, not success. So I already know exactly what I'll feel like if I complete the jog, exactly what I feel like every day.

Mile Nine

A man in a Michigan State t-shirt is cheering on the marathoners.

Michigan State, really?

After you ripped out the heart of the Tennessee basketball program a month ago with your one-point win that kept the Vols from our first Final Four ever?

I hate this man.

I contemplate punching him because the subsequent police-car ride would be air-conditioned.

Also, I've finally found a song I wont to hear on my wife's iPod-- Eminem's The Real Slim Shady.

The song is now, wait for it, 11 years old. (Kathy Griffin was in the video!) And I haven't heard it in at least seven years. I'd forgotten how funny it is.

So I listen to it 10 times in a row.

This is the only time I smile during the race.

Mile 10

A woman jogs past me.

She has a sign on her back.

It says:

"65 Tomorrow!"

Mile 11

A man trips and falls into me.

My leg crumples.

"Sorry, buddy," he says.

It would be just my luck to tear an ACL while walking in a half-marathon and being run into by someone else.

Volunteers standing along the side of the street are passing out runner's goo to eat.

The goo tastes like old bubble gum that has been left in a 1984 Volkswagen on the hottest month of a Florida summer.

Then served.

But people are shoveling it into their mouths like its caviar.

Most of the people around me are walking now, a large collection of malcontents who will later lie and say the half-marathon was a life-changing experience. And as they eat their goo they toss the wrappers to the ground so that now the ground is sticky and you feel like you're in an old movie theater.

Above us the sky is ominous, the wind is chilled, the tornadoes are coming.

Mile 12

My wife and son are waiting on the side of the road to say hello.

I'm running again now.

My wife says, "We've been waiting an hour, where have you been?"

We're a half-mile from our house. I contemplate stepping out of the race and walking home with them.

And why shouldn't I?

Because I've been fooled by the low self-esteemed runners. They say that if you don't finish the race there's no point in trying. But how does this logic work in running and nowhere else in modern American life?

No one else insists that you complete the whole thing lest your partial completion be worthless.

For instance, if you eat half a birthday cake, no one points to the remaining birthday cake and says you need to finish it or else the half you ate won't be worth anything.

That's ludicrous, right?

Yet when you start a long run, if you don't finish it, everyone calls you a quitter.

But apply that logic into any other part of life and it falls apart.

It's raining now.

I keep on running, cursing in my head.

Mile 13

I keep expecting to feel a measure of joy, some sense of accomplishment as the end nears.

Instead ... I feel nothing but anger over the falling rain, over the tornado that may arrive at any moment, over my decision to run 13.1 miles.

When I cross the finish line, the camera flashes. Later, I'll go back and look at the picture. I look as I felt then, disgusted.

I can memorialize that feeling for $34.95.

Or I can pretend this never happened.

I take the latter option.

My half marathon time: 2 hours 47 minutes and 27 seconds.

This is good for a robust 17,385th place.

Of the 8,988 men who compete in the race, I come in 7,188th place. In my age group, men 30-34, I come in 1,327th place out of just 1,541 competitors. You can see my results yourself here.

For this accomplishment, I receive a medal, a stale bagel and a bottle of water.

The rain pours down as I make my way past hordes of racers clamoring for free bananas. As the final race insult, I now have to walk two additional miles back to my house in the pouring rain.

As I'm walking, the wind and rain pushes my sweaty hair down onto my forehead where the sweat pours out, mixes with the rain, and rolls into my eyes until I can't see.

I feel like Oedipus.

The whole way home I think this and this alone: I will never run another mile for as long as I live.

Ever.

And I mean it.

At home my wife opens the door. "

"We're so proud of you," she says.

I hand my completion medal to my son, thinking that maybe he wants it as a toy. He looks at the medal for a moment and then drops it onto the floor. "Daddy," he says, "do your nipples hurt?"

Small victories.

Offline Catch22

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Re: The Half-Marathon of Doom
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2010, 06:41:41 am »
Way to go , Reg!  At least you finished.  I can definitely identify with you on this one.  For the past 6 weeks, I've been training to run in the Peachtree Road Race and now the guys I'm training with are trying to get me to run in a half-marathon at Myrtle Beach.  I believe six miles is my limit, though...and after reading this, I'm sure of it!  ;D 

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: The Half-Marathon of Doom
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2010, 08:02:11 am »
Way to go , Reg!  At least you finished.  I can definitely identify with you on this one.  For the past 6 weeks, I've been training to run in the Peachtree Road Race and now the guys I'm training with are trying to get me to run in a half-marathon at Myrtle Beach.  I believe six miles is my limit, though...and after reading this, I'm sure of it!  ;D 
Yikes, no, I"m reposting. I didn't do it.  Good luck to you though!

Offline Catch22

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Re: The Half-Marathon of Doom
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2010, 09:48:55 am »
That'll teach me to read the bylines from now on!  Anyhow...I just found out today, that I get to run in a 5K in two weeks as part of the training!  Woohoo...it's only 3.1 miles, but it's Georgia!

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: The Half-Marathon of Doom
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2010, 10:30:54 am »
This was fun to read. Especially this:
Ultimately you're all alone. Which makes running the perfect rehearsal for death.

Genius line.
But good luck, Catch22.  ;D
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
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Offline Magic Wand

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Re: The Half-Marathon of Doom
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2010, 02:32:32 pm »
This was fun to read. Especially this:
Ultimately you're all alone. Which makes running the perfect rehearsal for death.

Genius line.
But good luck, Catch22.  ;D

I love that line too!

All the bestest to you, Catch!
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." --Aristotle, Greek philosopher

Доверяй, но проверяй

Offline Catch22

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Re: The Half-Marathon of Doom
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2010, 07:32:21 pm »
Thanks, Curtis and Magic.  I'm gonna need it!  :'(

Offline BmoreAkuma

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Re: The Half Marathon of Doom
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2010, 10:26:52 am »
:Hi my name is Kate and I was thrilled last week to discover and read Dr. Ornishes book....  as I cannot take any Cholesterol lowering drugs without feeling like I had a lobotomy because of the side effects. 
The diet of Dr. Ornish was easy to read about -BUT the one question I have is -I dont understand why we do not have to count calories.  -To put it into a simple metaphor-If I have a whole loaf of fat-free bread in front of me and I can eat the whole thing without feeling stuffed-would not eating the whole loaf of bread put weight on me?
signed,

Kate
Offtop, I'm a happy owner of

:->
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« Last Edit: October 20, 2010, 03:49:27 pm by admin »
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