Or, "Sunday, And How It Was The Best Day Ever".
Sunday morning, I woke up at 5:15 a.m. On purpose. Partly because I'm crazy. I only got about three hours of sleep, but was too anxious to be upset, because in 2 hours, I would begin running the St. Louis Half Marathon.
Getting ready that morning was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. I don't know why. I kept having to make and re-make lists in my head of what I needed to do. "Get dressed, check. Do onesies, check. Oh crap, do twosies, check. Eat an energy bar, check. Eat a banana, check. Grab iPod, inhaler, sweatband, check. Oh my God, it's time to go."
It was between day and night when we left the hotel. Kind of dark, barely a little light. The moon was still in the sky, but it was eclipsed. I'd never seen a lunar eclipse before, and it was pretty awesome seeing it suspended above the St. Louis Arch. When we got to the starting point, my friends and I immediately used the porta-potties, because we were obsessed with making sure we were completely empty. We voided, warmed up, voided again and I contemplated taking a quick shadoobie before we joined the masses. I voted against the shadoobie, because I barely like to pee in porta-potties. As it turns out, this would most likely be the best idea ever.
By this time, the sun was up. My friends and I departed our friends and family who weren't running and joined our pace groups. One friend was walking, and she headed back to the 15 minute mile pace group. One friend and I were determined to finish in two hours, and joined the 9 minute mile pace group. At this moment in my life, the most important thing I was trying to decide on was, "What song should I start the race with?" After much deliberation, the choice was obviously "Extraordinary" by Liz Phair: "I am extraordinary, if you ever get to know me." With our iPods charged, poised and ready to go, my friend and I waited. And waited. And waited.
And then we ran. It took us five minutes just to get to the starting line and once we were there, we took off. We quickly out-paced our pace group and for awhile, it was great. Like Forrest Gump said, "I was runnin'!" After about the fourth mile, my friend and I got separated, which was fine. I focused on my music, on my pace, on my breathing and just generally enjoyed the fact that there were 17,000 other crazy-ass people who were up at 7 in the morning to run around the streets of downtown St. Louis. Not to mention the thousands of crazy-ass people who were up at 7 in the morning to cheer on those 17,000 crazy-asses. Every once in a while, I would hear, "Yeah, go Joshua!" from people on the sidelines who were able to read my name on my racing bib, and it spurned me to go a little faster.
Mile 7 was my demise. Mile 7 was the beginning of Olive Street, or as I have come to refer to it, "The Hill From Hell". Olive Street started out as a fairly innocuous hill, which I ran up fairly decently, and was rewarded by a brief downhill slope. A very brief downhill slope, as it turned out, because Olive Street then inclined again, this time steeper and longer. I kept chanting to myself in my head "Don't walk. Don't walk. Don't walk. Remember, this is the year of change. Change. Change." However, at one point...I walked. I had to. My legs were burning, my feet were killing me (around mile 6, a blister on my foot, right underneath my first and second toes, had burst and it hurt) and I just needed to stop. I convinced myself that I'd walk the rest of the way up the hill, and then run the rest of the race.
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. As it turns out, I kept having to stop. For some reason, I just did not have the energy to keep running. Miles 7 through 10 were the Badlands, the Sahara Desert, Deep Space and I just couldn't do it. I trucked on as well as I could, running when I could, but it hurt too much. At one point while running, I grabbed a Hammer Gel packet from people who were passing them out. Opened it, took half of it, only two discover it was vanilla. I basically squeezed vanilla flavored goo inot my mouth. My mouth instantly dried out, and a minute later, I felt like vomiting. Bad idea ever.
Mile 9? Nearly shadoobied myself. My stomach cramped up, and for the briefest of seconds, I thought with horror "I'm going to be the guy woh can't finish the race because he shit his pants." I quickly devoted all of my energy to making that NOT HAPPEN. And, thank God, it didn't.
Even after mile 10, I had to intermittently walk. I kept saying ot myself "three miles, you can run out three miles" but I couldn't. "Two miles, you can run out two miles" but I couldn't. At mile 11.5, I wondered how my friend was faring, and if she'd passed me without me reazlizing it. I looked to my right and nearly crapped myself (figuratively) to see her right next to me. We briefly conversed for a bit, then walked ot mile 12, where we started running.
At about 12.5 miles, I needed new music. What I was listening to just wasn't working for me. I pulled my iPod out of my pocket and kept forwarding it until I heard what I needed to hear: Taylor Swift's "Change". I felt a burst of energy, and new my friend would want me to finish the race on my time. As I listened to the song and run, I struggled to keep from crying because, as always, the song was so relevant to me: "Throw your hands up, because we never gave in." I just pushed myself to keep running as best as I could, not caring about my form or speed or anything. I just ran.
The song ended before I did, and Timbaland's "Give It To Me" featuring Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado came on. Not what I needed. My iPod agreed, and suddenly the volume was cranked to the point where I had to take the earbuds out of my ears. All I had to listen to were the thousands of people cheering us on.
I crossed the finish line and later found out that my time was 2 hours and 5 minutes. My friend crossed 30 seconds behind me. We wended our way through the crowd, getting our medals, bananas, water, granola bars, bagels, etc. We met up with her sister, and walked back to the hotel.
On the walk back, I took my shoe off, because it hurt too much. As it turned out, the top half of my sock wsa SOAKED with blood from where the blister burst, and then rubbed raw. I walked back to the hotel in my socks, not even caring, because I'd just finished the St. Louis Marathon. I later found out that another one of my friends, who is a runner and has completed several marathons, finished the race 6 minutes behind me. And he didn't walk once. I walked a total of a mile, and beat him by 6 minutes.
I ran a St. Louis Half Marathon. Holy shit.
Coming up soon: the rest of Sunday.