Thursday, April 2, 2009

I am Running the New Bedford Half Marathon, and There's No One Here but Eminem and Gloria Putnam Smith

I poke through the contents of my “race kit”.

A bib number 551

4 safety pins

A nifty green t-shirt

A small-shiny-black- something-or-other, in a plastic Ziploc bag with a sticker on it that says “WEAR ON YOUR LEFT ANKLE”.

I am soooooo ready for this.

“I am number 551!” I declare to my family.

“You’re gonna do just fine, honey . Don’t be nervous.” Chris can sense when I am on the edge of freaking out, and he’s got his best soothing-voice on.

“I am not nervous. Okay, yes I am really nervous. Look, they gave me a GPS-tracker-thingie to wear during the race. I have to WEAR IT ON MY LEFT ANKLE” I feel a little in awe of being monitored while I am plodding along in my own attempt at athleticism.

“Its not a GPS. It’s a time-tracker. So they can tell you your time after its over.” Chris takes it out of the bag and puts it around my ankle.

“Right. Okay.” It will heretofore be known to me as a GPS, even if its not.

I put all my things back into the bag and try to imagine myself running the whole half-marathon. For some reason I can’t visualize past the Kentucky Fried Chicken on County Street, but I try not to take that as a bad sign.

Fast forward to the morning of the New Bedford Half Marathon. Chris and the kids have dropped me off within walking distance of the starting line. I have on all the right gear even; Moisture wicking, unflattering and too tight in all the squishiest places. My shoes are laced and re-laced. I have peed six times and I have a hefty stock of gum, jellybeans, fishy crackers and tissues in both pockets.

My ipod is now snug in a plastic and Velcro band that wraps around my upper arm. I wanted it for weeks, but complained that it cost $24. So my mom and sister bought for me. And that is some love, because it is one flimsy piece of neoprene for twenty-four bucks. When they gave me the armband I tried it on and found a tiny pocket on the inside of it.

“I wonder what this little pocket is for?” I wondered aloud.

“That must be for your cyanide pill.” Sarah raised an eyebrow and shook her head.

My family thinks its crazy to want to run 13.1 miles, but they love me and think I’m crazy anyway, so they just fret to each other and look at me with a mix of concern and pity.

At the starting line, we are all herded into a penned-up area and I watch as people warm-up, stretch, fiddle with their own ipod-armbands and get ready to run. I look for my family but there are thousands of people everywhere and then suddenly there is a loud “crack!” and we all push forward, but it takes a few minutes to actually run by the poster that says “Starting Line”.

At first, I think I am doing pretty well. Then I realize that I need to pee again. I’m not sure how that is possible considering the number of bathroom trips I made in the 30 minutes before the race, but there isn’t anything I can do about it now. Faster runners are passing me, but I am keeping up with quite a few others and I am feeling pretty confident. I see some folks I know from Sam’s school and they wave along with a lot of other people who have come out to cheer us on.

At mile 3, I am starting to get uncomfortable because I still haven’t come across a port-a-potty or even a private bush, but I’m still okay to run so I grab my water and keep on truckin’. The other thing I notice is that the crowd of runners has really thinned out and the only other runner near me has a large contraption around his left knee. He kind of runs leaning to the right and swings his left leg out really wide to lope forward. I start to wonder if maybe I’m not running as well as I thought, when he passes me and disappears around the corner. I keep my head up and try not to think about bathrooms, running water or the growing pressure in my bladder.

At mile 5, I am all alone. I either took a wrong turn, or am the slowest human being on the face of the earth. Eminem is rhyming “Lose Yourself” into my ears and I drop half of my jellybeans.

At mile 6 the knee-contraption guy stopped, adjusted his brace, tied his shoes and then loped past me again, disappearing up the road.

At close to 7 miles there is a McDonald’s. I know this is the absolute WUSSIEST thing to do, but I can’t possibly take another step without having an accident. I slip off the course and duck in to use the bathroom. Oh. Yes. I. Did. The manager looks at me and before he can say anything about the bathroom being only for customers I scream “I WILL PEE ON THE FLOOR!” and he turns away as I race to the bathroom. He doesn’t make eye contact as I leave and casually jog back out onto the course where the city-worker-guy-in-charge-of-picking-up-cones waves to me. I make a mental note to inform Chris that we will no longer be welcome at that McDonald's.

Mile 8 is uneventful, except I have started talking to the GPS band on my ankle. I name it Gloria Putnam Smith, because I am getting loopy, lonely and desperate to distract myself. Me, Eminem and Gloria are gonna finish this race, is what I tell myself.

Mile 9 seemed to be a good point to start crying. The worker-guy-in-charge-of-picking-up-cones has been driving slowly behind me. Every few yards he hops out and puts the cones in the back of his truck. When I look back at him he is smoking a cigarette, but gives me a thumbs up, so I keep plodding along.

By mile 10 worker-guy has had to leave me to my own devices, but he pulled up next to me and told me how to get to the Finish Line, because the rest of the cones would be gone. He said he hoped they still had the Finish Line banner up for me, because he was awfully proud of my determination. Then he waved his cigarette at me and took off. I tell Eminem and Gloria that I need to stop and adjust my shoes for a second. I think they are getting impatient with how many times I am stopping. I try to refocus.

For mile 11, some guy in cut off jeans and work boots seems to be also running the same route, but he doesn’t have on a number or anything. Maybe he just decided it was a good day to run.

Mile 12 brings some confusing emotions. At some point I decided I was mad at everyone for letting me do such a dumb thing. Obviously, no one at all loves me, or they would have stopped me from doing something this stupid. Well, I’ll show them all. I’ll just die right here in the middle of the New Bedford Half Marathon and no one will care but Eminem and Gloria, who are my two new best friends. Forever.

Mile 13.1 I DID IT BABY! That’s right! And the Finish Line was still there and I got a shiny medal and a bottle of water for my trouble. But then, Sam came running over and hugged me around the waist and said he was “SO PROUD OF MOMMY!” I absolutely can’t wait until next year.

1 comment:

carrie said...