It's not lonely at all, really. At least it wasn't this weekend at the redundantly titled First Inaugural Winslow Half Marathon. My sister was with me and my Winslow friends were all helping to handle the logistics of the grand event (By some accident of kayaking, I've come to be friends with a whole slew of Winslovians over the last several years, which has been a great blessing to me.) Plus the 125 other runners were all real friendly, the ones I talked to, at least.
My favorite was Marge from Tulsa. I caught up with her a while after climbing the mile-long Welcome to Winslow Hill and she paced me perfectly for about four miles. This was my plan all along, you see, to find a 64-year-old woman to pace me for the first half of the race. We talked about lots of things as we ran and walked the steepest sections of the nonstop hills. Of course I mentioned that my sister had come up from Houston to run it with me. Anyway, we swapped leads for a while until suddenly I noticed she was no longer close behind me. No matter, people were getting scattered but I still occasionally came alongside someone I could say hi to.
After a long but steady downhill, I finally ran past the turn-around point just far enough to smack the hood of the EMT vehicle parked there and give the guys a thumbs-up, and it was on to the long and steady, and muddy uphill. I remember giving a shout to Marge and my sister both as I passed them but I can't remember who was ahead. I know I was only a few minutes up the hill when I passed them. I was feeling really good.
At about mile eight, the on-and-off drizzle and cool breeze we had been having turned into a downpour with a driving wind, which was exactly what I needed. It was perfect! The squall only lasted ten minutes or so but it left the course pleasantly slick and muddy. The cushion under my feet felt wonderful and I quickened my pace, walking only the very steepest parts of the hills. The nine, ten, and eleven-mile signs went by and I was tempted to start running up all the remaining hills, but good sense and discipline prevailed. I stuck with my plan and by the time I began the descent of Welcome to Winslow Hill the older lady with the homemade flip-flops and striped socks up to her knees was in sight. I was determined to run her down! It would not happen, though, and I'm glad about that. Her finishing eleven seconds ahead of me was the just and proper result.
On the way there, I was sure to put a nondescript expression on my face for the cameraman who was photographing every one's nipples just before they crossed the finish line. He actually got one photo which showed my nipples really well and another which was probably a better photo overall even though my nipples were not clearly defined. What a cool job, I thought, to see hundreds of people at their absolute best, people succeeding at something fun but also painful and challenging. Then I thought, what a drag! Here is this man who loves running and biking and swimming but can't do these activities because his lousy job won't let him. He works every race! Anyway, I wanted a keepsake and felt mercy for the photographer so I bought rights to the superior, nipple-less photograph for twelve bucks. Hey, the man has to make a living! A few minutes later, he sent an email congratulating me and included the nipple photo for no charge. I was so thrilled!
My friend Kristian, the cartographer who created the course map, is also a pretty handy photographer and he took a few more photos at the finish line. One is with my sister, Jennifer, and the other is with my friend David who was kind enough to wait around at the finish line the 47 minutes it took me to get there. It must have seemed like hours! I think I was having my picture taken with Jen when Marge wandered in. She, curiously enough, had had a long enough conversation with Jen at some point to figure out that she was my sister. How cool is that!
I was very proud of my sister. I said she was from Houston where people run up bridges and parking garages to simulate hills. That's not exactly correct. She's actually from northwest of Houston just far enough that it takes an hour to get downtown where the parking garages are and two hours to to get to the refinery district southeast of Houston where all the good bridges are. She showed up to Winslow, after a twelve-hour drive, not having run up a single hill in all the training she did for this race. That not being challenging enough, her purist heart chose to run the race consuming only plain water along the way. No Hammer Gel! Let me tell you something: Running Winslow without Hammer Gel is like climbing Everest without oxygen! I was hitting the Hammer Gel every hundred yards or I wouldn't have made it. As far as I'm concerned, her accomplishment dwarfs mine despite our times, which can be found here if you absolutely must see them. She killed it!
The course had it all: Steep hills, long hills, some pavement, some gravel, some mud, a hard rain, and a million great volunteers who did Winslow proud. My first half marathon experience could not have been more perfect. There was nothing lonely about it!
The Boston Marathon should have trophy girls this hot!
My sister Jennifer. Isn't she amazing!
David had Lana and all the girls there. I got to meet twins Isabella and Eleanor for the first time and they are so beautiful!
Notice the Hammer Flask in my right hand. Do you think I can get an endorsement deal? I believe!