Monday, January 18, 2010

26.2 Halved

This past Sunday I ran the P.F. Chang’s Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon for the fifth consecutive year. That’s two-and-a-half marathons, total. The weather was perfect. I think I saw a marquee that said 56° around mile two and around mile five there was a heavenly cloud cover that lasted the rest of the race. Conditions were perfect and I set a new PR (personal record), 1:37:22. I was, and still am, very excited.

This event is quite the event. There were 21,460 finishers and everyone was real nice. Myself included – perhaps especially. When I was making my final push (I ran the final 1.1 miles in under seven minutes), I was passing a pair of mid-thirties men. The one closest to me, understandably, had to snot. So he shot his snot-rocket (Runner’s Dictionary: close one nostril and violently evacuate the open nostril) and I got sprayed. Residual spray, nothing too overwhelming, but someone’s snot on me nonetheless. He quickly apologized and I said, “No worries, I got plenty of snot on me as it is.” Well let me tell you, twelve miles into a half-marathon that is a funny joke.

Later, I got to thinking: a run by snotting is no laughing matter. Generally, I should be upset and disgusted. Not on race day. There’s something unique about a race day; it’s different than game day. Game day, I want to kill you, punish you, let you know just how much better I am than you. Race day, we are commiserating and want to finish. Our goals and motivations may be completely opposite but we are here to accomplish. Race day is a “we” thing.

And in the spirit of WE, the highlight of my race day was not my PR (although I remain amped on that). My highlight was seeing the full-marathon finish. After I’d finished and collected all of my SWAG, I meandered over to the full-marathon finish line area. What I saw was remarkable. The race time was approaching three-hours and each of the finishers knew it. At the 2:59:50 mark, the announcer started a countdown: “10…9…8…” In the distance, two runners took off, throwing all of their training and good judgment to the wayside for their sub-three hour marathon. It was an amazing moment of human fortitude. They each crossed before the timer struck 3:00:00. Beaten, exhausted, and likely dehydrated, they each stood in their own seas of euphoria and pride. Then one of them puked – three times.

It is always an incredible site to see people accomplish a goal. I suppose it’s only fitting that I write this on Martin Luther King Day and I did not plan that. But the process of achieving a dream is quite impressive, inspiring, and contagious. Scientifically, the endorphins excreted during and following exercise are addicting and good for you. Yet another reason to set an athletic goal and conquer it.

During my 97+ minutes on the course, I saw a lot of things. I never run these races with my iPod in, there is just too much to absorb. I love high-fiving the little kids holding their hands out. You might think I do this for them. Reality: it makes me feel like I’m a superstar of sorts. The 5-year-olds make me feel cool. I saw Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne in their orange and silver tuxedos with matching top hats. There was a banana running, lots of tutus, a bunny rabbit costume, more LuLu Lemon gear than I knew existed, a dude running w/ a 5’ log on his shoulder, and one tramp stamp (that I saw). I also saw a guy wearing tear away sleeves but no shirt. Perplexing, yes, but he was significantly muscled and wanted us all to know. We know.

Also worth noting is the sign Zack pointed out to me. It read, “The journey of 13.5 miles begins with one step.” No one ran 13.5 miles. Also worth noting, John McCain, who was at the starting line, waves using primarily his shoulders for hand rotation and is an awkward winker.

It’s a great weekend that is made exponentially better with great friends. Thanks to Zack for driving us to the starting line and verbally confirming that he liked my CD. Great job Hayley and, on behalf of Zack and I, thank you for tolerating the guy talk, inappropriate jokes, and immaturity. Thanks for coming out.

As I said, it is a tremendous event and I suggest to anyone in the bottom left corner of the US to try it. The half-marathon distance is easily trained for and Phoenix is a city that knows how to throw an event. Do it, I say. Join us on race day 2011.

*For info on next year's race, follow this link: PF Chang's Rock-n-Roll Arizona

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