Half Mary, (not so) Full of Grace
There was no “gun” so to speak, just a round of applause – as the winners left the gate – then a slow wandering to the start for everyone else. I didn’t check my watch for my actual chip time to start. There would plenty of time to figure my deficit later.
I started my chatter.
“Well. We got that pesky ‘point one’ out of the way. Only thirteen more miles to go.”
“The first mile is very important. This is where you select the girl you’ll be following for the next 2 hours.”
No one wanted to play. It was too warm, and there was a definite seriousness about.
We passed the first mile timer at 15 minutes and something. So, if all my splits ended in a five, I’d be putting in 10:00 miles. That would be fine for today.
The first band was stationed at the corner of Love Park. A very nice Beatles cover band in 1964 attire. If nothing else there would be good tunes today.
We curled around City Hall. A girl just ahead of me misjudged – or didn’t see – a curb and went down. I quickly hopped around her, since I didn’t want to tumble, too.
I was tempted to turn down Broad Street just for laughs … but decided against it.
Cruising down Market into the sun was a treat. Nothing quite smells like Market Street, Philadelphia early on a Sunday morning … except, of course, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. The aromas of steam vents, pee, last night’s garbage, bus exhaust, the Homeless, all create a tasty mélange that fairly overwhelms the senses.
We took a loop through the historical district and up Walnut. Band #2 was the Eagles Cheer band. I could only assume that they would be playing “Fly Eagles Fly” for over and over for the next hour or so. I mentioned to another runner that although I would like the Eagles to win this afternoon, I had Eli Manning and Tiki Barber on my Fantasy Football team. Many of guys near me were in the same predicament. This led to a discussion of post race beer.
“What’s ‘400 Beers’ mean?” a dude behind me asked.
Splits 2 and 3 were in the nice safe 25 and 35 minute range. Ten minute miles, a 2:11 finish. I could live with that quite happily.
We continued our little cruise through the cool shade of downtown; then made our run back up the parkway. In my mind I had broken the race down into three segments: 5 miles downtown, 5 miles out and over the Falls Bridge, and a final 5K back to the Art Museum. The first 5 mile portion was behind us as we took the water stop at Spring Garden Street. I had paid close attention to my coach to stop and walk through the stops. It was getting warm and a little slow down to relax was very helpful. The gentle curve over the Schuylkill brought us directly across from Boathouse row.
I did some quick math … 55 minutes out, they should be almost be done …
“Fuck!! There they are!!!” I shouted as the winners sped past the row of boathouses. Man, they were cooking!!!
We rolled into under the Girard Ave for a 10K time of 66 minutes. Right around 10 minutes; taking “the deficit” into account.
“But wait, isn’t the 10K split supposed to be near Strawberry Mansion??? It took us an hour to get to the Zoo??? This is a problem” My brain was having a bit of trouble visualizing exactly where we were
“We should be much further along!!! We are very far behind!!!” The ‘engine room’ tried to convince the ‘pilot’ all was well. My feet didn’t hurt and my legs were turning over nicely. I wasn’t breathing very hard, although I was warm. The captain would have none of it.
As a Conrail freight train screeched, groaned, rattled and clattered on the bridge above, my own wheels fell off.
I stopped running. I began Gallow-walking [look it up – it basically means ‘run for a while, walk for a while, get your T-shirt’ e.g., you suck, Rudy]
“If you are always allowed to stop training whenever you feel discomfort, you will find it too easy to give yourself permission to quit” – Jet Li
It wasn’t really discomfort in a physical sense - no pain of any sort, just disorientation and confusion. I figured that I was in some sort of fuel problem, since D’Wife and I had waylaid the traditional pasta dinner in favor of a more favorable – to her schedule – dinner of … wait for it … meatloaf. Possibly, the exact opposite of a nice bowl of rotini, a bit of mozzarella, a few olives and a couple tsp’s of sauce. I hadn’t run far or hard enough to tap into my protein supply – of which I had plenty – and had burned all my carbs (if I hadn’t quit drinking for two weeks, there would have been plenty). My plan at mile 7 was to was to load up on Gatorade at the next break and pack in some GU when I could (word on the street was they would have GU at 8, 10 and 12).
Problem #1: No Gatorade. Somehow, in their quest for sponsors, Elite racing [who also manage all the Rock’n’Roll Marathons and Half-Marathons (of which this is one, but Jeff won’t give up their naming rights, just yet)] didn’t sign up Gatorade, or even Power-Ade, but instead went with … Amino Vital.
Amino Vital???!!! Sounds like some barely legal male enhancement substance the WWE would endorse!!!
Plus, as I found out at mile seven, it tasted like someone puking a pitcher of Kamikaze’s into your mouth!!! I would take a pass at further tables … there would be GU to make up for it.
Let me not forget to mention the VERY EXCELLENT blues / funk band playing between 6 & 7.
I hadn’t trained with GU this year but was well familiar for my triathlon days. My tummy would have a “Hey, I remember you!!” moment
As I waddled from miles seven through ten, the day of moderate triumph I had planned was now done. Without my pace-turtle, my brain had left, my tummy was in revolt, my hips, thighs and calves were cramping and un-cramping in a round robin tournament of “who can fuck Randy up the most?” The highlight – if you could find one - of the agony of the second 5 miles was that, yes, the Piper was on the Bridge.
[Look it up, the dude’s been there, since the beginning as far as I know]
The “one thing” about the Philadelphia Distance Run / Thomas Jefferson Half Marathon is that the halfway point ISN’T at 6.55 miles … It’s when you cross the Falls River Bridge. The course is a double loop - an out & back; then further out & back again. You are never really on your way home until you cross the bridge, pass the piper, and head down Kelly Drive – named for Jack Kelly, Princess Grace’s dad.
I actually sprinted to get myself a 10-mile clock time of 2 hours. Sure, my “chip time” deficit may have been 5-8 minutes, but at this point it meant nothing. I was 20 minutes behind my Broad Street time, and I felt 400% worse than I did at this point in May. When we finished that race, I think Annie and I could have gone another 3.1 miles easily. At this point, in September, heading now down to the finish with the other walking, struggling, and - more importantly - silent BOP’s, I couldn’t imagine how I had gotten through the last three miles, and had 3 more to go.
Dreams, Nightmares and Characters
1 day ago