I love marathon weekend in my adopted hometown of Eugene, Oregon. As you all know, Eugene is America’s running town, affectionately called Tracktown, USA. It’s the home of the late great Prefontaine, Hayward Field, and more elite runners that you can count.
But what I don’t love is long distance. I’m not a marathoner. I’m not even a long-runner. Ten miles is long to me. Yet, even as a non-marathoner or even a non-half-marathoner, I love the marathon.
The 11th annual Eugene Marathon took place on the first weekend in May. In the week leading up to the race, I attended a professional retreat on Orcas Island and I saw no chance of being in town for marathon weekend. I was bummed because I’ve run the Eugene Marathon 5k for the past four consecutive years. It’s my favorite course. It’s beautiful, it’s hilly, and it finishes on the track at historic Hayward Field! Well, as luck would have it, I got out of my retreat early. Yes! The stars aligned, and before I knew it, I was toeing the line for the 2017 Eugene Marathon 5k!
When I first caught glimpse of the remote possibility of returning to my adoptive hometown in time for marathon weekend, I became childishly giddy with excitement. So, when it started to look probable, I enlisted my poor husband to drive me home very late at night. I’ll spare you the gritty details of the ride home. Let’s just say that it involved a lengthy, heated discussion on consciousness and quantum mechanics and the two of us coming too close for comfort to running out of gas on the freeway — and smashing any hopes of my running the next morning. But, I digress.
This is not about that 5k race. This is about enjoying a hometown marathon without actually running 26.2.
Two years ago, a friend of mine ran the Eugene Marathon. At the last minute, her pacing buddy for the final five miles of the race dropped out and she was left with nobody to assist. Given that my friend had planned for, and expected, company in those last grueling miles, I was happy to volunteer my services.
Sure, I’m the consummate “sprinter” but if she can run 26.2 miles, I can certainly run five, right? Given that my friend was desperate, she took me up on my offer, and within a few days I was awaiting her hopefully-smiling face near the 21 mile marker.
Accompanying a marathon runner in the last miles of the run is an experience every shorter-distance runner should have. In other words, if you are on the fence as to whether or not to run a marathon, the last five miles of running one gives you a good feel for what it is like. It’s basically my definition of carnage.
Truth be told, my friend did miraculously. While others around her experienced apparent delusions and hallucinations, muscle cramps, dehydration and pure misery, she held her own: good form, a sense of humor and an amazing ability to be coherent after such a long time running.
But, from my viewpoint, the general environment was nothing short of pure suffering. This experience provided me a sense of awe that I continue to have for anyone who takes on this distance. And it also sealed the deal for me: I will NEVER run a marathon!
That said, ever since then, I’ve longed for more of the marathon experience. A year later, my step-daughter and I accompanied a friend from San Francisco in the half marathon distance and we had so much fun being his support team and getting so much attention from all of the bystanders. It was a hoot!
This year, although I had nobody specifically lined up to run with, I hopped in with friends at various parts of the course. Sometimes I provided company, sometimes just a distracting conversation or a positive voice in the often negative landscape of the last few miles.
One could say that I caught a bug, of sorts, for joining in and accompanying friends in their marathon efforts. I hope to provide company, support and maybe a little comic relief. Maybe I can even ease some of the suffering, kind of like a good sports drink that you swish in your mouth and spit out. I’d like to believe that my presence can provide a little ease from the sometimes monotonous burden of the mile after mile … after mile.
You see, some of us are made to run long distances and some of us are not. But this shouldn’t keep you from joining in the fun of the marathon experience! Be creative, be a cheer squad, or help your (masochistic) friends! Make someone’s day and spread the joy of this awesome event we call the marathon!
How do you celebrate your hometown marathon without actually running long?