Where to start, where to start. At the beginning, I suppose. I ran Thunder Road as my first half marathon two years ago and my first full marathon a year ago. A lot of local runners seem to avoid this race because its hilly. I love this race though. I encourage everyone to support their hometown race efforts! I’m not from Charlotte and I don’t get out much so I still don’t know my way around most of Charlotte. Last year I did a bunch of training runs on various parts of the course and got the chance to see so much of Charlotte that way. As much as you can see from the pavement at 6am every Sunday but I take what I can get. So anyway, I really love this race. Which is why I can laugh about Thunder Road 2012.
I wasn’t going to run it this year. I wanted to be a volunteer or a spectator. Spectators, especially after about mile 18, always look like they are having way more fun I am. I wanted to hold a sign and yell encouraging things. Then I noticed an email the race director had sent out regarding this opportunity
Wait..you’re going to give me$200 and all I have to do is take these unmarked pills every day for a month, run a marathon and then give a bunch of blood before and after the race? Suh-weet. This is how, a couple days before Marine Corps Marathon, I found myself hitting the “register now” button.
You may recall that the last time I did two marathons three weeks apart that it did not end particularly well. This time would be different. I needed a long long run the weekend of Thunder Road anyway so I would be treating it as a supported training run. Slow and easy and fun. I wouldn’t be going all balls out for a time or anything. Good plan.
And then Marine Corps happened and I got sick at the race and sick in the week after. I didn’t run very much in the weeks between the two races. When I did run it was sluggish and achy. I don’t know if it was the dehydration at the race or the sickness that followed me home, but MCM was the first time since my first marathon that I really had a hard time recovering. I indulged in a few extra rest days and just basically slacked off. I almost backed out of the whole Thunder Road shenanigan but damn did I want my “$200 and additional fitness testing”! I also suffer from a pretty bad case of FOMO where running events are concerned.
Race morning I got up feeling good and looking forward to a nice long tour of Charlotte. Jeff came with to ride his bike along the course. He did this last year too and it was really nice to have him. He carried a handheld water bottle for me and would keep me company during the deserted second half of the race.
Speaking of company, this race was quite a social run for me. I seriously don’t know how I used to do all my running alone. This last year I finally broke down and started running with friends and now I am addicted. First my neighbor, Mike, and I found each other at mile 5 or 6. Mike was keeping a great pace and it perked me up to keep up with him for a while. We ran together until he split off to head to the half finish just past mile 12. It was so nice to have somebody to run and chat with for a long stretch. It took Jeff several tries to get a good picture as he rode past us. I like that we’re all in sync. I do not like how enormous my left hand appears to be..
So then Mike split and I was suddenly just over it. Nothing hurt. I had a decent amount of energy. I just didn’t want to do this anymore. So I started walking and being cranky and asked Jeff for my water bottle. He handed it over and wisely rode away from me. For whatever dumbass reason, I chugged about half the bottle of water at once. And then it immediately came back up. This made me angry. Jeff popped back up and I told him about the water. I told him I wished I had gone in at the half with Mike. He muttered something encouraging, took the bottle back and faded away again.
I see the bottle in my hand but I’ve yet to get that vaguely disgruntled look about me so I am guessing this is just before the halfway mark.
I walk most of mile 12, ran over the mats at the half and almost immediately began walking again. I didn’t want to play marathon no more today. Jeff showed back up around the 14 mile mark. I stepped off the road onto the curb, stopped my watch and told him I was done. No big deal, I just didn’t want to run a marathon anymore today. It reminded me of this conversation on Office Space:
- Peter Gibbons: I uh, I don’t like my job, and, uh, I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.
- Joanna: You’re just not gonna go?
- Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
- Joanna: Won’t you get fired?
- Peter Gibbons: I don’t know, but I really don’t like it, and, uh, I’m not gonna go.
- Joanna: So you’re gonna quit?
Peter Gibbons: Nuh-uh. Not really. Uh, I’m just gonna stop going.
Jeff was, understandably, confused. I love running and I love running long. I wasn’t injured or sick. I was bored, burned out, lonely and feeling quitter-ish. He kept asking if I was sure.
Yeah, I was sure. I wasn’t even upset. I just wanted to be done. So, even though we’ve lived in Charlotte for 7 years now and could actually see the city buildings near where we’d parked, he got out the map and started trying to figure out how to get back to the car. This took a while. Finally he pointed out that if I ran to mile 18 that I would be back a couple blocks parallel to where we’d parked. I do not know why I fell for this bullshit line. But I did.
Started my watch, plugged in my headphones and got back on the road. I was a little cranky about it but I also knew he was right when he pointed out that I did, after all, “need a long run today anyway”. Miles 14-18 gave me time to reflect on whether or not I really had good enough reasons to take my first DNF. I didn’t really have a good reason aside from I’d already survived an ass kicking, rough marathon three weeks prior and it had taken me 2 weeks to feel better afterwards. I was sort of afraid to end up with another rough recovery period over what was supposed to just be a training run. But when I really got honest with myself the truth was I was pissed off because I knew I didn’t have any fast in me at all this day and wasn’t sure I could take the ego blow of yet another crappy race time. That’s lame ass but its true.
Somewhere in this section of the course I ran into a friend from the training group I ran with for Thunder Rd Half 2009. He was there with a friend doing their first full marathon. I ran with them for a while. It was a nice distraction.
At mile 16 the aid station was handing out entire packages of Shot Bloks. Oh hello! Last year they gave you a couple of bloks in a cup. Eww. This was much better. I snagged two entire packages as I ran through. Free stuff = instant mood boost.
Jeff finally showed back up just before the mile 18 aid station. He asked how I was doing and casually pointed out that it was only 8 more miles to the end. He’s so good to me. Encouraging without being patronizing about it. I agreed it was only 8 miles and I’d regret it if I bailed now. I was tired and not going to get any faster but I knew I could get through to the end just fine. Plus, as I unloaded my Shot Blok stash into his backpack, I told him I was pretty sure they’d have more free Shot Bloks at mile 20! I was going to earn $200 and several packs of Shot Bloks off this deal. The look of confused pity he gave me at that statement was priceless.
The last 8 were pretty good. I ran up on a group of 5 people in matching shirts. Turns out they were the 4:45 pace group…except they didn’t have a single runner with them. Just the pacers. Since I thought a group of pacers with no pacees is kind of sad, I joined them as their sole runner for a couple miles. I had an entourage, if you will. And I will.
We ran through several neighborhoods packed with people having block parties to support the racers. Then it got quiet again for a couple miles. Jeff showed up then and did some tricks on his bike to amuse me. Ran into another runner friend, Kim, and for some reason the first words out of my mouth were, “Kim, you hooker..” Apparently I left my manners at mile 6. Sorry Kim, I know you aren’t a hooker.
At the finish I was surprised to find a couple of friends and my mom were waiting to cheer me in. I felt bad that they’d been waiting longer than expected but was so glad to see them.
Jennifer even made me a custom Hostess sign! And brought Hostess products!
Finished in 4:45:59. That pace group was dead on, apparently.
From the finish I had to go straight to the study tent, get some blood drawn and do some quick fitness tests. Then I was to come back to the tent in an hour and a half to do the bloodwork and tests again. Oy. They really made me earn that $200. In between testings, Jeff and I hit a nearby bar for some snacks. Imagine everyone’s wide eyes when the researcher unexpectedly (well I didn’t expect it but I guess I should have) what I had eaten in between the two blood draws. Ummmmm, “Couple mozzarella sticks, two diet cokes, some nachos, couple onion rings, some fries…and well shit I had at least half of a sizeable sampler platter of bar appetizers…”
All in all, I probably did not need to do this race but I did enjoy it in the end and I am so glad I didn’t quit when I wanted to. And I’ll probably be a sucker and end up doing it again next year.