Sunday, October 18, 2009

My sixth marathon!

First of all, this year's Chicago Marathon logo was once again ... weird. This time it was built around the theme of shoe prints, which is neither original nor particularly attractive, and it had the unfortunate sub-theme of being built around images of unattractive runners covered in shoe prints as though they had fallen in the race and the other runners had trampled them into a state of gradient-colored flatness. And you couldn't escape these ugly, trampled, gradient-colored runners anywhere you went in Chicago for a couple weeks before the marathon:

Thankfully, the images did not make it onto the marathon shirts, which, true to tradition, were another kind of ugly altogether. But more on that later.

Because we must respect the chronology of marathon events. So here is part of our crew at the packet pickup the day before the marathon: Peter and I, who committed to run the marathon and actually did it, and Matthew and Taz, who are big quitters. Except Matthew ran me in from miles 21 to 26 so I officially am not making fun of him. And Taz got up early to volunteer at a water station, so she's a marathon saint as well. The event alert system we're standing in front of was set at moderate because the weather was so cold. Which is better than the moderate-to-severe alerts we got last year because of the heat.

The packet pickup is essentially a massive trade show with billions of booths selling everything from running gear and shoes and headphone holder-in-placers to souvenir posters and shirts to registrations for other marathons. And there are tons of cool signs and things you can use as photo ops:

This year there was also a photo-op sign that wasn't quite as marathon-related as one would expect, but I'm never one to not follow directions:

The marathon was cold. So cold, in fact, that our triathlon friends Simon and Russ lent me their running tights the night before. Which was awesome, but in hindsight I probably should have chosen a different pair of shorts to wear over them because my baggy gray-and-red shorts, though built with nicely deep zippered pockets that can hold all the running gels a fella could need for a marathon, look like they're part of a bar mitzvah clown outfit when worn over black leggings:

Then again, this is me we're talking about here: the vanguard of running fashion. And before the marathon was over, cheap knockoffs of my outfit were spotted on runways (ahem) all over Chicago:
(Yes, that big orange PROOF indicates I stole these images from the Marathon photo site. But I intend to buy most of them so it's more like I'm using them through a borrow-to-own program. In any case, I stole them for you people so please don't call the cops. Because you've already looked at the pictures, which is exactly like wearing a dress to a party and then returning it to the store the next day, so you're just as guilty as I am.)

I have no decent photos of me in miles 0 through 17, which were thankfully really easy and enjoyable to run. Especially because I had disposable layers of clothing I threw away or handed to random domestic partners I encountered along the race route as my body got warmer. So you'll have to imagine this picture is me at mile 2 or so, with a white hoodie, a white throw-away jacket, black gloves and a black hat:

Here I am at mile 5, after I've thrown away the disposable jacket and the hat but I still have on the hoodie and the gloves that I have not told you you can stop imagining yet:

Here I'm going to ask you to imagine that this lifesize cutout of me is actually me. Which will be easy to do because it looks exactly like a lifesize cutout of me. It's wearing the hoodie I managed to hand off to some random domestic partner at mile 7 as he and Matthew and Craig and James met us on their intrepid journey to cheer Pete and me to victory. That's the official marathon shirt that the imaginary me is wearing, by the way. I don't mind the logo on the front, but the color is the kind of turquoise that even a Native American would have reservations (ahem) about wearing:

OK. You can stop imagining now. Here I am around mile 18 (for real!), when the pain started to set in. Ironically, it wasn't the foot pain that had threatened to keep me out of the marathon altogether a week before the race. It was just the all-over, why-am-I-doing-this pain that usually hits me right around mile 18. Plus my head cold had clearly taken up residence in my lungs by this point and I'd begun worrying that if I started to cough I may never be able to stop:

So this is what I look like running in pain. Fashion pain:
Thankfully, Matthew the marathon dropper-outer met me at mile 21 and ran me through the pain all the way to mile 26:

From the Department of Really Not That Interesting Two-Camera Perspectives: Matthew (who brought his camera with him so I could have stand-in pictures for miles 0 through 21) took this picture of me running under a bridge covered with marathon photographers:

Here's what my fellow runners and I looked like from the photographers' perspective:

Neat, huh?

I don't know where this picture was taken, but since official marathon photos are more expensive than a child-molestation payout and priest-relocation fees combined, I most certainly didn't stick my tongue out at a marathon photographer on purpose. It was so cold at the beginning of the run that our Gatorade felt syrupy on our lips and our running gels had taken on the consistency of week-old Play-Doh, so I imagine I'm sticking my tongue out here trying to get the sticky Gatorade/gel goo off my lips:

In any case, neither cold nor foot injury nor fashion humiliation nor sticky lips nor lungs full of snot could stop me from finishing the marathon. And I even managed to stay under my new, revised, slow-old-guy 5:00 finishing time goal, but just by seconds:
(For those of you unfamiliar with the way giant races are timed, my 7:40:14 start time tells you how long it took me to get across the start line in the crowd of runners. I have no idea why they do time splits in 5K increments since exactly nobody knows (without cheating) how many miles equals, say, a 35K, but you can see I was sticking pretty well to 31-32-minute 5Ks until I hit my wall o' pain somewhere around the 30K mark. And I love knowing that exactly 25,201 people crossed the finish line faster than I did.)

So once you cross the finish line and get your medal and get your timing chip sawed off your shoe, you can stop for all the free bananas and water and cookies and bagles and beer (!) you want in the finisher's area ... plus you can pose for one final official photo:

And once you hobble your way out of the finishers' area, if you're lucky your fabulous domestic partner will be waiting for you right at the exit. And even though you feel like death and smell like week-old death, he will give you a big wonderful hug that will make you feel even more proud of the things you've accomplished in your life:

I also took a final victory pose with Matthew, who had left me at mile 26 so I could run the final .2 miles all by myself to the finish line:

And I finally met my ugly-shirted doppelgänger in person and felt obligated to pose with him since he'd spent the day cheering me on all along the marathon route:

At the finisher's party, where my body suddenly realized holy shit I'm not running anymore so I should probably stop pretending it's not freezing outside I put my white hoodie back on and posed with Pete and our fabulous signs that Matthew made for us:

And then all the boys from our running group who actually ran the marathon posed for one last photo op, discreetly keeping our eyes from the fashion freak show going on under my shorts:

And then! The day after the marathon—after a very lengthy soak in our Jacuzzi tub—I commenced enjoying my sweet, sweet marathon reward. In alphabetical order:

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