Ready, ready, ready to run
Get a Life
So what did I do for fall break? I ran in the 2000 Chicago marathon and boy, what an exciting experience! I recommend it to all. And let me say congratulations to the other Notre Dame runners who were there too.
Wait un momento — how can torture be fun? Perhaps I'm one of those people who is into the pain scene? I'm really not. I can't explain fully why it's such an incredible experience but I will attempt the task.
First of all, I wasn't the only one to throw down some cash to run 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago and I mean all the streets of Chicago — the East side, the West side, the North side, the South side, Chinatown, little Italy and on and on. Aside from myself and my dad, 33,168 other people signed up to run 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago. Every state and 80 something foreign countries were represented. It just happened to be the biggest marathon in North America, quite possibly the entire world; I don't know, but there were a lot of running fools lined up at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 22 in this "millennium" year.
But I digress, to run a "fun" marathon you've got to know a few things. First, you must arrive early, at least an hour and a half before start time. You need time to put Vaseline all over your body, and when I say all over your body, I do not exaggerate. Put it all over your body; any place that you miss is targeted to become a minor laceration or burn area. You will bleed; you will chaff; it will hurt. Stretch and warm up; this is wise, but unless you are really out there to sprint your way to the end of the 26.2 miles, you may not want to jog around before the race begins. Keep in mind, you will have 26.2 miles to get out all the stiffness and kinks in your body that you had before the race — you will also have those 26.2 miles to bring in new stiffness and kinks.
So you're early, ready to go, stretched and vaselined. Are you planning on taking a while to complete the 26.2 miles, more than three hours? Then you also may want to consider a water bottle and a walkman as well as over-the-counter pain relievers and caffeine boosters. As Clint Eastwood once said, "a man has got to know his limitations," and buddy, this is never more true than when running 26.2 miles. Now, luckily, the day of the Chicago marathon was perfect weather-wise, and it is also the fastest course in North America because it is the relatively flattest course. You can't beat conditions such as these.
When the weather conditions are less than perfect, when the course is not flat, the pain and preparation time will increase exponentially. Chicago has a great marathon course but lots of people know this, lots of people. To ensure fluidity in the race, officials like to place people by the time it will take them to finish the race.
A problem develops, though, when there is a cut-off in the amount of racing time allowed. The Chicago marathon has to be completed in six hours or no medal. At least, it was a rule before the race began and other marathons will have their own cut-off times. The famous Boston marathon has a cut-off time of 4 hours and 30 minutes. When your finish time is going to put you in the back of thousands of people, it will take about 30 minutes to get to the start after the gun has gone off and you will have lost that half-hour of running time. And believe me, when running 26.2 miles, you can use all the time they allow. Yet, there is a solution for the inexperienced or slow runner: Make note of the official's desire for order, then go as far forward in the crowd of runners as you can. Hey, you never know exactly when you will finish, so if you can get to where the three-hour runners are located, more power to you.
Another important concept one must grasp is that of the pace. The gun has gone off, you're in the front of the pack, you're all excited but for goodness sakes, don't forget that this is 26.2 miles not 2 miles. It is catastrophic to speed out at the beginning like it's only going to take you two hours to finish. Unless, of course, you plan on running 5-minute miles and never letting your heels touch the ground for all of the 26.2 miles. It's all just a matter of proper pre-race strategy; some decide to use a slower pace-plan than others.
So you're running and it's great, you feel great, it's great to be alive, every part of the race is lined by happy, cheering, wonderful people. But keep in mind, that by the 17th mile or so, racing officials will cheat and make the remaining miles longer than is correct; also, the lines of happy, cheering people will become annoying. You will think, what the heck do they have to be happy about anyways? Why don't they try running instead of just standing there? Oh my god, is that guy eating a hamburger? What nerve, right in front of my face. And you will begin to change inside. But then, only 0.2 miles will lay ahead, which will be more than 0.2 miles because they cheat, but it's okay, play their little game.
You see the finish, you feel the only energy left inside you, the crowds are wild, you'll want to look cool; go ahead, sprint in. Cross the finish line. More happy faces will greet you with a medal and a blanket. They offer you food; they even offer you beer. Wow, these are beautiful people; you will want to jump up and down. You are the bomb. Except you won't be able to jump up and down, you may even have to hurl all over the ground. But it's all good; you know that for the next week, you'll be so sore that no one can make you do one bit of exercising or anything you don't want to do. I mean did they run a marathon? Maybe they should try running a marathon, and then they won't be bothering you with stupid assignments and things to do.
All in all, running a marathon is indescribable; a fait accomplé; something that everyone who has trained can and should do. Remember that training is key. Unless you have years and years of experience, without training, you will die — slowly and painfully.
Now, I'm ready to listen to what other people did over fall break.
Anna Barbour is a junior theology and pre-med major. Her column appears every other Wednesday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, October 25, 2000