Thursday, October 23, 2008

October Marathon Surprise, Part 1

Who: VN Publisher/Editor in Chief Joseph Connelly
What: The 33rd Annual Marine Corps Marathon
Where: Arlington, Va., and Washington, DC
When: October 24–26, 2008
Why: To prove I get enough protein

The Scoop: In an amusing attempt to relive history while recapturing my youth, last April I somewhat-secretly began training for the 33rd Annual Marine Corps Marathon. Now, you may wonder, why would a vegan magazine publisher feel compelled to participate in such foolishness? One reason was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my running the 23rd Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 25, 1998. Here I am back then, post race:

A second motive could be to visit the East Coast during peak fall foliage season, combine it with a few business ventures, blog about it, and, in effect, reward myself with a (nearly) all-expenses-paid working vacation. A third excuse, well, sometimes I can be a little bit crazy. Don’t argue with me. Besides, pushing oneself is a good character-builder. So I’ve heard.

My venture was so well-thought-out that even the trek to the airport on getaway day was combined with a trip to pick up the latest stash of the famous oversized VegNews tote bags, just in time for your holiday shopping. Get them before they sell out!

The flight to Washington was uneventful, though made luxurious with exit-row accommodations and an empty seat beside me. After “renting” a half-dozen bottles of water, near the end of the trip the gentleman sitting in my row put two-and-too-many-trips-to-the-restroom together and asked, “You’re hydrating for the marathon Sunday, aren’t you?” Sherlock Holmes at 30,000 feet.

I chose an Ethiopian place near my hotel for Friday night's meal so I could carbo-load on tasty, fermented-teff injera bread. The place wasn’t veg and the food was only so-so—certainly nothing compared to my meal earlier this year in Minneapolis' Kilimanjaro Cafe—so I’m not gonna mention it.

Saturday I took it easy, venturing into DC to visit the pre-race Health and Fitness Expo, pick up my race number and timing strip, and find a hat to wear—one which would cover the solar panel I’ve had installed on the top of my noggin. This is where I found the adorably named “Gas Cap,” a lovely product from a little Colorado-based start-up that combines the best of head gear with the utility of the fuel belt you may have glimpsed many newbie runners wearing on their weekend training runs when you are out picking up fresh tofu for the kids on Saturday morning.
The Gas Cap is kinda like peanut butter and chocolate. Both are good, but together, well, now we’re talking. The hat has eight “pockets” into which you can stash those sport gels that are supposed to give you energy. I’m sure it makes for a pretty picture; thankfully, I don’t have one. Our friends over at Clif Bar make a version of the gels appropriately named the “Clif Shot” that I like 'cause, you guessed it: they're vegan, contain no crap, and taste good. Just like me.

Race morning I awoke at 5 am (2 am Pacific Time), though I really didn’t sleep much at all. For race support I enlisted Compassion Over Killing’s Maven of Outreach Noelle Callahan, figuring and wishing that if I needed to be killed at any point during the 26.219 miles, she would do so with compassion. I did; she didn’t.

I won’t bore you with my mile-by-mile commentary; suffice it to say that I started out OK then got progressively slower and slower as the day dragged on. Just like life. But I did finish. I wasn’t as fast as 1998, but hey, I’m ten years older. Here's the proof:

And then the real fun began.

After crossing the finish line I was overcome with emotion—and tightening calves. I stopped to stretch along the temporary fence, which then moved. I adjusted, then the fence moved again. Next thing I know the guy next to me falls into the fence a third time, passes out, and smashes face first onto the pavement. Since my name is Joe, not Peter, I couldn’t deny this poor wretch three times, so I tapped the Marine next to me (hey, that’s what they’re there for) who started yelling, “Medic! Medic!” Within seconds four other Marines were carrying the guy away on a stretcher, which I have to admit at that particular moment looked like a heck of a lot more appealing mode of transportation. I asked one of them if I could hitch a ride. He actually cracked a smile.

After walking around a bit and finding Noelle near the Iwo Jima Memorial (yes, this race begins and ends in Arlington National Cemetery, which is why it is often affectionately referred to as the Marine Corpse Marathon), I had the misfortune of sitting down under a tree. Big mistake. Within seconds, my right calf muscle tightened into a pain I can only describe as someone sticking a knife into me and repeatedly twisting it. I started screaming (I’m obviously a big baby), and out of nowhere a woman I’d never met grabs my leg and begins massaging it. I began thinking of all the other places that hurt when a second woman ran over, pushed her out of the way, shouting, “I’m a nurse!” and started to stretch my leg. Nurse Helen to the rescue.

I couldn’t move for two hours and missed out on the bagels and post-race BoDeans concert. But I did hobble over to the free massage tent and am happy to report that today I can walk once more.

So all you potential marathoners out there, reach for your dreams. And make sure you stretch.

Tomorrow: Amtrak, “The Daily Show,” plus a visit to NYC’s fabulous Pure Food and Wine.


Bradley Saul said...

Joe, that stache from '98 is hot.

ironvegan said...

you dominate. i tried to do a half marathon a few years ago and almost died. love the magazine.