It wasn’t even a week ago that I saw the ad for the Charleston Marathon. I remembered how a friend and I were going to run the Marine Corps Mud Run and for some reason, it fell through and we didn’t get our team together in time. I always see pictures of people running 5ks and I always think, I should sign up for those, but I usually see the registration fee and make up some excuse. While scrolling through the participant info page for the Charleston Marathon, I called my friend up and told him the news.
“We’re going to run a half marathon in January.”
“I don’t know man, I haven’t run that far in a long time.”
“Ah, you can do it, you’ve got over two months to get ready. You’re signed up.”
Neither of us were, in fact, signed up but I wanted him to run it with me. And he agreed.
I further inspected the course route, what the t-shirts looked like, and at what intervals the race would offer water. And what's this? After you pass the half mark of the full marathon (13.1 miles) they hand out bananas and handfuls of jelly beans for a quick energy boost to get you through the NEXT 13.1 miles.
The arrogant Nate on my left shoulder popped up.
“You can do a whole marathon, you run almost a half every time you run the bridge from downtown and back. Just run slow, it’s not hard…”
Right? I thought. I mean I run a lot, I’m in pretty good shape—maybe not marathon shape but it’s not like I’m trying to win it, anyone can finish it.
Chase reward points.
T-shirt size medium.
And like an idiot, I registered, for a marathon. A full marathon.
That was the hardest part right? Paying around $100 to run from downtown to like, Atlanta, or whatever.
I figured I should talk to someone who knows a little more about this whole "running far” thing so I called my brother-in-law. He’s a guy who could run a marathon for kicks and giggles. I’ve tried to run with him and it’s always the same story. He starts out at what I think is a sarcastically fast pace only to realize as I immediately start to fall behind that this is his jogging pace. He’s usually home and showered by the time I hobble up to where we started. Needless to say, he knows what he’s talking about.
“When’s the marathon?"
“A little over two months.”
"How far are you running now?”
“My long runs are pushing a half’s distance.”
“…..Okay, well, you, uh, you may be able to be ready in time, 26.2 is a long way man, the reason they hand out bananas and jelly beans is because your body has used up every bit of it’s energy by that time. It’s no joke. You need to have at least one long run a week, and each week after, tack on an additional mile until you’re near race distance.”
So that was that. I needed to see how far I could go to get my bearings for this whole training thing, and yesterday was the day I chose to do that.
I packed it in early at work and headed home to start what I was sure to be at least a 20-mile run. I downloaded a few new albums of angry rap to get me through, stretched a little, and started off. Colonial Lake was first up and to warm up, I glazed over and lapped it for a few miles. Down Broad to King, a left on Tradd to East Bay and then all the way around the Battery back to Colonial Lake. A left at Lockwood took me past the marina and on to the Citadel.
As I started to feel that all too familiar “I’m tired, this sucks” feeling, I was sure I would be at least near the 10- or 12-mile mark but oh no, I had only gone a mere seven miles. "Wow, I am in deep trouble” I thought. Not only was I in way over my head physically, but as I looked around, I saw a lot of graffiti and abandoned houses. A look up revealed I was directly behind the old Cigar Factory so I picked up the pace and headed for the bridge.
It’s amazing what upbeat, angry rap music can do for making you forget you can’t feel your legs anymore. After a loop around the submarine in the grass at Patriots Point and back I began to feel a serious hunger. By the time I reached the benches on the downtown side of the Cooper River Bridge I couldn’t take it anymore. I promptly stopped, took a seat and made a call.
“Papa John’s, Wesley Drive, how may I help you?”
I got a strange look from both women walking by my bench as I held the mic on my ear phone cord and replied: “Yes I need to make an order for delivery, two large original crusts with extra cheese and mushrooms.”
“Will that be all?"
‘Nope, throw in a two liter of mountain dew please.”
"Would you like to try one of our Papa John’s cookies for $5.99?"
“Haha, no that’s ok, I’m trying to watch my weight.”
The lady at the store either didn’t catch it or was too busy for idiots trying to be funny. It was probably hard to hear what I was saying because of all the cars driving by, because again, I was on a bench, outside, on a bridge.
“45 minutes to an hour.”
Perfect, now I can leisurely finish this hell of a run, and just as I’m getting home, a delicious melty cheesy dinner will arrive and I’ll justify it as being healthy because Michael Phelps eats pizza and he’s an Olympian. I shot off a tweet and slowly began running again.
Then things got a little out of control.
At Church and Market, I received a call from a Greenwood number and my heart sank. It was the pizza guy. I was less than a mile from home but after 17+ miles, I might as well have been in Summerville. I told him I was right around the corner and that I would hook him up if he didn’t leave. My brain told my legs to pick up the pace but two strides in the reply was simple.
No way in hell.
I phoned my roommates. No answer.
Must run faster. Must catch this pizza.
At this point I was grunting out loud, like one of those obnoxious weight lifters that deems it necessary to let everyone around them know how heavy the weight they’re lifting is. My phone lights up, it’s the roommate. Through gasps and grunts I blurt out:
“Are you home?!”
“No what’s up.”
“I’m having something, err, delivered.”
“Nate, did you order pizza WHILE you were running?! That is THE fattest thing I have ever…”
“I DON’T (Gasp) WANT TO HEAR (gasp) IT!”
Queen Street never seemed so long. Every car I passed, I was sure it was the pizza man giving up and leaving with my cheesy treats. I rounded the corner and scared the crap out of the poor pizza man on my front porch as I yelled a mixture of a greeting and profanity, out of breath and much louder than necessary (due the my angry rap music that was still playing) and that I would be right back.
I came back to the door to a bewildered pizza man who kindly delivered my two large pizzas and drink and as I fumbled through the contents of my wallet that I had just dropped all over the floor at his feet, he asked in choppy English:
“Are you exercising?”
“Ha, I guess you could say that man, sorry I made you wait.”
“Hey, who say running has no reward, have a good night.”
I may or may not have laid on the floor of my entry way, in a sweaty pile of what used to be my neatly organized wallet, next to a family sized portion of unhealthy greasy pizza, laughing hysterically at not only what the pizza man said but at myself and how much of an idiot I was. Literally running as hard as I could so I wouldn’t miss my pizza delivery. That’s right. I’m an adult. Might as well go for broke.
I sat up, kicked my shoes off, taco styled two pieces of Papa John’s at one time and killed a solid fourth of that two-liter like it was a water bottle.
This marathon is going to be a piece of, uh, pizza.