Note: This is going to be long and, for most of you, way too boring to go completely through. I apologize in advance.
On Sunday, I walked my first marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles (the last .2 miles being a cruel tease). Walking 26.2 miles really does not sound that hard - that's certainly the way I felt about it before I started training for it and really thinking about it.
Let me just say that walking 26.2 miles without a nice one hour lunch break and half a dozen rest stops, in other words, with very minimal stopping, is truly hard. The people that run this distance are no doubt much more impressive, but I feel comfortable in saying that, without significant training, taking the easy way out and walking a marathon is no picnic, and you end up with the same feeling of satisfaction when you are done. And the thing about walking this is that you really have to have patience - I was out there for 6 hours and 30 minutes, and that was reasonably fast (almost exactly 15 minute miles).
The Silicon Valley Marathon very cooly gives the walkers a one hour head start. This means being ready to go at 6 AM. It was 56 degrees and thoroughly dark at that time.
The marathon people just needed to get the starting gate up and we could get started.
Unfortunately, that did not go well. So they went to plan B and shoved the thing off to the side, with the intent of getting it up for the real event - the 7 AM start.
I'm not sure if this is everyone, but these are the San Jose Fit ("Fitters") walkers that were there for the 6 AM start that were brave enough to pose. Note that I already have my game face on. Those of use with orange bibs completed the full marathon - those with white bibs completed the half marathon. Oh how I envied them around mile 18.
Here is the group of walkers/slowish runners that chose to take advantage of the 6 AM start. We all had little plastic squares attached to our shoes that the pad that guy is standing on detects to record our starting time. There is another pad at the finish line.
In any case, more or less on time, we were off.
My Most Embarrassing Moment...
The good thing is that it was still dark at the time. During mile 3 I stopped at a porta pottie. (Side note, this was at about 6:45 or so. I did not go to the bathroom again until I got home around 2:30. I drank a LOT of fluids, and sweated most of them out.)
Back to the embarrassing bit - I left the porta pottie and went to turn my iPod Shuffle back on. It was clipped to the bottom of the front of my shirt, or, rather, it should have been clipped to the bottom of my shirt, but it was missing. I followed the headphone cord down and realized that, I have no idea how, I had zipped it in my shorts.
So I'm walking along, undoing my fly, fishing out the iPod, all while trying to make good time. And with a lot of law enforcement people holding up traffic for us. The only thing I had going for me is that it was still really dark, so nobody noticed. Or at least, nobody who felt it was worth busting me for what had to look suspiciously obscene.
The iPod is fine, by the way. Back to our normal programming...
Once the sun came up and us walkers were just getting to the part of the trail that we have been wandering around on all summer, the runners caught up to us. Things definitely were much more active at this point.
It was at about this point that my pace really picked up. My fastest mile was 12 minutes, 13 seconds, but I think someone must have moved the mile marker since I have never walked that fast in my life. I was averaging around 13 minutes, 30 seconds per mile during my best stretch.
An odd note, at 10 AM I switched from my iPod to an AM radio to listen to the 49ers game. In the end, this was a mistake because the 49ers were awful and I caught myself a couple of times saying bad words out loud. At halftime I put the radio away in disgust and went back to music. And my times picked up.
This is a picture of one of the many aid stations. These things, which appeared about every two miles, were life savers, but kind of peculiar for the uninitiated (like me).
First, just like you see on TV, they are lined with people handing out water and cut up fruit and such. And just like on TV, most runners grab a cup, drink some of it, and then throw the cup on the ground. I could not bring myself to do that - I would carry the empty cup until a trash can showed up.
The unexpected thing is that there is a lot of pressure to grab at least one cup - these people are all very enthusiastic (most likely due to not having to do the running) and look at you with huge, puppy dog eyes while telling you how great you are. I had brought my water, but I started grabbing a cup whenever I passed one of these, drinking some of it, then dumping the rest into my hat - this was amazingly refreshing.
Some of these aid stations had themes - there were two of them with a hippie theme. The first time I came up to one of these, I was a bit nervous - these people had great costumes on and it was not hard to imagine the water being tweaked a bit.
Finally, we made it to the half way point, taking a lap around the track at Los Gatos High School. This is where the half marathoners finished. At this point, I was feeling strong and felt a sort of macho thing about being part of the full marathon group. (About an hour later, the macho thing was replaced with envy.) They split up the two groups here so that the full people were not tempted by an early finish line.
A cool thing though was that a LOT of the half people stood along the full marathon route and cheered us on. I can't tell you how much that helps, and it happened all along the route. People were in their driveways or on the sidewalks cheering us on. Families were camped out at various places with signs and cheers for significant others and such. The cops directing traffic were also great cheerleaders. "Ignore the red light and keep on going!" they would yell as they forced traffic to wait for me to lumber across the intersection.
Here's a hippie-infested aid station.
Leave it to a fire station to think to have a guy standing there with a hose to mist us down. Wow did that feel good at this point (it was 84 by the time I finished).
Eventually the finish line was in sight. And the Wahoo Fish Tacos were not far behind.
I love these things and that restaurant. This really was a treat to me, although I'm not so sure that eating right after the finish line was such a good idea.
I tried to take a self portrait to post to Facebook while sitting on a bench, but thankfully another runner offered to take the picture for me. A tired but well fed me.
I hung around for the other two walkers from our group.
Yak (not her real name, and an amazingly unflattering coded version of it) showed up after a brief detour through Milpitas.
And then Ahtreb (also not her real name) came shortly behind Yak. Anert in the 49ers shirt (not her real name - and I really hope I have her not real name right) walked the Nike Half in San Francisco last weekend. So even though she didn't participate today, she was there to cheer us on - and show us the really nice necklace they give you for the Nike.
And this was a common theme. Many people associated with San Jose Fit were on hand to help and provide encouragement. Many of them hop-scotched around to various points to get ahead of us, and even walked along with some. The coaches were wonderful - I never could have done anything vaguely like this without their help.
So, will I do this again? Right now, I'd say no. Ask me in a month or so and I might say yes. I really like the idea of the half marathons though - you get the same buzz with a lot less time and pain.
That's it - move along...