It was overtly apparent that the River City—or, as I know it, #PRCITY—has not seen a more pretentious visitor in nearly 150 years. While it couldn’t be confirmed at the Museum of the Confederacy, Lincoln most likely was not sporting party glasses upon the Union’s arrival in Richmond. The museum, though, marks the seminal moments that resulted in the victory for the North and I, too, can trace many steps along my own path to conquering Richmond. All battle metaphors aside, it seems like a good spot to end any similarities to Lincoln and say, with complete humility and sincerity, thank-you, Richmond.
From the over-sized, rather, colossal, subs at the Black Sheep to tour guide and jazz drummer, Charles, at the Jefferson Davis home, it would be a weekend trip unlike any other. Any more time in Richmond, I might have forgotten the cold, angry looks from Green Line passengers on my morning commute, unpleasant service and expensive drinks at bars, and never hearing compliments from people I don’t know, which I have come to know as “normal” in Boston. I was offered birthday cake from a family celebrating their daughter’s 2nd birthday. Strangers waiting at a traffic light rolled down their car window to say congratulations. What sort of Twilight Zone episode was this??
Then there was a Marathon. Actually, America’s Friendliest Marathon. 26.2 Miles through Richmond, across the James River and back, Up Town and Downtown, past monuments and museums. The affable race was well organized and true to its nickname. I expected that spectators would cheer out for runners; however, they were all too busy holding up clever, motivational, and meaningful signs throughout the route. The kind of encouragement that completely caught me off guard, yet made it all the more memorable. At the end of it all, it was a PR. Not just 18 weeks in the making, but 1,130 days—three years and five weeks since the 2010 Chicago Marathon—of knowing how hard I would have to work for a sub-four marathon.
In running there is no one to pass the ball to, block for, or turn a double play with. All we can do for teammates is pick them up, keep them going, or, a somewhat unconventional tactic, sing Miley’s Wrecking Ball to help someone put one foot in front of the other. Whatever Jenn, Megan, Mallory, Micho, and Tim needed, they were sure to find it on Saturday. The same went for me. Let’s credit all the teamwork, from the Facebook posts before Saturday morning to the brief, but critical, conversations during the race for getting us through #PRCITY. Yes, Richmond was a PR for each of us.
Back at the hotel that evening, after crushing an insanely good patty melt in Carytown, still high from the PR—also stuffed from red meat, onion rings, fries and a miller lite—we walked right into pre-United States Marine Corps Ball celebrations, wearing party glasses and finisher race medals. The blue suits, medals of valor and achievement, and undoubtedly important service these Marines have, instantly squashed the good feeling of setting a PR by more than 14 minutes. I certainly felt like a huge tool. Despite the short lived embarrassment, those race medals hung with us for the rest of the night. A few celebratory beers closed out a great day and just kicked off a new year training with the best running team.
For some reason the lyrics to The Joker, by the Steve Miller band, suddenly come to mind.
'Cause I'm a picker, I'm a grinner
I’m a lover and I’m a sinner
I play my music in the sun
I’m a joker, I’m a smoker
I’m a midnight toker
I get my lovin’ on the run
In a Marathon, you really get to find out who you are. I’m a runner. I’m a fighter. I’m a calf-cramping, totally exhausted and losing consciousness, shadow of a man that started running 26 miles ago. I’m a still-breathing, triumphant finisher.
Next weekend I’m a looking forward to running in the VA. I hope, in Richmond, they will show some lovin’ for everyone on the run. Especially for the great group of people I know who are also joining me at the starting line.
Fortunately there is still time to put in a few more workouts, find an American flag bandana, make my own jorts, and to be happy that this race is almost here. It has been a long few months and soon I’ll find out if all the work paid off.
Everyone has their opinion on the exceedingly unnecessary culture that awards every accomplishment with a trophy, medal, certificate, or other shiny-like recognition of, what someone else deems, an achievement. Whether just a mediocre, moderate, or powerfully impressive performance, in most events, some sort of mantel piece is handed out. An op-ed in The New York Times questioned if we are giving out too many trophies. An article in the Wall Street Journal says there is a lack of competitiveness today. How should we determine if this really is the case?
Stop it please with the arguments over the benefits of winning and losing. I lose all the time. I have run 8 marathons, 17 half marathons, many other races and each time I have received a medal for losing. I have run the Chicago Marathon where, just like me, 40,000 people received a medal. I have six medals from the Boston Marathon that I know, at the very least, a few thousand other people also own. Truthfully, I am happy that that is the case. It means 40,000 people get off their couch each summer to train for the Chicago marathon and many thousands more, rather a few million (numbers not verified by any source) have received a race medal.
Based on some arguments, people believe, because of so much race bling, that I should be less motivated to compete in any races. AND I should be even less motivated considering that I lose all the time. It would have to seem that Einstein’s definition of insanity applies; however, I’m not expecting to win. The outcome that I am expecting each time can be vastly different and, rather often, it is worse than what I hoped for. That is all fine. My definition of insanity is practically the opposite—hence why I won’t come up with anything like the Theory of Relativity—therefore, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result is far more ridiculous.
So far, in 2013, I have run 1,005 miles outside. And, Einstein, would you believe that the results were actually different each time? I ran in Derry, New Hampshire when the temperature was in the single digits. I ran through the Boston Common and did an interview for CNN. I ran to see the sunrise in Casablanca. I ran in New York after midnight and got a little lost in Chinatown. I ran from Hopkinton to the Mass Ave Underpass before two bombs ended the Boston Marathon. Those are just a handful of the miles, scattered throughout the year, which proved that the outcomes were far from any expectation. I knew, however, there would be some fast miles and painful miles, foot soreness and hip problems, the GU during a run and the massive post-run brunch.
I ran for all of that including, the best part of it all, the people. Never one person, one pace, one distance, or one route—it was, and always will be different. I don’t understand it when a runner talks about the rush of the wind in their hair or the way a long run clears their mind. I think they haven’t been running long enough to know what that winter wind feels like when it hits your face. I know, as well, they haven’t been lucky enough to run with people who I have run with.
I am often struck when I see the word, “Marathon” used in context with all-day re-runs of Law & Order, extra inning baseball games, and one of the biggest oil refineries in this country. Watching 8, back-to-back episodes of Law & Order never caused chafing. I think it has required a different type of endurance to carry me through the Red Sox playoffs; however, most people might agree, it has been as exhausting as running 26.2 miles. Perhaps I would fill my tank with Marathon Petroleum if there were a gas station nearby.
This also got me thinking about music. Of course The Eagles, Jackson Browne, The Boss, and Jay Z all used “run” in a song title. It shouldn’t be a mystery to anyone that right after Jay Z’s single, Run This Town, was released, I created this blog. Evidently it wouldn’t be the only time that I would turn to pop culture for creativity.
One of my favorite sites lately, RapGenius.com, a wiki-wiki-like on the ones and twos type of website for rap, hip hop, and R&B lyrics was my next stop to find some of the more ridiculous uses of the word “Marathon” in lyrics. I thought I might find something great if I started with a search for “Wiz Khalifa” and “Marathon” on Google. One result, in particular, led me to believe that neither Wiz, nor Snoop, would be into the kind of marathon that requires running.
At first, lyrics like, “So I’m focused/ they try to throw me off track/ But they just hurdles/ I’m marathoning to the money/and you just running off in a circle” from Big Sean seem to work with the song. The Dilated Peoples—clearly on an album that they thought would put them on some charts—titled the first song on their CD, Neighborhood Watch, “Marathon.” Maybe we weren’t ready for the metaphor in 2004 that “I don’t train for sprints/ I train for marathons/ a long haul/ we’re built for this.”
Then I stumbled on the more disturbing use from a duo called, Mayday, who felt they made some “poetry” in their lyrics to Marathon Man. In an article, Wrekonize and Bernz, who I assume are probably on some real underground stuff, talk about why they wrote the song for the Boston Marathon bombings. The irreverent lyrics, though, don’t handle the conversation as well as they probably thought it would. Maybe I thought I expected more from a rapper whose stage name is meant to identify, acknowledge the existence, or validity of someone or something. Like I said.
I am shocked that this flew under the radar for three months. How underground is that?
Generally I think there are many metaphors, and even more uses, when it comes to talking about the experience of running a marathon. I will likely pay close attention to each time I hear someone talk about a marathon, waiting to find out where it was they ran or, rather, for how long they watched the Food Network.