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Stumbling, bumbling? Nahh, but I saw more than 600 tired people.

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5ksandcabernets: Stumbling, bumbling? Nahh, but I saw more than 600 tired people.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Stumbling, bumbling? Nahh, but I saw more than 600 tired people.

When I ran my second marathon last December, Wellstone's White Rock Marathon, the race organizers put my name on my bib. This is so that people can cheer you on _ by name _ when you are out on the course. Now, you may think it's corny, but let me tell you, when you pass the volunteers at mile 22 and somebody shouts, “Way to go, Kevin!” you appreciate it and it kind of energizes you, if only for about 10 feet or so. That's why I decided to volunteer at the Fort Worth Cowtown Marathon Saturday.
As I said in an earlier post, I ran a 10k, changed out of my wet clothes, and joined about a dozen or so other folks at Mile 24. Many of these volunteers were part of the Fort Worth Runners Club, which I joined a few weeks ago.
I wanted to volunteer to give back some of the same enthusiasm that volunteers had given me. But I also wanted to see the face of the marathoner, late in the race, when the glycogen is gone and the muscles are spasming, and the legs are like spaghetti.
There is a big difference between a sub-4 hour marathoner and one who takes longer than 4 hours to finish. Most of the marathoners who finished under 4 hours yesterday were in pretty good shape when they hit my volunteer station. Richard, the tall guy I've mentioned in other posts, looked great. (His wife, Lisa, is the president of the FW Runners Club and was organizing our station). Two guys I work with, Tom and Patrick, had smiles on their faces when they got to mile 24. Tom, I later learned was within seconds of qualifying for Boston.
Other sub-4 hour runners looked in good shape as well. Though, I do remember the Asian woman wearing three or four heat patches on her legs, wincing in pain with every step. We tried to give her water or Powerade and she just waved us off. She didn't want to be bothered. She was in a zone and looked like she was afraid if she stopped, she wouldn't start back up again.
The marathoners didn't have names on their bibs, so to encourage them, I'd shout out their bib numbers. “Way to go, 471” or “Hang in there 1400.” I shouted out so many numbers that I felt like a professional auctioneer. Most would look at you, smile and simply say, “Thanks.”
As the four plus hour marathoners ran by, you could see big differences. Many of those running slower took water, Powerade, pretzels, or whatever else we were handing out. Some looked like they were taking their last breaths, and I'm sure when they saw the finishing hill they'd have to climb they probably thought they were taking their last breath.
Our volunteer stop was where the marathoners and the half marathoners merged. This means that when a marathoner came loping by on pace to finish in 3:30, he or she was finishing way faster than some of the half marathoners. Still, you have to give those half marathoners credit. It takes a lot of courage to get out there.
Every once in a while, you'd see somebody going at a faster pace than everybody else. First, you'd wonder, 'Did that person misjudge their pace?' Because you'd see people barely jogging and then you'd see somebody sprint by. Then you'd realize that that person was an ultramarathoner, a race the Cowtown decided to hold for the first time this year. These fools, uh, I mean, people, were running 31 miles in the same time that mere mortals were running 26.2 miles.
There were 117 ultra-marathon finishers Saturday at Cowtown. The fastest finished 31 miles in 3 hours, 37 minutes. Folks that's a 7 minute-per-mile pace. I've never run 31 miles in a week that fast.
It was also interesting to see the color of the faces on the marathon course. Anytime I've run a marathon, I only see a handful of other black people. Cowtown was no different. Of the 809 marathoners and ultra-marathoners who officially finished, I saw two black guys running the marathon, two black women running the marathon, and one black guy running the ultra-marathon. That's less than one percent. (Most of the serious black marathoners in the country were probably recovering from the Lost Dutchman Marathon in Arizona the weekend before. That's where members of the National Black Marathoners Association (yes, this group exists) were having their annual run. And guess where they are coming next year? Fort Worth's Cowtown. So I guess I know what I'm running next February.
So, Saturday was an interesting experience, but not as dramatic as I thought it might be. Nobody crawling or staggering, like this woman here at a marathon in Japan this past January. Not that many tears, and certainly no medic trucks were needed. All-in-all, it was a pretty good time.
Tomorrow: My 10K Race report

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