Writing and running in Austin, TX.
No, this isn’t a World Major, and there won’t be any Disney characters on course. They won’t give away fancy necklaces, have live bands every kilometer (except for the Middle School variety, which in my opinion are much better anyway), or pass any famous national monuments. Nevertheless, Austin will always retain a special place in my heart.
First and most obvious, it’s my hometown race. Second, way back in 2004, when Motorola was still the title sponsor, it was my first ever marathon. Runner Chris now shudders a bit at Runner Chris back then. Not only did I make every beginner mistake possible…I truly went above and beyond.
For starters, my longest race before that marathon was a 5K, of which I had run exactly 2. Gradual build-up? No thank you, not for me.
Secondly, I got the idea to run the race 9 weeks before race day. I was running on the treadmill in my college apartment complex and watching “Diddy Runs the City” on MTV. (In case you didn’t grow up in the same pop culture era I did, not long after the famous rapper Puff Daddy announced his name change to “P. Diddy” – which always made me think of puppies in need of house-training – he decided to run the New York City marathon on only 8 weeks of training.) Now I don’t mean to knock Diddy – he did raise 2 million dollars for charity, after all – but all I could think watching that show was, “If that guy can run a marathon, surely I can, too.”
So, I signed myself up. I think it was only $80 back then.
I did at least have the presence of mind to find a training program online (thank you Hal Higdon Novice 1), but I had no real idea how to do a long run. Pretty much anything over 6 miles became a 4 or 5 mile loop run multiple times. I also didn’t know anything about how to carry food or water, so I would run with an Evian bottle tucked under my elbow like a football. Oh, and I was a dedicated lo-carb dieter at the time, so my primary calorie source both in training and on race day was Atkins’ Advantage Bars. Not surprisingly, I never did make it to the longest training run of 20 miles – I crapped out at 18.
But somehow, on race day, I pulled on a pair of striped Adidas pants and a long-sleeved cotton T-Shirt, stuffed 2 of those Atkins’ Bars in my pockets, and drove myself to the start line. I found the slowest pace group I could (4:45) and lined up with some friendly Canadian ladies who had flown down from Alberta for the race because they heard Austin was nice in February. (Now that I’ve had even a brief encounter with Canadian winters, I have NO IDEA how those women trained.)
The race itself was as much of an adventure as you can imagine. There were the early miles that felt unbelievably easy. There was mile 16 where I started to think this idea might not have been my best, and mile 20 where I hit the wall like it has never been hit before. (Things got better when I found a Port-A-Potty at mile 22.) There was that hill at mile 25 when some guy yelled, “You can do it, quit walking!” and I almost punched him in the face. And finally, there was crossing the finishing line, having no idea where my friends were, and spending 45 minutes wandering around trying to find my ride back to my car.
In a weird twist of fate, that 4:54.10 remains my marathon PR. (Flashbacks to 4:54.13 in Chicago 2010. Water cup falling over, water cup falling over…)
Since that eventful day in 2004, the Austin Marathon has become as elusive to me as a Turkey Trot. In 2005 and 2006, I was pretty much not running at all. (I guess I was mad that my theory of, “If I run a marathon, I’ll never feel fat again!” was a bust.)
2007 was just a bad year in my life all around, and 2008 was the miserable “Year of the ITB Issues”. In 2009 I was too nervous about my budding recovery to try for a spring marathon, and San Antonio in the fall left me so busted up that I could barely run a 5K when February 2010 rolled around. And this year, of course, I’m 7,000 miles away. I’m not even going to allow myself to think about 2012 for fear of continuing the jinx.
As much as I’ve been sad to miss Austin every other year, this year is the hardest. Because this year I’m not sidelined by injury or life in general. And this year I could be running with my favorite Rogue ladies, wearing a technical T-shirt and eating GUs like a normal person. This year, Runner Chris now could be looking around at all the newbies dressed like Runner Chris then, shaking her head and feeling sorry for the chafing they’re about to endure.
To all of you cotton T-Shirt wearing 1st-timers, I wish you the time of your life!
For that matter, good luck to everyone who is running the Livestrong Austin Marathon or Half tomorrow! I’ll especially be thinking about Jenn, Emily, Erik, and Jeanine (who will be there in spirit even if her foot won’t cooperate in person).
I know it’s going to be a great day in Austin, and as I do my long run tomorrow, I’ll be imagining I’m right there with you.http://www.youraustinmarathon.com/