Well, well, well. Look who’s finally getting around to writing a RR about this race some of you remember from two months ago!
Sorry for the delay, folks. And also for being somewhat remiss in my blogging duties. I’ve been pretty scattered, frankly. Traveling for work, ramping up training, getting back into woodworking, all these things have laid claim to a portion of my waking hours.
So without further ado, here is my Marshall University Marathon Race Report.
The air I inhaled as my eyelids rolled back on race morning was clear and brisk. It was a wonder to me that I woke up as fast as I did, considering it was a full three hours earlier than I would have awoken in my own time zone. Thankfully, DW and I had pretty much gathered our gear the night before, so I went through the automatic motions of race prep while my body got eased into the familiar feeling of motion.
Our wonderfully Sassy host was kind enough to drive myself, Californian Runnin’, Jenster, and Mildsauce to the race. What a guy! It was pretty chilly as we followed the crowd to the start area, but that only meant it would be optimum racing conditions. We met up with a few other Loopsters, but sadly missed seeing the rest before the race. I saw Bangle and we decided to find a restroom. As we ventured inside a University building, he was bounding up stairs like a pent up racehorse, fired up! He was bound to have a good race, and the fact that he was running with Mildsauce only confirmed he’d have a fun one, too.
The first few miles passed as they usually do for us on Sundays, an exercise in tolerance of creaky legs and anticipation of later comfort. We wound around the neat streets of Huntington with countless others, a crowd cutting through the usually serene Sunday morning air. I made a mental effort to really pay attention to how the course was laid out. Steve (a really great guy) had led a caravan tour around the course the day before, but running it was the only way to get a feel for how I could mentally break it up.
Call it a habit. Whatever I run, I cut it up into things I can look forward to. In this case, it was the waterfront park, then Ritter Park (DIRT!), then Marshall University. When we hit Ritter Park I reveled in the decomposed granite. I admit I’ve developed an aversion to pavement, so having those miles of trail right in the middle of the loop was an absolute gift!
I noted the distance when we left the park and enjoyed winding around town back toward the University. DW and I wondered how much the crowd would thin out at the halfway point and really soaked in the experience of being a part of this incredibly cool race. We made it a point to thank every serviceman/woman who was marshaling the course; there really was a welcoming small town feel surrounding the race.
After a few really cool twists through the school, DW and I headed out for the second loop. This time, I had a pretty good idea of the distances between certain points and there were more and more familiar faces in the sections where the outgoing and incoming runners passed each other. I sometimes tend to talk a lot, to DW, to strangers, it doesn’t matter. The weekend had been so awesome so far I was in an amazing mood. My legs had finally warmed up and I was beginning to fall into a nice groove. And BONUS: I could feel my hands again.
Shaun raced by and I glanced at my watch. “It’s gonna be close, I hope he makes it! That’s guy’s an animal!”
Dean cruised by, not even sweating. “Dean is not human.”
Ritter Park was the magnet pulling me through the streets on the way out, and once we got there it did not disappoint! There was a teenager running the marathon, and her dad was riding a bike through the park next to her, telling here what a great job she was doing and how proud he was. We ran with a guy running his first marathon and when we approached his gigantic family cheering squad his two little boys charged up and ran beside him. We literally ran through a wedding day photo shoot (we stopped, but they waved us through anyway). These things just added fuel to the fire of happiness churning in my chest that day.
We left the park and started to feel a little tired. Doing a long run on Saturday was good for training and a fantastic way to tour Scott Depot and Hurricane, but it resulted in a small low spot for me on Sunday. It was about mile 23 when we approached a left turn with a bunch of high schoolers running the aid station. I faintly heard some music blaring, and as we got closer it sounded more and more intense. I thought, “I know that buildup. Where do I know that from?” Then the crescendo immediately stopped and the air was still.
“Oppan Gangnam Style…” And a dude hopped into the dance!
I laughed my ass off for a good minute after that and smiled for the remainder of the race. That was a spring board which launched my mood out of the doldrums and into a hot air balloon. Every smile we passed and every determined runner we saw pumped more hot air into it, lifting me higher and higher. As we hit the long straight stretch up to Marshall, Mildsauce and RunBabyRun were sure nice to see. They were heading back along the course to run it in with some others. The Loop camaraderie was out of control!
The run through the University was not any less cool the second time. I loved the messages written in chalk on the course to certain runners. As we came up to the stadium, I realized we had to drop down to field level and my heart sank for a second. Then a strangely inspirational thought entered my head: “At least it’s not Mt. Diablo.” Ha! We raced down the hill and onto the turf.
Man, that was cool.
Running the length of the field, chute lined with cheering “fans”, was one of too many highlights to count. We turned into the final straightaway and saw our Loop family cheering behind the line. We saw JB’s Bubba Gump hat hunched over a strategically aimed lens. I got to cross that finish line holding my wife’s hand and surrounded by great friends.
I am grateful for the life I lead, and it’s moments like this that remind me of that fact.
Run happy and healthy, folks!!!