Writing and running in Austin, TX.
I’m writing you now from an upper floor of the John Hancock Building, surrounded by pictures of my 4-year-old self, and bathing in the glow of a neon sculpture lamp. That can only mean one thing…it’s marathon time!
If that previous sentence leaves you scratching your head, here’s the run-down. Despite my now fairly entrenched loyalty to Austin, I am originally from Chicago. My dad and stepmom still spend a lot of time here, in a beautiful condo towering more than 80 stories over Michigan Avenue. The views are amazing. The decor is from 1987. It grows on you after a while.
Tomorrow, Dad and I will tackle our 3rd consecutive Chicago Marathon together. (Joined this year by my Aunt Sue, her boyfriend, and possibly the poor friend she dragged into this last year. Or maybe Aunt Sue was dragged? These things all get so hazy in memory.)
If you’ve talked to me at all over the last few weeks, you know that just making it to town was a great victory. As those of you who fly regularly know, airfares have shot up over the past few years. The $200 regular fare for a non-stop to Chicago is now $400. So, when I saw a direct flight in the $300 range a few months back, I jumped on it.
It was on American.
I won’t go into the full details of what’s going on with that airline, but suffice it to say that they are now running with around 40% of their flights delayed or cancelled.
The grim tidings piled on this week, as reports began to surface of passenger seats coming loose mid-flight. The airline is now blaming passengers for spilling too much soda, thus preventing the seats from locking in place. (If that were possible, I’m pretty sure the driver’s seat would have gone flying out of my car several years ago.)
When I told a co-worker I was flying American for the marathon, she said she’d pray for me. Definitely not the best thing to hear as a nervous flyer.
I was in fact so nervous about making it up here that I took a very unusual step for me. I posted on their Facebook page:
|Hard to read, I know. I’m working with MS Paint here. We call this, “Blogging in the wild.”|
The official response made me feel like I’d just written my Congressman:
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I have asked my intern to copy and paste this explanation of why I think you’re completely wrong.
The subsequent follow-ups from disgruntled customers were equally unhelpful, albeit sympathetic. A week out from race day, even tickets on the “discount” airlines were running $1,500 for two people. I briefly considered driving, but in addition to the amusement-park-worthy driver’s seat, my car also has 160,000 miles on the odometer and a funny smell coming from under the hood. Our choice was clear. We were flying AA to Chicago.
So now that we made it, my thoughts have turned to the race itself.
For Dad and I, the training has been…interesting. I have his genes to thank for my extremely flat feet, and this year he and I have shared in the joys of IT Band Syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, calf strains, and hamstring pulls. I’ve spent the past month getting poked and prodded and stretched and iced for the Achilles issue. He’s been subbing 3-hour elliptical sessions for long runs in hopes of keeping his calf in check.
Maybe it’s not what Runner’s World would recommend, but it’s a marathon and it’s Chicago, so here we are.
The one other minor detail I haven’t told Dad yet…
Coach Chris doesn’t actually want me to run this race. I’m pretty sure he bangs his head against a wall every time I tell him I’ve registered for something. It’s not that he doesn’t wish his runners well, it’s more that the whole point of this year-long training cycle we’re on is to PR in the Houston Marathon. In January. So running my legs off on the streets of Chicago probably isn’t conducive to that goal.
We compromised. I will run tomorrow as a “long run”. Okay, a really really long run. I even have a “minimum time” goal. 5:15. I believe our exchange went something like this:
Me: “5:15??? You’re killing me!”
Chris: “I prefer to think I’m saving you.”
Will I actually be able to force myself to run a race that easy? Can I really purposefully post the 2nd-worst marathon time of my entire life?? Will I be able to hold it together while I’m passed by jugglers, men in tutus, and possibly even that guy with the 8-foot tall Eiffel Tower on his head? (Oh wait, that guy beat me in 2010 anyway.)
It remains to be seen, but at least this way I’ve put the target out in public. It’s like those people who start weight-loss blogs: If I screw this up, the whole world will notice.
5:15 everybody. 5:15.