Running for It, Week 32: In which I RUN A MARATHON

Fine. It’s done. I did it. I ran your precious Chicago Marathon. Are you happy now? Are you?!

Because I am.

I, Price Horn (you know, that weird funny-looking guy who named his son after Captain Kirk and who reads comic books at lunch and who has dolls action figures all over his house), just ran twenty-six point two freaking miles, babies.

Which is not to say that he ran them well. But, before we get too deep into that, let’s jump right to the numbers:

  • 4:45:58
  • 19950th out of 35708 finishers
  • 12934th out of 20255 male finishers
  • 2170th out of 3300 male finishers 40-44

Note that I used “finishers” instead of “runners.” That’s because the marathon results website thingy only counts people who actually finished the race, completely discarding the results of anyone who started but did not finish. And I say to the people who are responsible for compiling these figures: BOO TO YOU. 45,000 people registered for this thing; what happened to the other 10,000? (And don’t give me that noise about the wheelchair participants; there were only like 50 of those guys.) I understand that a bunch of them didn’t even show up, because of illness or apathy or alien abduction. But how many started and then crapped out before the end? Look: my numbers would seem so much better if you counted everyone who ran, even if they didn’t finish. So let’s work on that for next year, shall we?

And speaking of those numbers: 4:45:58?! That’s not just slower that I expected to run, it’s WAY slower than I expected to run… slower, in fact, than I have ever run, even on the worst of my long runs back in the sweltering summer. What the heck happened? In the midst of it, when I was too busy putting one foot in front of the other, I wasn’t really worried about pace. I was just running what felt right at the time, and for whatever reason, what felt right that morning was wicked slow. I’m not sure why, but I have some theories:

  • I didn’t sleep well the night before and woke up with virtually no energy.
  • I ate something on Saturday that didn’t quite sit right, and thus woke up with a (very) minor case of the Hershey Squirts. (That’s the last time I consume a burrito that I find on the sidewalk.)
  • It was a little warmer than was strictly comfortable, pushing 80 by the time I hit the finish line, and most of the race was in direct sun.
  • Localized time warp?

To be fair, I’m not the only one who ran slow that day (and even with that time, I was still in the top two-thirds of finishers in my specific categories, and just a hair off the top half in finishers overall). Every single runner I talked to afterwards–and I mean it, every single one–complained about how slow they had run that day. I can’t tell you how many times I heard some lean, sweaty marathon vet griping about his or her “worst time ever.” Most blamed the weather… sure, sounds good to me. It does make me feel a little better to know that everyone was struggling (everyone, of course, but the Kenyan who won the whole thing and set a course record that day). And I could tell, just looking at the faces around me, that people were working a lot harder than they had expected.

I really enjoyed passing those people.

When I could squeeze past them, of course. It was, shall we say, crowded. The starting gun went off and it took more than twenty minutes to get to the starting line and actually start, you know, running. During those first couple of miles as we made our way through the skyscraper canyons of downtown, I probably could have stopped running and just been carried along by the participants to either side of me. We were wedged in pretty tight there for a while, is what I’m saying. Trying to get around someone moving slower than me (yes, there were a few of them) was an exercise in futility, like trying to extricate myself from a maze whose walls kept moving.

And more than once, I was one of those walls for someone else. Somewhere around mile eight or nine, a tiny little lady–four feet and change, max, with disturbingly muscular legs–had to slide past me and she threw some weird, angry gesture at me as she passed. (After that, the girl in front of me got the business end of Tiny Angry Lady’s elbow.) That was kind of an unpleasant experience, I suppose, though not as unpleasant as the tied-up plastic grocery sack full of fecal matter that I passed on the march to the starting line.

But that’s nit-picking. Other than my oddly slow pace, it was phenomenal. Just being surrounded by tens of thousands of runners (many of them marathon newbies like me) as we waited for the race to begin, as we wound through tree-lined neighborhoods where perfect strangers had risen early to cheer us on, as we plodded on through assorted ethnic enclaves where we were loudly celebrated in assorted tongues… it was thrilling. Adrenaline-boosting. Especially around the halfway point and around mile 19 when I caught sight of the family and friends that had made the trip to Chicago, catching trains and buses all over the city to watch me do my thing at various points along the course.

they wrote “go” but forgot to write “away”

Of course, cheer-based adrenaline can only take you so far: ’round about that last sighting of the cheering section, I was really starting to feel it. Call it “The Wall,” call it whatever you want, but my feet were aching, and I was feeling the first glimmers of a raw, steady burn in my quadriceps. I was tired. By mile 21 (”I still have another five miles?!“), I was in uncharted territory. I had never run that far before, and my body would not shut up about it. All I could think about was stopping.

Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop running. Stop running now. It hurts. It hurts. Stop running.

But I didn’t, of course. I may have been running slow, but BY GOD I wasn’t going to stop. People were collapsing, dropping out… but after sinking months of training into preparing for it, spending all that money to register and to travel, there was no way I was going to throw it all away just to disappoint everyone. That’s right, the only things keeping me going were cheapness (sheer skinflintery!) and fear of looking like a chump. (Well, more like a chump.)

By mile 24, it was all I could do to move forward–just take a step, and then repeat. I was grunting like an animal, my legs quivering, burning. Runners around me were reacting similarly to the ravages of the race: weeping, panting, puking in the middle of the street. It seemed like I had been running forever, and that I would have to keep on running, forever.

This is never going to end. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Stop. Please, stop.

But then, a sign: “800m.” Only 800 meters left in the race. I could hear the loud, raucous cheers of the finish-line crowds, the pounding music from the loudspeakers, and right then I knew: I got this. And at that moment, I forgot about the pain and the crippling fatigue, and ran faster in that last mile than I had run the entire race.

600m.

400m.

The 26-mile mark, right in the middle of the final hill of the course. So close. (And so focused was I on finishing strong that I completely missed the cheering section who had traipsed across town to see me finish. Sorry, folks, but I had a thing.)

200m.

And then it was done. Finish line. Medal. Photos. Bananas. Cold towels. Cold water. Cold beer.

I let loose with a manic war whoop, threw my cap in the air, and cared not one whit what anyone thought. Maybe it was slower than I wanted, but I did it. I ran a marathon. I was exhausted, and stepping up on a curb felt like I was stabbing myself in the leg, but I ran a marathon. I smelled like death, but I always kind of smell like death, and

I.

RAN.

A.

MARATHON.

And here’s the best part: because I got it all out of my system at the port-a-potty before the race, I ran 26 miles and 385 yards–a life-changing experience that took nearly five hours–and didn’t have to stop even once to take a dump.

Call it what you want, my friends… I call it victory.

thumbs up for medals, thumbs down for deep, crippling exhaustion

8 Responses to “Running for It, Week 32: In which I RUN A MARATHON”

  1. Chris M. Says:

    WOOOOOOOT!!!!!!!!!

    I have been waiting to read this post ALL WEEK LONG, if only to find out if you had to “take the kids to the pool” in the middle of the run.

    You truly rock with granite boulders, Priceman. Indeed. Congratulations!

  2. Jessie Says:

    Awesome!

  3. JJSB Says:

    Way to go buddy! I knew from the first time that you told me that you were going to run a marathon that not only would you do it, but that you would do it well. And you did run it well! So, now I’m wondering what your next challenge will be???

  4. Sheryl Potter Says:

    Hey Price! Not sure who pointed me to your blog, but I was in the New Covenant youth group with you back in the 80’s and am LOVING your writing! Congrats on your first marathon … you’ve inspired me to think about squeezing my cellulite into some spandex and setting a few fitness goals. Keep writing … I’m sure you have many more adventures ahead!

  5. Joe McLain Says:

    Dude, you are an inspiration! I ran my first 5k & 8k this year and was excited about that, can’t imagine what it would be like finishing 26 miles!! I thoroughly enjoyed reading of your experience and I agree that those extra 10,000 people SHOULD be counted! I hope they are found…

    Joe

  6. Jerry Brumley Says:

    Way to go Price! Never been in a marathon. Longest I’ve ever ran was 10 miles in high school.

    Seen a lot of 13.1 and 26.2 magnets on cars. Now I will be seeing a 26.2 on yours.

    Great story. Great experience. Thanks for sharing.

  7. DMR Says:

    I am SO proud of my little spelling buddy - who knew you were a brainiac AND a jock? I loved your blog recounting your marathon experience - with perhaps the exception of a few TMI moments :-)

  8. Janet Dye Says:

    Very cool! I ran my first half marathon this year and even the thought of running twice that distance at the time made me want to cry. Great accomplishment!

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