The story of my first marathon is not a pretty one. I advise that if you are easily offended or grossed-out by body fluids, nudity, references to taboo body parts, etc, that you skip this entry. It is also exceedingly looong, and I apologize.

Mile 1: We run it in OVER 13. Ugh. And it felt like a decent 12-pace, what I was working for. Bleah. Deb’s hawk eyes spot us an unofficial pacer, a woman with a neon jog bra and too-tight shiny shorts with a bouncing braid. We call her “bra lady” first, but keep getting looks from other runners, so we nickname her BarBRA. “We’ll keep up with her,” Deb tells me. It seems too easy.

Mile 2: The first water table. Deb refuses to throw her paper cup onto the ground, insisting on carrying it until she sees a trash can. I argue, because I still have plenty of energy, that this is what she’s paid her registration fee for: so people will pick up after her.

Mile 3: Deb, still carrying her cup, explains that a commercial from the 70s has always stuck with her: a weathered, Native American face shedding one poignant tear while the camera pans over a littered North American landscape. She reluctantly drops the cup by the side of the road, whispering what will become her mantra recited after each water table: “Sorry, Native American man.”

Mile 4: A small, tow-headed child yells “Pick it up!!” at us. Deb insists he said “Keep it up!” but I am skeptical, and from then on every time someone says “keep it up,” I growl.

Mile 5: I begin to suspect that my dose of Immodium was not an effective dose.

Mile 6: While standing in line for the porta-john, Deb and I marvel at the droves who forego standing in line and instead hurdle the brambles that line Shore Drive to relieve themselves. One woman apparently does not realize she hasn’t hidden herself effectively, and as she stands to wipe (god knows with what) she affords her UNWILLING spectators a considerable beaver shot.

We lose BarBRA.

Mile 7: Deb and I enjoy the dumb placards placed in the shoulder for our consideration. What is Michael Vick’s hometown? … Newport News. What is the highest elevation in Virginia Beach? … Mt Trashmore, 68 ft (above sea level!). Do bald men get lice? Etc. Deb predicts that as the distance lengthens and delirium sets in, the dumb jokes and trivia will turn funny and seemingly useful.

Mile 8: A guy hiding in the dunes of Cape Henry Park snaps our pictures. We wonder at first…WTF? And then realize he will try to sell them to us later, like they do for people who ride roller coasters.

Mile 9: Deb removes the string cheese she’s stashed in her waistband to inspect it. It’s awfully soft looking, but still good, she thinks. She puts it back.

Mile 10: The Gu table. We each take one small packet of Gu (pronounced “goo”) and a cup of water. Without thinking, I gulp my water down, as does Deb. I then realize that Gu, something I’ve only had once before during a 10K years and years ago, is really GROSS. I advise Deb of my plan to palm the Gu until I’ve got the next water table in sight so that I can bolt the Gu and promptly wash it down. She decides to go ahead and try her Gu without a wash down. I warn her again of its consistency to bodily fluids that truly aren’t meant for consumption. She consumes her Gu (you don’t really “eat” it, but you don’t “drink” it either) with immediate regret. “It’s AAAWWWFul,” she cries. “And it even LOOKS like [that bodily fluid that is NOT MEANT for consumption].” I ask her what flavor she ended up with. “Caramel Apple. But it’s GREY. Not CARAMEL colored.” And she proceeds to leave my ass in the dust for the next two miles.

Mile 11: Deb is not around, but I have still managed to remain among a small pack of runners. One older man (I’m guessing 70) is keeping at my heels. I try to shake him off because he is literally breathing down my neck and I’m afraid he is going to step on my heel and trip me, but he will not let me get ahead. I can’t decide if I’m pleased he’s pacing with me, or if I’m mortified that someone so much older than me is having NO trouble at all keeping up. [This, of course, is a huge joke. So many of the runners there were 50+, and ALL of them finished ahead of me. No joke.].

Then, I hear another voice behind me, to my left: “Hey Buddy. You been walking since the beginning?”

Old Man pacing with me: “Walking? WALKING!!?? Why, I oughta BASH YOUR BRAINS IN!! [mutters] walking! walking!

And the old man picks it up, passing me in the shoulder, still muttering under his breath. The man to my left says to his partner, “Wow. I was just asking if he’d started at 630 or 730. I didn’t mean to piss him off.”

And it occurs to me that if the guy on my left thought the old man was walking, did he think that *I* was walking, too?

Mile 12: I get 4 cups of water at a water station and then have no hands left to tear open my Gu. I use my teeth, splashing precious water. I luck out: its Chocolate Cherry flavored, and much better than the last time I tried it. It is a little like eating melted frosting rather than the other gross analogy I’d been making. I still need the water.

Deb is waiting for me, streching in the shoulder just past the water table. “What are you DOING?” I croak. “Go ON. Please do not let me keep you. I’ll meet you at the tent, by the bagels!”

“No.” She says. “We’re going across the line together.”

It seems so generous and wonderful of her to say this at that moment. I smile, and I’m happy I’ve dragged her with me. We promptly take a wrong turn, get lost, run 100 extra yards, feel like fools, and curse the dumb man who put the cones too far apart.

Mile 13: The tootsie roll water station. Deb grabs two handsful, and I shake my head at the smiling boy scout who’s offering them. The Gu is still lingering in my mouth, even after the water, and I feel like I’m drying out. I have no spit to even lick my lips. But I am still feeling OK. Halfway is good, I think.

Mile 14: The Immodium has not worked AT ALL. I spend another 5 minutes in a porta-john, scheming on things like night-before enemas to outwit my rebellious, betraying bowel on the next run.

As I step out of the john, Deb says “Hurry, BarBRA is making a pit stop now. We can take her.”

Mile 15: Deb’s knees and my feet and a nice walking lady encourage us to allow ourselves to walk. We agree to fastwalk a mile, run a mile, and run more often if we feel better. It becomes immediately clear that walking feels OK for Deb’s knee, but my feet still feel as though they’re on fire. And I wonder why the hell I didn’t cut my toenails before the run. I think fearfully of a story I read about a man who, during the Boston, had to have his shoes cut from his feet at mile 22 because they were filled with blood. When they got his shoes off, the bottoms of his feet were literally rubbed off. Truly, my heart and lungs feel good, my legs and joints are decent. My damn feet are on fire, killing me.

Mile 16: The delirium sets in, and we nearly fall over laughing at this placard: If Milli Vanilli fall in the forest, does somebody else make a noise?

Mile 17: People on the sidelines start saying “You’re almost there.” It sounds good at first, but then we realize, we are NOT ALMOST anywhere. We are not even off the Army base (Fort Story), on which we have literally been running in circles. I begin to hate the people on the sidelines.

Mile 18: Deb grabs two more handsful of candy at a water station; again I shun the candy. My stomach is just not right, and I feel nausea eeking into the periphery of my belly. She makes me take a tootsie roll, which actually makes me feel less nauseous, but then my mouth immediately gets gluey and gross. Deb is delighted to have found herself with a Mango-Orange Creme Saver, but is disappointed it’s a hard candy and not chewy. “I’m just gonna lick it,” she assures me after I inform her I have not the strength to perform the Heimlich. Once she licks it, she cannot help but put the whole thing in her mouth, making me worry the entire time she’s sucking it that she’ll choke and die.

Mile 19: Someone yells “Almost there!” I almost yell “F*%$ off! Stop your evil LIES!!”

Mile 20: Deb removes the string cheese from her waistband and proceeds to eat the nasty, flaccid, yellowing phallus. I look away. A man runs by us, craning his neck, trying to figure out what the heck Deb’s eating. “It’s penis cheese!” I say. I have lost my senses.

Mile 21: We’re getting a little closer to the oceanfront, but certainly NOT close enough. I contemplate the grass in the median, and fantasize about laying down. I close my eyes a little, and find that it feels a little better. I start closing my eyes periodically. Each time I open them, Deb has moved a little further ahead.

Mile 22: Deb slows her gait and transforms into a Running Nazi. As I catch up to her, she begins talking about food. “Think about HAM,” she says, a little giddily. “Mmmmm,” she says, pointing to a seafood buffet. “Lobster! Crab legs! We can eat whatever we want when we’re done!” she entices. Food is not doing it for me; my stomach and guts are hating me right now and it’s taking every extra ounce of self control for me not to hurl. I scowl and tell her to shut up, I’m not hungry.

BarBRA passes us.

Mile 23: Deb asks what will motivate me to get to the finish line. I admit: “A bed. A breastpump.” Though I’m only attempting lame humor with the breastpump; my date with the Medela that morning had emptied me fine, and my body was in no position to be giving my mammary glands any food or energy for production. She gets me from walking to running again, and we pass BarBRA, and some walkers.

Mile 24: At 4th street we do a U-turn and start running north on the boardwalk. We enter into a highly theoretical discussion concerning agonism. Deb, the Running Nazi, barks strangely useless but effective motivation in between my protests about needing to beat other people in order to feel success. I inform her that no matter what, we will have beaten the DNFs, those who for whatever reason, will not finish, but that doesn’t make me feel successful. It makes me SAD. The prospect of DNFs energizes Deb, and she asks if I’m ready to Pick It Up. I tell her to shut up.

Mile 25: It has now been SIX HOURS since the marathon began. The boardwalk has since been opened back up to the public, and we are dodging couples with dogs, children on bicycles, strollers, skateboarders, rollerbladers. Deb, in a last ditch effort to raise my spirits, likens the tent in the distance to Madonna’s cone boobs, and assures me that any tent that looks like boobs will be brimming full of breastpumps. I have not the heart to tell her I don’t really need a breastpump.

Mile 26: The leprechaun who announces every finisher begins narrating our approach. “Here’s two fine ladies,” he booms. “We wonder, do they know each other? Are they friends? Did they meet just today on the course? Or maybe they’re arguing about who will finish first?” I smile and tell Deb I’m sorry I told her to shut up. She laughs and the leprechaun announces Deb’s name and hometown, and then mine. “YOU ARE MARATHONERS!” he booms.

We hobble through the chute, have our timing chips unstrapped from our ankles by smiling volunteers, and I wonder whether I will ever WALK again.

I sit, briefly thinking that I won’t be able to get up, to remove my shoes. A man and a woman who appears to be his mother smile at me. He asks, “Blisters?”

“No, not really,” I answer. “Just this horrible swelling.” My toes are sausages, my anklebones non-existent.

“You should buy shoes a half-size up. That might help,” the man offers. I smile and nod, and don’t have the heart to tell him that these ARE a half-size big, and that my mutant swell will require shoes two sizes too big.

There is no beer left, but we don’t care. Deb wolfs a few bagel parts down, and I sip some Gatorade half-heartedly. I’m thinking of our eight-block walk back to the van at the hotel, and that my feet will require amputation.

We finished officially in 6:17. Brian was quick to point out that 31 walkers finished in less time it took us to run, which I appreciated (NOT!). I’m pleased to announce that my feet are fine, my legs are sore but each day worlds better, and I WILL run again. I promise.

Just not this week, like Deb wants us to.


8 thoughts on “blow-by

  1. Congrats!! You kick all *kinds* of ass. You did, however, cause me to laugh hard enough to make my lunch (hot, hot curry) to shoot out my nose (It was Mile 20 that did it — Penis cheese! Bwahahahahaha!)

  2. Today I went for a brisk 20-minute walk, and it was an accomplishment. I’m proud of it. Your marathon is perspective for me. Holy catz, M, what an accomplishment!

  3. Madeline,

    This story should be less funny to me because I know firsthand the horror of Penis Cheese and Hairy Naked Pee-Lady. Instead, I find it absolutely hilarious. Your readers will think it is a tall tale, though we know it is all too true! I’m so glad I completed my first marathon with you. It was a GREAT weekend, and one I will always remember. Hey – wanna start training for one of those 100 milers??!!! PICK IT UP!!!!

  4. I have to agree that the mile-by-mile account is one of the funniest things I have read in a long time. Thanks for making me roll on the floor laughing (literally!). It was the Milli Vanilli joke and the Penis Cheese that did it. Actually, I laughed (and rolled on the floor) twice because of the Penis Cheese. I think you should send it in to some marathon magazine. It was inspiring. (I think I’ll go eat something now. Perhaps some pie.)

  5. I can’t believe you picked the Shamrock for your first!! I was stationed in Norfolk for many years, ran the 8k a few years and loved it, all but the sand in the face!! Wasn’t up to marathon distance back then, and I did San Francisco as my first, so thats why I had to write. Excellant account and “penis cheese” got me a snortin!! Thanks and go do another marathon!! Congratulations!!!

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