Sunday, February 08, 2009

Martinis at Mile 8

My Marathon Story (Well, Half of One)

On February 1st, I finally ran the half-marathon I've been talking about for 2 years. The Mardi Gras Marathon has a really nice course that starts at the Superdome, continues through the French Quarter, proceeds Uptown to make a loop around Audobon Park, and back to the Superdome. (That's the half. The full marathon continues to City Park, around it, and back.)

Running it was a remarkable experience. The race begins just after sunrise, and the soft orange glow between the buildings on Bourbon and Royal, the zen of bobbing down the street with thousands, and the generous, supportive people watching made me tear up. Like my friend Kate who also constantly battles public tears, I tried to choke them back and cleared my throat repeatedly so no one knew I was beginning to cry. I mean, I didn't want them to think that I was breaking down in the first 2 miles.

A rocking playlist and strategic water and Gatorade stations really made the first half of the race a breeze--I was at mile marker 4 before I realized it--but miles 7-13 were a little tougher. My feet were feeling the pounding of miles on pavement, and I was getting very, very hungry. Almost immediately after this occurred to me, I saw a sign:

Energy Water

"Olives! Martinis have olives," was about the only thought I could manage, but my New Orleanian instincts took over and led my feet to the Dracula-costumed man who was double fisting cocktails. (Now, I was on the not-so-serious end of runners, but still not many people were stopping for booze. But dadgumit, if I'm running 13.1 miles, I deserve vodka!) I stood in front of the nice man and said something like, "I'd love a martini," to which he replied, "Vodka or gin?" I was so startled by the options, I had to kick my brain into high gear to say "Vodka, please." He handed me one of the plastic martini glasses with a smile, and I walked away sipping my beverage and marveling at the sophistication of my city. Even at a quick stop on a marathon course, I still got to order a drink.

The rest of the race went slower, and I walked a bit on the way back. Fortunately, this was more about my feet and knees hurting than being in cardiovascular distress. When I was almost to the finish line, Dale (who had finished about an hour earlier) called out "You did it, you did it!" with an excited smile. I rounded the corner, crossed the official finish, collected my medal, returned my timing chip (which recorded my time at 2 hours 47 minutes), ate a bag of Chee-Wees and headed home. In the car, my knees voiced their dissatisfaction, but a shower and a short nap made me feel all better and ready for my party, which was great. Gavin fried a turkey (beyond delicious), I got so many good presents, and there was so much cheesy Super Bowl food and dessert that I almost didn't know what to do. Thanks to my friends, it was a lovely evening followed by a great night's sleep full of dreams about NOT running for the next few weeks.

The End