Saturday, March 07, 2015

Run Hard Columbia Marathon

South Carolina.  I finished, and that's the best thing that I can say about my race.  No fault of the Run Hard Columbia Marathon - I just didn't have a good day.  Looking back, it is actually my PW (personal worst), by nine minutes, for marathons that were run on roads rather than trails.  I have to do something different, but I'll be thinking about that and blogging about it in the days to come.  I have some ideas.

My Marathon:

Waiting for the start

Despite my troubles, I finished my 87th marathon in 6:23:32 by my watch.  All but the first of those 87 finishes have happened since my diagnosis of myeloma in 2003, thanks in large part to a sweet little pill (called Pomalyst) that I take every day to keep the cancer at bay.  My girls finished their half marathons too, by the way.

Also I was the last runner across the finish line in this marathon.  I hate that, but there is an upside: at every corner and every aid station the volunteers cheered me wildly. They also knew, of course, that they could pack up and go home after I passed by, but nevertheless I believe their encouragement was genuine.

This was a two-loop marathon, so the half-marathoners peeled off from the marathoners at the 13.1–mile point.  I looked ahead, then, and back, without seeing the any other marathoners.  I must already have been last at that point, because I soon heard the steady rattle of big diesel engines behind me, two large dump trucks with men who were clearing up the course and picking up the hundreds of orange cones separating the race course from the motor vehicles.  Happily, those trucks kept a respectful distance.  Though I could hear them, I never smelled them.

The mile markers were created by children
as were the age group awards.  Lovely
Further, a police officer in a blue sedan followed me, between me and the trucks.  Since I was the only runner in sight, motor vehicle drivers were uncertain which lane was for them, and he protected me from vehicles approaching from behind.

At about mile 17 I passed a young couple who were running slowly because she was cramping up.  I lost the police car and the rattling diesels then, until they reappeared at about mile 22.  The nice officer in the blue sedan confirmed that they had dropped out.  "You the man now," he said.  So one way to be "the man" is to be the last runner in a race.  I'd rather be first than last, of course, but what the hell, I'm 74 years old with terminal cancer, so I'm happy with whatever I can get!

Run Hard Marathon:

This race is more "challenging" than I expected.  Maybe I didn't read the promotional material well enough, I don't know, but it's quite hilly.  That's no fault of the organizers - they put on a good race anyway.

We really lucked out on the weather.  The temperature at the start was about 30, and at my finish somewhere between 55 and 60, with bright sun and very little wind.  I wore shorts and took off three of four shirts as the temperature rose, leaving two at our car near the end of the first loop, and tying the other around my waist.

The race course is entirely within the city of Columbia, and largely within residential neighborhoods.  It crosses many, many streets, and we runners found a volunteer or a police officer or both at most of those crossings.  There must have been a hundred cops and even more volunteers, even for the last runner on the second loop.  This is a safe and solid course.

We like Columbia SC.  People are polite and respectful of each other - drivers will give you a chance - there is a splendid downtown, renewed, with a Farmers Market every Saturday.  It's hot in the summer, I hear, but Columbia might make a lovely home for people who like the heat.

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