In about ten days, I’ll be lining up with 30,000 other people on the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. What started as a goal to finish a marathon 20 years ago has gotten to be a bit of a hobby. I lost track after marathon number 15, and now my job is to train as little as humanly possible so I can just finish about one per year. Boston, in particular has a special place in my heart because it’s close enough to several of my college running buddies that we make it a Girls’ Weekend. The priority list reads more like….Girls’ Weekend’ first, small road race second.
Jenn and Ann are famous for their epic sprints by foot, car and train to see me at various points along the course. Depending on the weather, they’re equipped with all the essentials. Icy pops, cooling packs and frozen sponges for hot race days. Extra hats, hand warmers and fleece pants for cold race days.
Their presence along the course is invaluable. Without them, I’d surely have crawled into the crowds that line the course at Fenway Park, bought a beer and watched the Red Sox instead of finish. While I look forward to seeing them at our various meeting points, the truth is that for most of the race, it’s just a whole lot of…me. Me in my head. Me stomping the pavement. Me talking to myself. Me questioning my intentions in putting my body through such a grueling workout.
The conversation is one-sided and usually a repeat of the year before. This year, I thought it best to do myself a favor and just map it out in advance, mile by mile.
It sounds a little like this…
Start: Here we go! This is gonna be great. I love this race. All these people with this glorious energy.
Mile 1: Downhill. Don’t go too fast. I’ve got a pace and I need to keep it.
Mile 2: Hmmm….What if I trip on a crack in the road? Ohmygosh what if I acutally fall or pull a hamstring or something? That would totally bite.
Mile 3: Okay let’s see…listen to music or listen to crowds? I wonder how much this iphone weighs? I wonder if I would be running faster if I didn’t have it? Why did I even bother to bring it? I could have just brought one of those ipod shuffle things. It’s not like someone is going to text me and I can text back. Omg what if I get hot and dump water on my head and it soaks the iphone? I totally should have left it at home. Drat.
Mile 4: Why in the world is there a runner wearing a banana suit? And what about that woman in a tutu? Actually, the tutu is kinda cute. Gotta give her credit.
Mile 5: It might be fun to talk to someone this year. Strike up a conversation and just see where it goes. Wait, no…that’s a terrible idea. I’d probably hear all about things like sore body parts and all the improper training techniques they’ve heard about. I’m the total DEFINITION of sore body parts and improper training techniques. I better just….keep to myself.
Mile 6: Shower or bath after the race? I wonder if it’s too extravagant to do both?
Mile 7: What about food? What am I really craving when this thing is done? Is it sushi? A fruity cocktail? Whatever it is…room service. Definitely room service. Why do they charge you such an exhorbetant rate for room service delivery? Oh my gosh…that reminds me…what’s the deal with tipping housekeepers, anyway? Do you do that AFTER the first night of your stay or at the end? That’s a thankless job…I need to tip housekeepers more.
Mile 8: These crowds are just unreal. There is nothing like Boston. I’m so overwhelmed. I need to move to New England. Could I fit in, or would I just look like a hippy little Colorado girl?
Mile 9: I should do something productive right now. I should think of new ideas for a short story or a book. What about fiction? Could I do that? Oh my god I would be TERRIBLE at fiction. Maybe something about running. I’m a good runner. Look at me…I’m at mile 9 and I’m just getting warmed up.
Mile 10: I need to make Eden an appointment for a haircut. You know how the stylist always tells little girls that if they cut their hair shorter it will grow faster? What’s the deal with that…is that really true? Also I should go get my hair blown out tomorrow. It will be all knotty and gross and it would be nice to have someone else wash and dry it. That seems like a fun career. Maybe I should go to beauty school. Beauty school? Do they still CALL it beauty school? That’s so…Olivia Newton John and Grease.
Mile 11: I love the people who put their names on their race shirts. Then everyone cheering shouts their actual name. That must feel good. Until mile 23 and then maybe they want to tell the spectators to shut the bleep up.
Mile 12: I’m really tired of lemon lime Gatorade.
Mile 13: Here come the Wellesley girls. They hold these signs saying, “Kiss Me!!!” I’m totally going to kiss a girl. If I spend an entire 10 mintues running past cute college girls and picking the right one to smooch, I won’t even know that a mile passed.
Mile 14: I have to pee. Oh god, do I really have to pee? If I don’t pee, will it just get absorbed back into my system and hydrate me? How does that work? I should have listened to the psychic I saw last month who told me I should go to medical school. Omg, I cannot believe I went to a psychic.
Mile 15: My legs know. This is the real deal. They’re totally saying, “Holy crap she’s doing one of these marathon things again. For the love of pete, Woman…you’re 45 years old! Enough is enough. Go back to yoga class and hang out in Down Dog!”
Mile 16: Hills. Ouch. This is dumb. Why do I do this?
Mile 17: Where are Jenn and Ann? I thojght they were going to be at 16.5 but now it’s 17 miles. I need to see them and stretch for a minute. Omg, what if I passed them and they didn’t see me? Did I tell them what I’m wearing so they know what to look for? I should have worn neon. Oh wait…there they are! Hallelujah.
Mile 18: How many more mintues until I see them again? Holy smokes…I think it will be another 40 minutes. Should I run faster? Can I run faster?
Mile 19: Must think of something other than my body. How about the body of the man in front of me. He has no body fat. What’s the deal with men? My husband can practically just LOOK at a bicycle and he loses five pounds. I hate him. Oh god, I didn’t just say that. No, I don’t. I don’t hate my husband. I love my husband. I’m losing it. Is this what women feel like during childbirth? I need more lemon line Gatorade. I need a massage. I need a bubble bath.
Mile 20: Heartbreak Hill. I see you, you ridiculous hill. You think you can crush me, but I trained at altitude. I ran up mountains. I have more white blood cells than anyone else in this race. White blood cells? Wait…is it white or red blood cells?
Mile 21: My college cross country coach was so good at visualization. I should do more of that right now. I should visualize myself being lifted by balloons. I should visualize the finish line or the faces of my children. Here we go. I’m gonna try that.
Drat. That didn’t work. All I can see is a chocolate cake.
Mile 22: Jenn and Ann. I see them up ahead. How much can I strip off? I can take off everything except my running bra and my shoes, right? I’m carrying too much weight. I shouldn’t have eaten those jelly beans three nights ago. Everything hurts. Even my belly button hurts.
Mile 23: I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
Mile 24: Wait…Johanna. Stop right there. You have absolutely nothing to whine about. There are individuals running all around you who’ve survived cancer or the loss of a loved one within the past 30 days. There are runners with disabilities the likes of which you can never imagine. There are runners who’ve given birth within the year or who are suffering mental illness. Be humble. Be grateful. Keep running.
Mile 25: Oh my gosh, we’re coming up to Fenway and LOOK at those overenthusiastic, drunk Red Sox fans cheering for the runners outside the stadium! I’ve never been more excited to see a pack of inebriated baseball fans.
Mile 26: I’m totally going to make it. Holy crap, I’m going to finish the damn thing. Right on Hereford. Left on Boylston. Finish line. Here we go.
Mile 26.2: That. Was. Awesome. Sushi. The answer is definitely sushi.