By Sunday night I’ll have my seventh and last marathon behind me, a long road of limping ahead of me … and my own emotional permission to get another commemorative tattoo.
But for now I’m just so damn excited about finally running the New York City Marathon that I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl in a pair of kitten panties. I peaked in my training on a 22.5-mile run two weeks ago, I’ve had two (actually kind of rough) tapering runs the last two weekends, I treated myself to a pre-emptive sports massage on Saturday and a fresh pair of cushy new running socks, which has become my little pre-marathon gift-to-myself ritual every year … and I’m entering my final stretch with no injuries, no headcolds, no lurking tummy issues and no threats of freakish New York heat spikes on Sunday.
And no family.
My folks, who were so excited about cheering me on in New York that they booked their hotel last February before I even had a chance to book my own, will be staying in Iowa this weekend. My poor mother fell on a chunk of broken sidewalk in the dark last weekend and cracked three ribs and her patella, so she’s now locked helplessly in a knee immobilizer and a crushing pain around her lungs. She was hoping she could go anyway, but her doctors kind of laughed at her … and once she started thinking about the logistics of trains and bridges and staircases and distracted crowds and port-a-potties, she realized she had no hope of surviving the New York City Marathon spectator gauntlet.
I’m actually kind of glad. I told my whole family not to come back in February when I got official word that I was in. Marathons, for as much as I enjoy running them, are stressful. Aside from the obvious physical challenges, you have to worry about hydration and nutrition and peeing and pooping and friction and sunscreen and layering and weather and waking up in time and nail trimming and gear check and bibs and pins and shoe tags and not getting trampled in the first few miles before the runners can finally spread out … so wondering whether my family said they’d meet me at mile 16 or 18 when I’m already foggy at 15 and then further wondering what side of the street they said they’d be on is more than I sometimes feel equipped to handle. Plus I don’t know jack about the NYC subway system or the marathon course so I’d worry even more about my folks trying to navigate them without my help.
And on a selfish note, marathons for me are a very internal, personal thing. I’ve found over the years I kinda don’t like sharing them. I like going to the packet pickup and browsing among all the vendor booths and taking too long to decide which commemorative T-shirt I’m going to buy without feeling like I’m being rushed. I like knowing I can set my marathon-morning schedule and nobody’s gonna slow me down by oversleeping or needing to pee or dawdling at breakfast. I like sleeping alone the night before without the worry of being awakened by another body, no matter how much I love the man in that body. I like having my pre-marathon poop without worrying that the domestic partner is gonna hear me in the next room. I like entering the runners’ area on my own, just me against the 26.2 miles stretching ahead of me. And I like running in my own little zone, without an obligation to anyone but myself … and my plummeting electrolyte levels.
So the domestic partner isn’t coming either. Which makes me both sad and selfishly happy. It will be weird to do New York and Broadway without him next to me before the run, but I’m already in my happy Zen place thinking about how I’ll be running my last marathon the way I did my first: completely, utterly on my own.
Seven years ago I didn’t know any other runners and I didn’t really know what I was doing but I found a training program online and taped it to the fridge and ran every step from my first spring training run to my exhausted stumble across the finish line completely on my own. Since then I’ve run one more on my own, three with my AIDS Marathon pace groups, one with an ad hoc training group that quickly dissolved into no group at all and then this year, where I ran all but six runs alone. And while I love running with a buddy, I kind of love even more having I-did-it-myself bragging rights.
So I take off Friday morning for my last adventure in pushing through personal limitations. With a few yet-to-be-determined Broadway shows as an appetizer. And a slow, careful stumble from the finish line to my thoughtfully selected hotel room only half a mile away. All blissfully alone.
Now that my marathon phase is (almost) behind me, I need another physical outlet. Aside from my six-days-a-week gym habit that, quite frankly, is all about vanity and not even a little bit about health or physical well-being. Fortunately, some buddies just formed a volleyball team and invited me to join them. We’re playing in the lowest-skill-level league, which I think is officially classified as Z, which stands for Zygotes on Zantac. And we had our first Z-league skills camp on Saturday, where the facts were reinforced that 1) I suck at volleyball and 2) I’m in the exactly right league for my skill sets.
The other guys on our team seem nice, but I think we were all emphasizing our pleasant personalities on Saturday to distract each other from our marginal abilities to hit a ball without squealing. Our team captain promised me that he picked players based on their coolness in the face of failure, though, so I think I can safely look forward to five months of nice-guy bonding periodically interrupted by shocked squeals and bleacher searches for runaway balls.
The team captain also sent out a request for team name ideas. I, of course, suggested quite a few awesome ones … including The Bumpits, which would be simultaneously kick-ass, kitchy, memorable, punningly relevant, undeniably gay and the inspiration for a freaking cool T-shirt design. I also suggested—unfortunately—Princess Sparklepony and the Pretty Little Glitter Kittens. Which—also unfortunately—kind of won. I say “kind of” because it—fortunately—got truncated. So our T-shirts will, no doubt in some kind of sparkly fabric, eventually feature this logo, no doubt in some kind of sparkly iron-on:
I am so sorry, guys.