One true fact about life is that plans always change, which is why it pays to do your stretching exercises. Flexible is good.
When last we spoke, Carol, who had been training for the Vermont City Marathon, did something to her knee during an 18+mile run. She planned to run the first half of the race, then drop out when runner #1 handed off to runner #2.
That is not what happened.
By the time I caught up with Carol and Lisa at the Expo, a new plan had been hatched. Carol’s knee was feeling pretty good, all things considered. Seeing how far she could run past the halfway point had its appeal. If she dropped at 13.1 or at 19.7, it would be recorded as a DNF. Why not, her thinking went, just try for the whole 26.2 and see what happens?
I had qualms, mind, but am almost always up for anything that finishes the phrase “would it be crazy if ….” What Carol had going for her was that she’d had nearly a month of rest, did get a few long runs in, and is generally in decent shape thanks to skiing. She also hadn’t wasted a whole lot of energy freaking out about running her first marathon because she’d only decided to do it that morning. She also had Lisa and I. She is also a badass.
In the negative column was the undeniable fact that a marathon is a temperamental beast that finds unique ways to test your gumption and stamina. But we tried to not dwell on that.
Race day dawned as it always does, which was way too early for comfort. The three of us piled on the bus to the start in downtown Burlington. Since I was going to take the second leg, I had a bagel, two hard boiled eggs, and not enough coffee with me so that I could have a leisurely breakfast while I waited for Lisa and Carol to hit the halfway mark.
After seeing the start of the race, I took the bus over to Oakledge park, where I amused myself with podcasts and back issues of Runners World for two and a half hours while waiting for my team to hit the hand-off. One of two things would happen at that point, either Carol would 1) keep going with me or 2) say nope and call it a race right then. She took option 1. Lisa tossed me the baton — one of those phone cord-like bracelet things that you can keep your keys on — and off we went.
My only goal for the next 13.1 miles was to make sure Carol crossed the finish line before the race’s six-hour time limit had expired. We needed roughly a 13:45 average per mile, which seemed doable, especially since Carol was still in great spirits. She nearly bounced through our first few miles.
Right around mile 17, Voldesun made his appearance. We’d been enjoying the incredible crowd support in the neighborhoods but encouragement (and shade) was thin out on the main roads. Yet we pressed on. I threw in some motivating chatter when it seemed like the right thing to do. I was also ready to call it a day if Carol started running like a person in pain.
I kept doing math in my head, while sucking down water and sports drink and the occasional Gu. Both of us have nothing but love for the people handing out freezer pops, which were the best freezer pops ever. The weather warning signs at the aid stations went from moderate risk to high as the temps climbed.
The last few miles of the course were on scenic and kind of shady trails neat the lake. Carol said at some point, “I’m going to sob at the end, aren’t I?” Yup, I said, because by then I knew she would finish no matter what. Shortly after that, she had enough giddy-up in her legs to pick up the pace faster than I manage because the sun is not my friend and off she went.
I clomped on through the last mile solo and only once thought about simply wading into Lake Champlain and floating to Canada. Coming down the finish line, I high-fived every spectator who had a hand out, which was, I think, a billion of them. Carol’s face was streaked with tears (or salt, maybe?) when she hugged me. She finished in 5:53; our BAMR team finished in 5:56.
Was it my zippiest, easiest, most comfortable race ever? Not even a little bit. Was it amazing to help a fellow BAMR meet a long-held goal? You betcha — and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Have you had any amazing race moments lately?