February 11, 2013

Lesson 65: The 26.2 Club

26.2 miles.

The first person to run this distance continuously was Pheidippides, who sprinted from the Battle of Marathon all the way to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians. Allegedly, after proclaiming, "We won" (in Greek of course), Pheidippides collapsed and died.

The fastest person to ever run this distance is Patrick Makau of Kenya, who completed the feat in just 2:03:38. This is approximately the amount of time it took me to write this blog post. Got to love nap time.

The most recent group of people to run 26.2 miles and gain membership to an elite tier of personhood did so in Phoenix, Arizona on January 20.

This Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon was my first.

My involvement in the RnRAM met every preconceived marathon expectation I have ever had. It required diligent training and meticulous preparation. It necessitated strong mental readiness, a real "can do" attitude. Finally it entailed pre-race discipline including proper nutrition, rest, and hydration.

Also as expected, I collapsed exhausted upon completion and experienced a true sense of pride in my accomplishment!

I can't even imagine how I would have felt had I actually run in the race.

I hope you didn't think that I had run. I don't really run, per se. I jog occasionally around the playground outside and am most likely capable of beating Samara in a race. But, no, I did not run in the race.

I was on a support team.

See, here I am cheering, as my bff Nikki checks in and receives her number. Excitement was in the air. Uber-fit, hipsters roamed the center, sporting neon gear and drinking water.

I wanted to be all of them!

But, my race day responsibilities lie in a realm outside the pounding of pavement.

Here I am with our team captain, Hayley. Hayley was not a marathon newbie like myself. Both she and her fiance, Brett, were inaugurated into the 26.2 club at a race in Washington D.C. As in, they actually ran 26.2 miles. Thus, she knew exactly what Nikki needed to succeed on this big day: A sign from her hubby, loads of water, a sweat towel, and of course, a cowbell. Because what marathoner does not need the encouragement of a cowbell? 

Support teams are very important. All that stuff I said about preparation and so forth was no joke. Hayley had the whole course mapped out, knowing exactly when and where we'd see Nikki run by and what supply exchanges needed to occur.

Let's be frank. Hayley carried the majority of the support team load. My role was essentially support to the support with the additional requirement of being really loud. I am really good at being really loud!

Now, I know all these pictures, plans, and props give the impression that we were a phenomenal support team. Unfortunately, on the first set meet-up point, Nikki's crew gave her cause for concern.

This first trade-off was a big one. She was to give us her vest and one empty water bottle, and we were to provide her with sunglasses and two full water bottles. We were ready. We arrived with time to spare, parked, and headed over to find a clear spot to cheer on our girl!

As we approached the race, my spirit was invigorated by the atmosphere. The band had me dancing, the crowds had me clapping, the sun had me smiling, the wind had my hair blowing. In my mind, I was thinking, "Marathons are the most fun" when out of nowhere we heard, "Hayley. Hayley! HAY---LEY!"

Reason set in, and we quickly realized Nikki was in the process of running past us.

FYI: When these hand-offs occur, the marathoner never stops running. Instead, support team members run alongside, seamlessly making the passes and offering words of encouragement. Also, FYI: I had no intention of assuming this running / encouraging role on the team. I planned to do some sign holding or cowbell ringing, but definitely nothing pertaining to running.

Yet, drastic times called for drastic measures. As Nikki's sungasses were perched on top of my head and knowing she was going to need them to survive the Phoenix sun (not the b-ball team), I sprung into action, franctically ripping them out of my hair, securing her vest with my armpit, and somehow managing to not spill my race day hydration (aka coffee) all over her.

Hayley also reacted instanteously and miraculously completed the rest of the transaction.

The moment was so exhilarating, the speed and drama, so intense.

And then she was gone. Off to run 21 more miles.

As we walked back to the car, we gave ourselves a well-deserved chastisement and vowed to not make the same mistake again.

And apart from one other miss (when we took too long waiting for donuts), I think we completed the race pretty well. At one point, we were able to facetime Nikki's husband, so he could see her run and tell her how amazing she is. We also provided a steady supply of chapstick, water, and high fives.

We were so busy supporting that we had no time to play "Marathon Spotting Bingo." Bummer, right? Every time a chicken clad individual passed me, I experienced a small sense of loss.

Yet, we knew that our first duty was to Nikki, and we proudly cheered her on to the end.

Yes, I'd say we did a pretty good job for our first marathon. It was rough, but we persevered and prevailed. We refused to give in to setbacks, instead learning from past wrongs and coming out on top.

As Nikki crossed the finish line, I wanted to exclaim as Pheidippides did, "We won!"

I will say though, I was slightly confused about why I didn't receive a medal at the end. See in this picture, Nikki is rockin' a medal with a rockin' desert picture on it, courtesy of RnRAM. She was also given a smoothie, a granola bar, and a Powerade, but there was nothing for Hayley, Brett, and I. It almost felt like the race coordinators didn't even know we existed.

Thankfully, there were some of those 26.2 bumper stickers for sale that all members of this exclusive club possess. I (kind of) deserved one, right?!?
Don't worry all you running purists: I didn't buy one.

Lesson Learned: My best friend is awesome.
(This wasn't really a new lesson. Perhaps it was just reenforcement of something I already knew.)

1 comment:

  1. So funny!! I need you guys on my support team next marathon!


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