Friday, October 15, 2004

3:45:55 total, 8:36 per mile pace

At mile 15 Jim decided his bladder couldn’t take the jostling any longer. We agreed to part ways and I shouted out to him, “I’ll feel bad crossing the finish line without you!” He gave me the bird and was swallowed into the quicksand of faces behind me as I carried the torch alone.

A couple miles later I noticed the cold, brisk air was no more. Sweat started to run down my back and between my ass cheeks. I so hate that shit. There’s nothing worse than swishy ass cheeks. When alone, I can reach back there and wedge my shorts up in there to soak it up, but in a crowd I was left to pray my crack didn’t chap from the sloppy moisture.

At 19 miles I was starting to feel guilty for leaving Jim behind. Did 2 minutes really matter in the long run? Nah. But before I could too heavily berate myself I felt it hit me. Like a pile of stone landing on me all at once. I’d hit…the wall.

Not a real wall, Peon, the figurative 20 Mile Wall other runners have warned me about. In both of my previous races this phenomenon has never occurred. I was cocky, arrogant, and deserving of a good, solid impact. I’m struggling to describe the sensation.

One minute I was running along, picking up my feet one after another, focusing on my breathing In, in, out, out, in, in, out, out. The next minute my brain took a shit and my breathing wet awry, my legs gained 20 pounds each, people I’d whisked past only moments ago were elbowing right back past me.

Oh god I want to walk. Just a few steps.

But I knew better. Walking hurts after running for so long. It fucking hurts. Your body gets accustomed to the stance, bent elbows, short knee-bent strides, and that mind-numbing jarring your body adjusts to within the first mile. Walking no longer feels normal. Fluid rushes into your fingers the moment your arms drop, muscles tighten up and make an extended stride painful and awkward, you seem to sweat more and your blood pools wherever it can. Walking was out of the question. I had to keep running.

At mile 23 I think my eyes crossed. What the fuck was going on? It must have been 96 goddamn degrees outside and after the race I’d discover I had acquired a glorious Hawaiian tan while running in the streets of Chicago. Three point two miles, that’s all. I can do that in 25 minutes if I push.

Bullshit.

At the 24 mile marker I was gasping for air and sweating like a $2 whore on nickel night. This is all Jim’s fault, that pissing little bladder bitch. He was supposed to be here to act as my moral support and vice versa. I know I told him to water the bushes on his own, but I didn’t fucking mean it! He could have sprinted and caught back up with me, the lazy prick. I can’t believe he left me here to die on this wall alone. That’s the last time I let him pee by himself. From now on, every time Jim takes a leak, I’ll be right there. Waiting patiently. Might even offer to shake it off for him if it would speed things up a bit.

Just past mile 25 the crowd was so dense I couldn’t hear my own whining. One, one, one…in, in, out, out, in, in, out, out…one, one, one… I became the slow bitch in the left lane on the interstate that last stretch. I was too tired to get out of the way, but too dumbified by the wall to care.

I trotted past the 26 mile marker, my feet barely leaving the concrete as I basically walked in a running man position. That was when I felt something snag my hand and jerk me forward.

“It’s about fucking time!”

“Shut up and run before you get trampled.”

Jim continued to pull me away from the left side and I found a meager second wind. I dropped his hand, feeling just a wee bit queer for running while holding a man’s hand (sorry, kev, guess I’m straight after all, but I'll keep you posted if things change).

As we approached the FINISH LINE banner I never felt so much relief in my life. My shorts were lined with salt rings, my ass cheeks were slip sliding away back there, my lungs burned, my brain was as sharp as boiled squash and as I stepped across the finish line I had to fight a manly urge to cry. Ironically, I morphed in Forrest Gump once I crossed, unable to stop running. Like a retard on crack, I just kept going.

I snatched a space blanket and eased into a walk. Oh shit, did that hurt. My knees didn’t want to be anywhere near each other. I managed to wobble down to my designated tent to pick up my bag. Jazz was sitting on the outside of the fence line across from it waiting for me. I straightened my back, clenched my teeth and walked as nonchalantly as I could muster to the fence. She puckered through the chain links for a kiss and smiled as if I’d come in first.

“I did awful. I hit the wall.”

“Did you finish?” she asked me.

“Well, yeah.”

“That’s all that matters.”

I thought that was the nicest shit she could have said to me. Of course, Jim had his own opinions when we met up that night for pizza that he was more than willing to share with the crowd. Next time, I'll have to leave him behind for real.