Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Last But Not Least

There are exactly zero races that I'm not nervous about but returning to Beaumont for the Gusher Marathon weekend was one that I was less nervous than usual. Friends were asking what my goals were in regards to the race and the first time I'd gone in 2013, since it was the first time I'd run a marathon with a stroller, I had only one goal. So I decided that as far as the return race was concerned, I was going back for the same goal I went last time, just for the run of it. Like any race I thought about a PR goal time was or if I was trying to place but the simple truth is what I was most excited about was getting to say thank you. Not everyone would be there from the previous year but anyone who I could catch from the race directors, to the announcer, to the people on the bikes who had helped try to fix the flat stroller tir, to the spectators who had splashed me on a hot day. I went back with the goal to say thank you, thank you. And since that was the goal that had lasted with me the longest, I was the least nervous about this race because while there are no perfectly adequate ways to say thank you, it's rare that one is not appreciated.

There was a last moment change before I headed out there as the friend who was originally was taking me got sick and so I had to catch a last second ride shift from another shipmate Julie, who 3 weeks after her first marathon and a week after another race was kind enough to take me with the least notice possible (that morning). But we arrived for the Golden Triangle Stutters carbing up dinner where I got to see many people who once had been strangers but now were friends. Among them was Felix Lugo, the guy who had been the very last finisher of the Gusher marathon in 2013, when for his 50th marathon he had carried the American flag the entire way.

Race start came and it felt right that I was only going to be doing the half since I only had half the team there with Kiana being on spring break. For a guy whose ran 9 half and 9 fulls, you think I'd stop this rookie mistake of gunning out too fast but I was all by myself for the first mile closer to 5k pace. By mile 3 I'd buckled it down to pace. As I do often I brought heat with me and it60 degrees and 89 percent humidity but I was going. I could hear the footsteps behind me long enough to keep fear lasting. Eventually it would subside and while at 13.1 miles I have taken two seconds, a third and age group awards, it didn't become real to me that I might win a half marathon for the first time in my life till there was less than a mile to go. I was passing the 5ker's (who had a later start) as I finished it and they cheered with enough enthusiasm that it lifted my spirit up enough to where I cheesily jumped up and hit the time clock, just under 1:22, my second fastest half marathon. (One race director already told me if anyone breaks his clock by jumping and hitting the timer that he's blaming me.)

Keeping with tradition, I went and vomited a few times after finishing but then it was time to get back to what I'd come to do, to say thank you. So before the clock had gotten to 1:30, I was sitting there handing out medals, hugging people. There were half marathoners finishing, full marathoners crossing the first lap since it's a double loop course. It's only the second time I've ever handed out medals in a race but it seems that in these long distance races, it must be a requirement to be cute and/or charming because everyone who came across the line was. I got to watch a 9 year old boy (NINE!) finish his first half marathon, a 15 year old finishing his first lap with his father right by his side, a woman who carried her baby for the entire 13.1 miles (not in a stroller mind you, actually carrying the baby). A young lady from Ainsley's Angels pushing another adult who was unable to run for the entire half. There were guys and ladies there getting PR's finishing with fist pumps and tears (some of each gender doing one or the other, one person doing both). And somewhere before the time the marathon winner came in just over the 3:00 mark, I saw a guy who I absolutely had to get the honor of putting his medal on when he finished. We'd never met briefly but Ruben was a guy who had not been at Gusher in 2013 but when he'd heard about Kiana's win, dedicated a 10 hour run in our honor. We'd communicated in the digital world but that's never as good as real life. I high fived him and said see you next time you get around to here. The race director said he'd signed up late and all of a sudden, I knew I could wait to hug and medal a guy who had come all the way from my home country in Mexico to do the 2014 edition.

Eventually after the half marathoners were done and the marathoners were on their way to the second lap, the "restricted" finish line area got more relaxed. Still we watched marathon maniacs complete their bijillionth marathon, someone who had finished her second one in six days, and even got to watch Olympian Jeff Galloway who had ran the entire course next to his wife coming in about 5:20. Husbands, brothers, friends, wives, granddaughters wanted to be there to be one of if not the first person to receive them at the finish line. Invariably, I would ask them if they wanted to be the one who handed their significant other their medals, a surprise request for most that made them glow and their significant others smile even more at the finish. While most said yes, a few said, "you medal them, I get the first sweaty hug or kiss after." And I did and they did.

Most of the participants were 5k or half marathoners so it kept getting a little more spread out and the six hour cap was almost hitting. Someone told the race director the last marathoner was Ruben and I asked if I could run out to him and bring him in (another volunteer was originally going to be the sweeper). He graciously agreed but then Amie pointed out, are you going to be able to not get lost doing the course backwards and she threw me on the back of a motorcycle where I held on for dear life and she dropped me
off. Ruben and I would do the last two miles where he would tell me about other races about how he'd upgraded his vice from drinking to running. He's done ultras even up 50 milers. His events are longer and more frequent than mine have ever been. And yet somehow for the last quarter of mile he bolted into a sprint which I wasn't expecting which he finished smiling as I did with him. He'd once ran 10 hours in honor of a stranger who had won Gusher in 2013. In 2014's Gusher, I can't imagine a greater honor than having finished with this friend and giving him his medal. He may have been the last but he definitely wasn't least.

After wrapping up at the finish line, I called Kiana to let her know I won (if nothing keeps your reality in check, a 7 year old will.)

Me:I won the half marathon
Kiana: Oh you won your division?
Me: No I won the race
Kiana: Like you won your age group?
Me: No I won the half marathon.
Kiana: Oh that's cool. I went to a butterfly garden today.
Me: Everyone says hi.
Kiana: Tell them hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi and tell yourself I love you.

I followed both directions and got her a little butterfly token.

While running is a joy of it's own, it's also good cross training for some other fun parts of life. The day would end with the post race party, the dancing (I saw a new two step that I'm going to market as the post long distance shuffle), the drinking, more thank you's. There's be many ladies and men I'd share the dance floor with but it was cool to share it.  And I would dance with the cute lady who had biked with me and Kiana in 2013, and with the cute lady that was the race director, and with the cute lady who had given me a ride.And for one day, I knew that this half marathon, like Gusher of 2013, would give me many memories, and I hope that even the least of them will last.


  1. It was four wheeler from Cowboy Honda and you were perfectly safe. :-) Mostly.

  2. You may not always win your race, but in life you are always winning!