My running partner says that doing a half-marathon is like having sex because it’s always over too soon and you wonder when you’re going to get to do it again. My running partner is full of shit. I’ve never had a sexual experience that ended with shinsplints, an IV and a handful of Aleve. Well, there was that one time on Spring Break but I’m pretty sure I took Tylenol then.
Last weekend I pinned a number to my shirt and ran the Charlotte Racefest Half-Marathon with 2,400 other idiots who decided it was a fair trade to run thirteen miles in exchange for arthritis and a hideous t-shirt that will look awesome on a rack at Goodwill. Thirty minutes before the start, we began filing into place behind the elite competitors, the singlet-clad 83-pound runners who shun iPods in favor of keeping pace with the rhythm of their own breathing. That, and the fact that the added weight of a Nano could tear one of their tiny arms out of the sockets.
I found myself standing beside two women who were each complimenting the other’s pale pink sportswear. One gestured to the race’s major sponsor, the sporting goods store whose parking lot served as our temporary corral and announced “I got it in there. I love Dick’s! I can’t stay away from Dick’s” I of course snickered and said “Who can? HAHAHAHA!” The women both shot me a nasty look and my smirk faded when I noticed that the delicate script on Dick Lover’s pastel hat said “Fuck You, Fuckball”.
The starter began the countdown, I turned on my iPod, and every one of us undoubtedly said the same silent prayer that we would make it across the finish line without chafing, without cramping, and without grimacing in any of the pictures being taken along the way. Huh. So maybe it is like sex.
I was able to keep a running diary (um…no pun intended) of my progress, because I’m just that awesome. And I was plodding along slowly enough to make notes on the back of someone’s windbreaker.
Mile 1: All right, baby. I’m born to run, just like Springsteen says. I have already sprinted past a man pushing a stroller and a 70 year-old woman who is undoubtedly inspiring for running a half-marathon but equally terrifying for selecting a sports bra and a pair of tiny denim cutoffs as her running attire. While that ensemble was lovely on the Binford Tool Girls, seeing it on her makes me understand why Dorothy, Sophia and Rose chose sensible pantsuits instead. And why Blanche never had sex with the lights on.
Mile 2: Still feeling good. Just saw a runner who is carrying two massive, car-dealership sized American flags, one in each hand. I don’t know whether to run past him or ask about financing a new Jeep Liberty.
Mile 3: The first hill of the race. People in Charlotte have nice lawns. It’s a shame that runner number #4178 is taking a piss in one of them. Good thing their newspaper is wrapped in plastic.
Mile 4: Look at all the kids standing on the course cheering for the runners! Supercute! The two women running in front of me are debating which race has the best finisher’s medals. I hope that this year the awards are made of Immodium.
Mile 5: I’m already covered in sweat, drool, and Gatorade, which hasn’t happened since my last date.
Mile 6: One more hill. I keep telling myself what doesn’t kill me just makes my butt look perkier. Chances are, some tiny Kenyan has already won by now. Oh well, it’s not like he’s going to eat all of the post-race bagels. Or any of them.
Mile 7: Another fucking hill. Forget perky. My ass is going to be halfway up my spine by the time this is over.
Mile 8: Confidential to the Owners of the Tudor-Style Home at the Corner of Old Providence Road: You have beautiful azaleas. I’m sorry for throwing up on them. I’m even sorrier that your dog ate it.
Mile 9: I was just passed by a guy wearing a bunny suit.
Mile 10: Fuck you, Springsteen. Born to run, my ass. You were in a car.
Mile 11: Damn you, courteous drivers. I’ve thrown myself in the path of an oncoming Miata, a Corolla, and an F-150 and all have swerved out of the way. C’mon, Festiva. My femur on your fender would make that car increase in value. But then again, so would filling the gas tank with midgrade.
Mile 12: Goddamn kids are laughing at me. You think this is funny? Why don’t you put down your Nintendogs and strap on a pair of sneakers, you little shit. Then we’ll see what’s funny. Nice sign, by the way. “Run good, Mommy!” Mommy needs to run your ass into the Sylvan Learning Center.
Mile 13: One tenth of a mile to go. Bunny Suit’s struggling right beside me. His fur’s matted, his ears are drooping…dude looks like a pregnant woman just peed on him. Sweet Christ, here’s the finish line! Right in front of the sporting goods store! What can I say? I love Dick’s!
Epilogue: Yes, I did finish, in just over 1 hour and 38 minutes, which equates to the pain of a 7:33 per mile pace and the pleasure of rubbing Aspercreme on my entire lower body. Just like that time in Cancun…