Sunday, May 04, 2003
Elizabeth's Big Day
posted by Julie |
Way back in January I wrote about my niece, Elizabeth, who has taken up running to help keep her post-collegiate-athlete body in shape now that she's out in the world, in her first job, her new marriage, their first home.
Elizabeth is a tough athlete, but she was never a runner, and in fact hated running. Now that it's more of a fitness pursuit and a hobby, she finds running a fine and interesting thing to do, taking her in and around her neighborhood and beyond, running with her dog, meeting new friends, running races. She gets a kick out of it, and it keeps her in shape.
She got her start at coolrunning.com, where a beginner's section of the website offers lots of helpful articles, hints, guidance about running your first mile, your first races, your first marathon or triathelon, whatever sort of running it is you like to do, or would like to try.
There, Elizabeth found help and coaching, virtual teams and friends. And last fall, she committed to running the Pittsburgh Marathon. She ran it today.
So, today I'm in Pittsburgh, where her husband, her dad, and I ran alongside her for parts of the race as she completed all 26 miles.
I'm so proud of her I could just pop. I chugged along for just the last two miles of the race (JUST! That's a lot of milage for ME…), as she chattered along. She's kind of a talky runner. I should have known something was up when she suddenly stopped talking, and something inside her, for the last 10th of a mile, kicked into gear. She ran the last little bit of the race hard. We left her off, running through the tunnel into Heinz Field, over the finish line. Her hands were puffy, her face caked with salt, her feet swollen, but she certainly finished it with some pepper to spare, serious style. And now she's sitting in a cool tub, cooling down her legs, with a medal around her neck and a bottle of water by her side.
This was quite a day for her.
And, selfishly, I have to say it was quite a day for me.
I have never seen a marathon, or any race, ever. I guess I've seen images of runners running races. Sinewy people with no body fat at all, numbers pinned to their chests, groovy wrap-around glasses wrapped around their heads. So my picture of a marathon is entirely that. I imagined there must be thousands of such sinewy, gristley sorts who sign up for these things. People with hearts so strong they beat once a day.
But I was wrong.
It's rather astonishing to see the array of humanity that turns out for a marathon. There are people of various sizes. People whose fitness levels you wouldn't guess at a glance would support a marathon, who happen to finish in fine time and form. There are people in pink leisure suits, a guy who juggles the entire way, people who play bugles at important mile markers. I counted just one cross-dresser, but after seeing her, I looked more attentively at everyone else. There were twins in their 60s, folks who had to be in their 70s at least. I saw very overweight people and very underweight people. If there was an average size, it would have to be higher than the recommended body weight tables at the Dr.'s office.
I was flat amazed by this. And not a little humbled.
These people challenged themselves incredibly, are sitting in tubs now cooling what will be extremely sore muscles for the next week or so, and for a medal and a story. To say they'd done it.
Well, and maybe for more, like the friendliness of the people who line the streets. The kindness of runners for one another. Incredible volunteers who hand out water and sport drinks. The bands and people lining the city streets cheering you on in the nicest way. Hundreds of police officers routing traffic and keeping the runners safe. Bands lining the streets. Wheelchair racers who start the race. These and the other truly elite athletes who come in from all over the world, know one another well, and will run like the wind for the entire distance. It's quite a rush, a moving party, a great example of humans at their best.
I was quite surprised by the whole thing. Very few of these people race one another. There wasn't at all that horrible high-school track meet feeling of potential humiliation in the air. This air is completely convivial, friendly, accepting, encouraging, celebratory. It didn't matter who you were, how you were built, what sort of time you were getting, you would be cheered in to the end, and given a medal for your accomplishment.
It was the nicest thing I've seen in a long time.
Just when I thought I might wimp out of my Dublin run (coming up, June 2), I'm back to thinking I can do this thing. Even if I have to walk a good bit of it. Today I want to do it.
Elizabeth gave me some tips.
*First, when you grab that cup of water, you need to sort of collapse the top into a funnel, to pour it in the direction of your mouth. It's awfully hard to drink and run at the same time. Always grab the water and the sports drink to keep yourself hydrated.
*Ladies, get a seamless jog bra from Title Nine Sports, and use the body glide stuff that keeps your clothes from chafing and blistering your skin. Especially all around your jog bra and the waistband of your shorts and your feet.
*A garbage bag will keep you warm before the race. You can pitch it just as the race gets started.
*Keep another garbage bag and some sugar gel in a pocket in case of rain and to restore your glycogen levels a couple of times during the race.
*Invest in soft, coolmax socks.
*If it's your first race, don't worry about speed, just have fun.
*Consider finding a pace group to run with - people who run at your typical pace - who can keep you on course. Running with people is a lot easier and more interesting than being all on your own.
*A good dog will lick the salt off your face at the end of a race.
*A good dog will get you out of bed for many mornings before the race as you train for it.
I used to think road races and marathons were just for slightly cracked endurance athletes. Now I see that they are for anybody, really. I understand why they are addictive. I can see why it might be worth enduring the pain of them for a week or two just to say you'd been there and done that, at least once.
If running a road race is way outside of your sphere of interest, then I encourage you to attend a marathon race some day, at least once to cheer on your fellow humans. Just to see thousands of people getting out there and moving, each in their own way and at their own pace. It's incredibly motivating. It really is.
The Pittsburgh Marathon
Title 9 Sports Bra
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