Archive for January 26th, 2009

Lining up for a marathon is always a great exercise in face reading. Plenty are pensive and nervous. A few are excited. Some are just sleepy.

When the horn goes off, the slower runners immediately go to one side. The excitement carries the unwary and makes them run faster than they want to. It’s dark, and there is no way to check how fast one is going.

Around mile 3, the runners settle in. It thins a bit, allowing the marathoners a brief respite from the work ahead. The views are not bad this morning.

Two young women pass by. Each wearing a shirt that say “Bride-to-be” and “Maid-of-honor”. I asks when the day will be? The girl smiles and says “June”. I congratulate her.

I see a guy hobble up mile 6. He wears a compression sleeve on his left knee and is obviously nursing an injury. Why is this guy running a marathon? He is making this “shhhck, shhhck” sound as he attempts to run.

The road climbs, and I hear murmurs. Silent curses. Looks of concern, and hopes of divine intervention. We see the fastest runners run by in the other direction. Kenyans, and a few Americans. We say great job!

Pretty soon, the course reverses. A long pretty downhill beckons. We do our best to imitate the fastest runners. My teammate decides the pace, and I find we are not picking up at all.

A walker double-times (or attempts to) up mile 6 on our way back to mile 13. Now you’re thinking, is she going to make it in the 6-hour window? Who knows!

A young couple, oblivious in their yuppiness, runs by with ipods snaking firm on their ears. They sign to each other “You hear good? Me too”. They look alike, black tights and a white tech T. Their hair in place with the help of hair products. They seem to be out of place in this time and place, but they go about their business and relate only to each other. They look at everyone else with contempt.

The pace groups seem to be disintegrating.  Their numbers dwindling from twenties to a mere 4 or none.  The pacer lays down his flag by the side of the road.  The promising 4:15 group is no more.   How many will make it intact to the finish today?

Most of the early “fast” runners are walking by mile 18. They’d have done better if their pace was more pedestrian like ours. We pass so many and leave them bewildered.

A few runners are stretching out and walking off cramps. I don’t want to be them, that’s for sure.

Some are panting and stopping on the side of the road. Resting perhaps, and maybe wondering–can I go on? Maybe the lack of respect for the distance is doing them in. A look of defeat. Desperation. The prospect of a very long walk to the finish?

We pass this guy who was saying Hi to his many teammates on the course in the early miles. He is quiet now. He looks at us, and slows down his pace a bit.

An older runner plays leapfrog with us. He runs a bit and then walks. All of 3 times. And then no more.

As we are approaching Old Carlsbad, we run among throngs of half-marathon walkers. They will finish over 3 hours. We weave through them silently and with even pacing. Yes, we receive looks of envy–we are still running!

The blue and white balloons arch is listing to one side. It doesn’t matter. It announces the last 5K is at hand. My teammate does not seem to appreciate the significance.

The eyes of the marathoners near the finish are glazing over. All of them are thinking, “Let’s just get this over with already”.

They start sprinting towards the finish, and only let out their smiles as they cross the line.


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