It was a dark and stormy night…
Okay, so maybe it was a sunny and somewhat cold day, but I always liked that line better.
Sara wanted me to write about my half marathon experience. However I do not have a lot to say about it. To sum it all up. It was.. well, “okay”. Hear me out. I have done 59 small town races. A few with as many as a 1,000 people. But this one had 11,000. I felt lost and alone. In small town races everyone is so friendly and nice. Here I could not get word one out of anyone. I think big city races are for some people, just not me.
Let me begin with the day before the half marathon. I worked third shift, hence I was up all night. Sara had planned for us to leave as soon as Gemma was on the school bus that morning. However she was not ready. I had a few things to do so I drove around doing them, dead tired. I had planned on sleeping on the drive down, so I stayed away from caffeine that morning.
Finally we were off at close to 11 am. I fell right asleep. Little did I know that I would awake soon. Sara pulled into a turnpike plaza about an hour and half into the trip. She needed coffee. Not the coffee that I remember as a kid. You know, black, with sugar or cream. No it was the 4 or 5 words that do not go together kind. I ordered a small fry, then sat and ate it while I waited.
Soon we were back in the car and the fries from Popeyes were not sitting well. I managed to fall back asleep for an hour when Sara again pulled over. It was lunchtime. Or at least to her stomach it was. We made our way in and selected subway. I was going to order a 6 inch but Sara ordered a footlong as I did too. Why? But I was very tired and not quite awake. After finishing and bathroom breaks we were on the road, again.
I slept the next hour and half and woke up just as we entered into the Baltimore metro area. I have only been to a few cities and they all look pretty crappy and run down. Sure, the inner harbor is nice and clean, but why can’t they do something with the rest of it.
At the hotel we could not find a space to park in the street. After the third drive down the same alley, we gave up and paid $31 for valet parking, plus a $5 tip. What a scam! Just knock down some of the buildings and put in a parking lot. I’m sure half of them are empty anyways.
On the way to the room I noticed that the hotel restaurant was having a pasta dinner. I read the sign to Sara. We dropped off the bags and started walking the streets of Baltimore looking for the expo. I was excited to go to my first expo. I always heard good things.
Apparently this was not a normal expo. It was crowded and disorganized. It reminded me of a college fair in high school. On a side note, I guess that I should have tried to collect pens. LOL. We had to walk one way then back the same way and back that way again. All while fighting a crowd that seemed to be always going the other way.
Sara kept stopping and looking at the booths. I just wanted to get the stuff and get back to the hotel. I’m still awake remember? About 25 hours at this point with the 3 little cat naps in the car. I got my bib and then Sara came with hers and said “okay, let’s go”. I said “what about the shirts?” Sara went and asked, while I fought with the exhaustion and claustrophobia. She came back and said that they were all the way of the other side of the expo. Great-googly-moogly…
We made our way to the shirts and I got in my line. I was excited, finally something cool. I had read my paper. I was getting a cold black under amour shirt. Only the lady handed me a purple shirt. WTF was this?! I walked over to Sara, she had gotten a green shirt. Turns out “cold black” is clothing line, not a color. I was not pleased. We started out of the stadium and Sara wanted her picture taken, so I did. Only she did not take any of me. Guess I probably wasn’t smiling at that point.
We made it back to the hotel just as a sun was starting to fall. I was happy we made it back before dark, since we did not know our way around. We had a half hour to kill, so Sara got her race clothes out and went through the race bags. I watched tv. I had hit the point where I wasn’t tired anymore, nor did I have feeling in all parts of my body. I was just there.
Dinner was awesome. It was a pasta buffet with 3 different pastas, salad, bread, 5 desserts. Only thing that I didn’t like was that they only gave you water. I know, I know…water is good for runners…but I like something with more flavor. We finished up and headed to the room. Sara got a few more things done for the race, while I stared at the tv. 28 hours and counting.
A lot of people that work third shift say that get use to it. And you do. At least to the being up all night part. But your body never gets used to staying awake. Running adds years to your life and staying up over 24 hours takes them away.
I was planning on going with Sara to her start, since it was before mine. The alarm went off. I didn’t move. The alarm went off again. Still out. The alarm went off the third time and I opened my eyes. Sara was almost ready to go. I’m not sure why Sara didn’t just get me up. I mean I could have slept through the races, like in that Seinfeld episode.
Finally I got up and started getting ready. As I was going to get in the shower, Sara said she was going. I felt bad. I looked at the clock, I thought we still had time. But she needed to go and I didn’t want her to miss her start. I got ready for my race and looked around for food. I had cereal in the car, but we didn’t take it out when they parked the car. So I had healthy chips that Sara got at the expo, licked the salt off a small bag of peanuts, and downed a GU energy gel. My stomach barked back. I topped it off with a 24 oz Pepsi and said, “It’s go time.”
I knew where Sara’s race started, but not where mine did. I started walking toward the stadiums and then followed the crowd. I felt awkward and like an outsider. I made my way to where it looked like a race might start and stood there for 45 minutes. The closer I got to race start. The more people jammed into the space. Then of course there were the people who just had to walk through. I held my ground. When people pushed into me, I pushed back. Apparently people in the city ever heard of “excuse me” or “pardon me”.
Right at about 10 minutes until start they moved us up the street, which was also up a small hill. At this point I could see the crowd of people. It was crazy. There were just thousands of people jammed into a street no wider than 20 feet.
The race started. Well at least for the people in the front. I walked and walked and ,when it was my turn, crossed the start line. I started my new Garmin. The first mile was up hill. It was really crowded. In the second mile I almost tripped over a traffic cone. Not one person yelled “cone” or “watch out”. There were too many people the first couple miles. I couldn’t see anything. I was not having fun. I was stressed and hoping that the race would get better.
At mile three the half joined the full marathon, now at mile 16. The road was wider and some of the half marathoners were starting to drop back. I could see the sidewalks now. No one was there. At mile 4 or 5 a cop yelled “welcome to beautiful East Baltimore” with sarcasm in his voice. The place was a dump. Was this it? I slowly ate one of my GU energy gels.
Mile 7 started at a park and the race went one mile around a peaceful lake. Minus the news helicopter hovering over it. In the park there were people holding signs and cheering. This must be what a big city race is, I thought.
At mile 10 I arrived at Waverly. The friendly neighborhood with folks handing out candy, water and beer. Music played from radios and from small bands, sometimes just kids with a drum or bongo. It was nice. It was happy. I ate some candy corn and picked up my pace. Why couldn’t the rest of the race be this nice? I saw a funny sign that said, “marathon today, law and order marathon tomorrow”. Who doesn’t like that show…
At mile 11 I was back downtown. Huge buildings, huge crowds. I downed my second GU. I wasn’t tired or worn out. I was just sick of running. The whole race was up and down hills and no one would talk to me. Somewhere in the “I just want to quit” thoughts… a voice yelled “Go Team Brunazzi!” She even said it right. That was all the motivation I needed. I took off, passing runner after runner.
My Garmin said 12.6 miles when I saw the baseball stadium. You had to run threw it on a small path and then finish in the street. It was crowded and I tried to keep my speed up. I figured I was over 2 hours with all the hills and lack of enthusiasm. I finished in 1 hr and 49 minutes. Not bad.
I got my medal and then tried to walk out of the finish area. It was just as crowd and disorganized as the expo. I tried walking through a line of people, which seemed to be a line of nothing. I yelled, “What are you people doing?” Some guy yelled back, “We’re waiting for our bananas”. I got through and out of the finishing area. I was so happy to have space around me.
I walked to the food booths and got an order of fries and chicken. Bad move. Then I went to the hotel to get Sara and mine’s UA pullovers. On the way back from the hotel I realized that I forgot my Pepsi. I went to the finish line and walked the course looking for Sara. There were too many people. I looked at the clock. Sara should have finished. I stopped and bought a Pepsi and then went to look for Sara. Last time we were at Baltimore I saw her finish, but could not find her in the crowd. I was hoping this time she had her cell phone. I pulled mine out of my SPIbelt and saw a voice mail. It was Sara, she couldn’t find me and was walking back to the hotel. I called her and she was still in the crowd. We yelled back and forth trying to hear each other and find out where we each were. She asked if I saw the Dunkin Donuts truck. I said no and then turned around, and said yes. I was close to it. I said that I was near the C1 parking sign. She said she was too. I thought, great there must be 20 “C1” signs. She said there is a guy standing on the sign. I said yes, and he has a green shirt on. Sara was only 6 people away from me.
Sara started talking about her race and how she did. I had to stop her. I had bad news. The hotel had dropped off a bill at 7:50am. 10 minutes before she started her race. It said that we had to get of the room at 12:30 or get charged more. It read quote, “We know some of you are running in the Baltimore Marathon and require some additional time after the race to freshen up. We can extend your check out time to 12:30pm so that you can refresh prior to check out. “ Full marathon starts at 8am. Half at 9:45am. You do the math. :o)
We then loaded the car and hurried out of town. 23 minutes to go 4 blocks. Once out of the city we ate dinner at a little tavern in a mini mall. The food was overpriced and under cooked. After that we drove to an outlet mall to use our Under Amour coupons. This was probably the best part of the weekend, save the half a pizza that I ate an hour later. LOL.