Friday, April 24, 2009

Eff You, Phidippides

Seventeen minutes. That's how much slower I was this year compared to last year's Boston Marathon, a difference of about 40 seconds per mile. Despite running two other twenty-six milers, along with enough 5 and 10Ks to earn a closet full of t-shirts screenprinted with poor quality clip art of smiling runners, Boston was the first race to break me, to leave me shivering beneath a pile of blankets in the medical tent trying to recall enough dialogue from House to remember whether O2 Sats were something that determined whether or not I'd end up with a misdiagnosis of amyloidosis or just uncontrollable bleeding from the ass.

But let's back up to the beginning of the day, which started with a pair of donuts and a side of promise. My Dunkin-filled breakfast and I were on the bus by 6:45 for the hour-long ride to Hopkinton. The race course is what's called a point-to-point, which means you start in Hopkinton and essentially run a straight line back into Boston. Once my jelly-stained shirt and I stepped off the bus, we had another two hours to stand in the cold, alternately huddling on the ground pretending to do a little-known yoga pose called the Crumpled Wad of Paper or hiding in the noxious warmth of the port-a-john, wondering how long I could stay in there before I was overwhelmed by the scent of partially-digested Powerbar.

At about 9:40--after scarfing several complimentary bagels and making countless strangers uncomfortable with the way I rubbed my own inner thighs--it was time to walk toward the start line. I was in Wave 1, which meant that I'd share a corral with 13,000 of my closest friends, wondering why some of them already smelled like a glove box full of rotting meat. It took six minutes from the official start until I actually made it through the mass of people onto the race course. My goal for the day was modest since my training had been less-than-stellar, interrupted by our miserable wet winter or the unexpected ill effects from eating a bag of Sour Patch kids before a long run, but I still expected to roll in at around the 3:30 mark.

Through eleven miles, that seemed like a possibility. My mile splits were all between 7:55 and 7:25 and I felt effortlessly awesome like the people in Michelob Ultra commercials, minus the moisturizer and cosmetic dentistry. I high fived some kids on the course, I waved every time someone shouted "J-Money!", and seriously considered ending my race to tongue kiss an insanely attractive fortysomething who was standing on an overturned Igloo cooler outside a car dealership.

Anyway, everything was cool until just past the eleven mile mark when something popped in my Achilles tendon-y area. Despite having zero medical training other than once beating Dr. Mario on GameBoy, I knew that this was Very Bad, especially when my calf meat was slapped with searing pain, like it had just been shoved through a sausage grinder. "That's it, then," I told myself out loud, because that's what crazy people do. "You're done." I knew there was a medical tent at the halfway point--mile 13--so I planned to seek treatment and call it a day. But when I started to run again, the shrieking ache in my ankle went away. I made it to the medical tent all right...and decided to keep going.

It took less than a mile before I realized that this would be filed under Bad Fucking Idea. In an effort to avoid further damage to my left side, I made subtle changes to my stride, which caused a number of Latin-named pieces of my right leg to throw a tantrum. By mile 15, I couldn't push off with my left side and was struggling to extend my right. My mile splits got slower--8:00, 8:40, 9:00--as I fell into a pained shuffle, trying to blink back involuntary tears.

Eleven miles to go, and I tried to lose myself in the more pleasant parts of my brain, first attempting to recite the entire script of A Fish Called Wanda, starting with John Cleese's opening "And on that point, members of the jury, I rest my case." Next, I rattled off all of Robyn Hitchcock's album titles in order, spending the duration of Heartbreak Hill arguing with myself about where to put Queen Elvis. Then I tried to remember the last time I had sex.

I was approaching another dark green medical tent when my mind drifted toward the internet. It's a sentiment that borders on Hallmark Hall of Fame territory, but I thought about everyone who takes the time to read this site, the people I "know" from their comments or Twitter or Tumblr... all of my imaginary friends. I thought about how bad it would suck to type out several paragraphs about how I quit. How I dropped out. How I gave up.

So I didn't.

Instead, I dragged myself through another pair of miles. When my limping form made it to Boston College, I learned that the more you're struggling, the more the crowd cheers for you. By that point, I looked like something that would be dredged out of a scum-covered marsh during the opening credits of CSI. In every picture from the event--both the expensive official ones and those snapped by my friends on the course--I look like I am:

  • Crying
  • About to cry
  • Just finished crying
  • Soiling myself
Adding to my misery was the quickly approaching reality that I wasn't going to re-qualify to run Boston again next year. At the 25.2 marker, there was a bright yellow banner that said ONE MILE [to go] and--from the time both my adidas-covered feet passed it--I had six minutes and 17 seconds to make it to the finish line if I wanted to do this shit again.

"That's four laps around the track," I said loud enough to attract the attention of a woman wearing a pair of inflatable angel wings. "Let's do this." I picked up the pace, refusing to give in to the ache in my leg or the fire in my lungs, sprinting down the straight stretch and hoping I didn't lose too much time making the final left turn. I couldn't have had more than a quarter mile to go but the finish line looked like it was in Minneapolis. My arms felt heavy and worthless, like dead animals or Rachel Ray. My throat burned like I'd just smoked a pack of fiberglass-filled Marlboro Reds.

I checked the time. Run faster. Ten seconds. Faster. Five. Pick it up. Finally, my feet landed between the I and the S in the word FINISH. I stopped my watch.

The maximum finish time I could've run and requalified? 3:40:59.

My time? 3:40:59.

Sometimes Fortune kisses you on the mouth.

"Congratulations," a fluorescent-clad race volunteer told me, draping me in a foil blanket that made me look like a half-eaten Big Bacon Classic. She handed me off to a handsome Australian who untied my shoe and fumbled with my timing chip. "How're you feeling?" he asked. Rather than answer, I thought it would be more effective to just pass out. He waved for someone to bring him a wheelchair as he scooped me off the pavement and I was pushed into the medical tent.

I was quickly informed that my blood pressure had bottomed out and my temperature had dropped to a reptile-quality 93.5, so I was wrapped burrito-style in a thick blanket and monitored for 90 minutes while a number of different medical professionals periodically checked my aforementioned O2 Sats and asked me questions I would've struggled to answer on a good day, things like "What's ten times nine?" or "Why would you do this voluntarily?"

When my temperature returned back to human levels, I autographed some forms that said the Boston Athletic Association wasn't responsible if my heart exploded later in the day and was released back into the wild so I could--no shit--walk another mile and a half back to my hotel. It was approaching 3:30 at this point, so I stopped into Burger King for a large fry and a six pack of those dwarf-sized burgers because I decided if the race couldn't kill me, a paper bag full of trans fats couldn't either.
__________

Injuries aside, I'm heading back to the gym this morning but will be taking a two or three week trial separation from running. I probably finished this race at the expense of others, but I'm OK with that. The important part is that I finished.

That makes for a much better story.

P.S. A lot of you have asked about my gloves, my haircut (thankyew) and what it means to 'qualify' for the Boston Marathon. Since--according to the description on the cable guide--I've already seen this afternoon's Law & Order: SVU episodes, I'm going to do a running-related Q&A post later today. If you have any other questions, leave 'em in the comments...

49 comments:

Schmutzie said...

You are being featured on Five Star Friday!
http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2009/04/five-star-fridays-edition-51.html

leslie ruth said...

{Found you through "Of Course, I'm Always Right", which is, sadly, no more...}

My sister (an insane repeat marathoner like yourself) trained me for the Nike Women's Marathon back in 2007. It was a life goal to run a marathon before I turned thirty so we picked that one to make it a grand trip.

Now, my goal was simply to finish. And I did. But, honestly? The two things that kept me going: knowing there was a Tiffany's box waiting for me at the end and that I could never live it down in the bloggy world if I didn't finish.

Congrats on finishing and on being scooped up by an Australian (damn, you're lucky!).

kathy said...

Wow!!!!

I can run a four minute mile on Wii fit, but some how I don't think our situations are comparable.

Anonymous said...

Congrats!! I'm so impressed. Even if the race didn't go exactly how you had planned, know that (1) you still did something totally amazing and (2) you should be really, really proud of yourself. Not many people have the discipline and determination to even attempt a marathon, let alone BOSTON, and let alone to keep pushing through it all.

I just did my first 1/2 marathon about a month ago, and haven't run since, but you've inspired me to pick it back up. Thanks!

Turi said...

THAT was a race report worth waiting for. Excellent.

(I was watching your splits and cringing for you. Good job getting it done.)

Nitmos said...

Congratulations! Hopefully, they don't go through and adjust times by rounding...I've had it happened to me before where suddenly, four days later, I ran the race a second slower. Better keep checking. Destiny is a fickle bitch.

emmysuh said...

My GOD, you are freakishly amazing. And I meant "freakishly" in a good way -- seriously. Running the Marathon in the first place is unfathomable to me, and the fact that your legs were about to fall off and you STILL finished is astounding. And then you made within the qualifying time thingy (Yes, I will be checking back for the Q&A later today) -- you are freaking awesome.

I like to make this imade in my head of you slow-mo running, about to give up, and then you think of my cheerful face...and then you keep going. It's really warming my heart right now.

Anyway -- what was the temperature there? I guess I didn't realize how cold it was -- hence the gloves, I'm guessing?

X-Country2 said...

Wow! You certainly earned that medal. Happy you ended up okay. (Although it would totally be my luck as well to pass out in front of a hottie medical person. Story of my life.)

Sun Runner said...

Congratulations on a badass gutsy performance. I'm trying to qualify for Boston at my upcoming marathon (Cleveland--May 17 only three weeks away OHMYGOD). I have to shave 6:02 off my previous marathon time in order to squeak in with a 3:45:59.

Well, I guess I'd like to know if you followed a particular variety of training plan. If I don't BQ at Cleveland (ARGH) it's back to the drawing board for me and a fall marathon, and I think maybe I should shake up my training. I've been Hal Higdon-ing it for two halfs and this full, and maybe there's a training schedule that's better-suited to my needs out there.

Jamie said...

Nicely done! It stuns me that anyone could do something like run a marathon, but to do it while injured is just amazing.

Julie said...

You have what my coach would call "marathon balls." Amazing story and finish. Congratulations for requalifying in the worst fucking circumstances I've read about in recent memory.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

While I'm a little surprised you didn't picture Hugh Laurie running away from you to push yourself on, that was a great recap. Seriously, it blows my effing mind that anyone can make it through 15 miles with an injury like that. Serious props and kudos to you.

Kelly said...

What's most inspiring (huh, who knew, eh?) is that you just pushed through. That takes huge facking balls to do, lady... especially since you were drawing that kind of will power because you didn't want to let down your imaginary friends.

J-Money, congratulatioms! You effing earned it!

erin said...

Dizz-AMN! You're a machine.

Hey, so what ended up being the diagnosis on the Achilles tendon injury?

Vanilla said...

Congrats again J-Money! You're a rawk-stah!

a said...

I don't know if I've ever commented before (creepster - see also: me) but I just wanted to say that this post is inspirational. Thank you for writing this, and congratulations on finshing Boston!

ms. changes pants while driving said...

coooolll....

how many marathons have you run (ran?)?

how long have you been running.

how are you so awesome?

tomorrow said...

Just wow.

Yeah.

Kat said...

WOW. I am insanely impressed that you both finished a race I wouldn't even think about trying and did it while your body was actively trying to kill you. I'm dangerously close to calling you an inspiration.

Kaeti said...

Congrats, you. I hope if you ever have any doubts about your strength of character or ability to push through ANYTHING, that you'll look back on this and remember, oh yeah, I fucking rule.

My running questions:

1. What's your favorite race fuel (brand/flavor)?

2. Chaffing. In really BAD places. How do I prevent it? Do I have to body glide my bum? After my first 20-miler I felt like there were fire ants in my drawers.

Nat Attack said...

Lurker: party of one!

CONGRATS! I'm in Boston and thought about you off and on during Marathon Monday. Got nervous when I read your injury Tweet but am so glad for this full recap. A thousand congrats! I'm running my first Half in two weeks and I can't wait for THAT shiz to be over; to be so busted during a race and still finish? HERO STATUS!!!

joy refurbished said...

I know "sincerity is uncool" (hell, who am I kidding - i never have fit into the cool category anyway) - but you should know. . . many are proud of you and you should be hella proud of yourself.

Congrats!

JennieG said...

You know what - you rock. Just found you on Twitter, read your post and decided that you are funny as hell.

Congrats on re-qualifying. I will never attempt Boston. I'm too slow. But hey, I finsh.

Caroline said...

This has got to be The best Boston race report ever written!!

Analyst Catalyst said...

Congrats on qualifying and requalifying for next year. I have only recently taken up running (in an effort to not die from overwhelming fat-tosis), and just about everything I read tells me how incredibly hard it is to qualify for Boston. All the more incredible is that you did it injured. I hope you recuperate quickly.

Michael said...

Way to go, J Money.

If I still lived in the Commonwealth, I would have been there to cheer you on.

Bravo!

Or any other cable channels you would like to mention!

FunnyGal KAT said...

I helped you finish the Boston Marathon?!? (well, me and all the other people who read your blog?) Well, that is quite an accomplishment for me. It's almost like I finished a marathon myself (and the best part is not having to actually finish a marathon myself!) Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

You are a rockin' bad-ass! Hopefully not a profusely bleeding ass. Congrats on your achievement. I have taken a 36 year separation from running. Well, 35 year, if you count the fact I didn't walk until I was 1. Runners are admired in my book! I'd start and in about 50 yards trip, wheeze, trip AGAIN, and possibly vomit. So yeah. I digress. Congrats!

-Mon

Sassy Molassy said...

Great post! Glad you made it. Sounds like it was hell. And with that kind of an injury, I'm amazed you were able to finish in 3:40. Thank god for that extra 59 second buffer, eh?! Good work!

Dan said...

Great running and perhaps even greater writing. You're obviously tenacious as hell with the former, but it's your skill with the latter that always keeps me coming back to this blog for more. Well done, J-Money, on both counts!

Anonymous said...

You really are incredible. I'm sure I would have curled up on the pavement and bawled if my Achilles tendon packed it in. Congratulations!!

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Are you sure you're actually human?? The pain, woman.

I would have at least taken a little break, tongue kissed that hot guy, and maybe had him rub my achilles tendon and calf, and...

joyRuN said...

Damn, girl. Great job on pushing through the pain just in order to suffer through it again in a year or so.

Congratulations!

los_tartist said...

I've decided that I want to be just like you when I grow up. You Are Amazing. Seriously chica, I'm soooo impressed.

jen said...

Awesome job. Since I've done some marathons myself, including that one, my only question is

How the holy f did you run a 6:17 mile at the end of a brutal marathon!?!?!

Anonymous said...

posting in an epic thread...i mean post. fuck.

Mike said...

So if I read this right it's OUR fault you tortured yourself. Hmmmmm I think we can live with the guilt. If you can do 3:40 injured, next year we expect a sub 3 hour run.

Deidre said...

Dude, that is majorly impressive! congrats again!

Fenz said...

I'm hugely impressed because I can't run to save my own life! Cycle, yes, run = FAIL! So well done on completing it with an injury and in time to qualify again, that's no mean feat lady.

Jillie1979 said...

Congratulations! I would consider walking 26.2 miles in a week an accomplishment. You are inspirational.

I once heard something creepy about peoples toenails falling off after running marathons. Is there any truth to this?

poodlegoose said...

Girl, that is so effing amazing, simply because you didn't let yourself give up at the last minute. I have a lot of respect for that, because when I'm running? Yeah, that never happens. Congrats on requalifying (is that a word?)!

JerseySjov said...

running scares me, seriously.
my fastest time eever in that mile you have to run for gym class each year was like 12 minutes.

Non Sequitur Chica said...

You are quite ridonkulous. Running a 6:17 mile after already running 25 miles?? Not to mention after something "popped" in your Archilles??? I can barely do a 9 minute mile by itself (yes I am a slow ass muthafucka).

You are a rock star. Congrats on qualifying again!!

theloosemoose said...

Simply AMAZING. You know you're a super hero, right?
I can't even imagine running such a freakishly fast final mile.
Way. To. Go.

The Laminator said...

Congrats on your spectacular run. I also did some soul-searching out on the course but it probably pales in comparison to what you went through.

Congrats on making it in the nick of time so you can enjoy this hell ride again next year!

Kristy said...

i was in *england* so i wasn't able to wish you luck ahead of time. but i'm very excited for you to finish and to have done so well! i am gearing up for my first marathon in october, and i love reading your posts about running. keep it up!

Cindy said...

hi! i heard your runners lounge podcast the other day. so funny. anyway, big congrats on your time and requalifying!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey, great story. We may have been in the same corral. I was in corral 12. Finished about ten minutes behind you though. It was fun!!

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