My friends and I signed up to run the Richmond marathon, which took place this past weekend. Ally and Emily joined a training team to prepare for running the 26.2 miles. I did nothing of the sort. I was too cheap to pay more than the race fee and also thought I wouldn’t be around enough on weekends to justify the purchase (which has turned out to be true), plus if I was around, who wants to commit to waking up at 6:30 AM on a weekend?
I also had the master plan of tracking my friends’ mileage on Strava (an app where you post your running routes) and mimicking their training schedule. I could do this for free.
I’ll be honest. Training did not go as expected. I thought I’d be running longer distances on the reg and get into the groove. In college I regularly ran half marathons on my own just because. That is not my life today.
Leading up to the marathon, I ran 8 to 12 miles twice a week, but that was nothing compared to my friends’ schedule. Three times – three times – they and their training team ran 20 miles.
Knowing this, I decided I should run at least 20 miles once. But saying I’ll run 20 is one thing; doing it by myself is another. By mile 13, I knew my intrinsic motivation would be as gone as the money I spent signing up for a marathon. Also, I would need hydration and snacks to run 20 miles.
So when Ally told me the exact day her training team was running 20 miles, my ears pricked up. Her team left the starting line at 7 AM. I could meet Emily and her a half mile out, fall into the pack, run 20 miles with them, and then jog back to my apartment instead of the appointed finishing line. None would be the wiser. I am would be one in 500 soulless, insane, addicted, obsessed, crazed runners out in Richmond on a Saturday.
The night before, we went to Joe’s Inn to carb load. I certainly exceeded my calorie expenditure that night. But we had 20 miles to run the next day.
I set my alarm for 5:45 AM. I would rise, drink coffee, eat a PB&J, hopefully poop (integral if you’re a runner), stretch, and then I would jog to our appointed meeting space, Meadow and Broad.
The next thing I know is, I’m awake. I roll over. My, it’s so bright outside. I didn’t know it was so bright before 7 AM. I picked up my phone. The alarm wasn’t going off. 7:03 AM.
I leap out of bed. How did this happen? What happened to my alarm? Why didn’t I wake up? Now what? Do I go? I carb loaded last night. I need to burn that spaghetti off! And if I don’t show up, will my friends ever let me live it down?
I sprint to my bathroom, pee, meanwhile texting Ally, “F*CK I JUST WOKE UP,” and debated my next steps. I chug a glass of water while I put on workout clothes. I check the time. 7:12. I pondered eating a sandwich, do I need to poop, do I have time, could I catch them, was I really going to run 20 miles (no), would they let me live this down, was this a bad idea?
At 7:15, I depart my apartment and begin to jog down Hanover Avenue. I played Sia’s “The Greatest.” I planned on catching up to them at Meadow and Hanover. The lyrics go like this:
“Uh-oh, running out of breath, but I,
Oh, I got stamina,
Uh-oh, running now, I close my eyes (I did not close my eyes),
Well, oh, I got stamina”
“Don’t give up, I won’t give up,
Don’t give up, no no no.”
I did not give up.
I reach Meadow and Hanover. No one is there. But in the distance, several blocks past Meadow, I spot a group of runners in neon. That had to be them. I sprint.
I knew my friends’ team’s pace was in the 9:30/mile range. I check my phone. I was running 7:54/mile pace. Surely, I would catch up. And I do.
The team is scattered over the length of several blocks. I pass one group, I pass another group. I think about asking them if they know Emily and Ally: “They’re two 20-something girls wearing pink tops today according to their 6:43 AM text?”
Them: “And who are you?”
Me: “I’m their friend who woke up late and still insists on mooching off their marathon training team.”
That conversation does not happen.
Ah, I see a water station up ahead. My friends told me they always stop and take their time at water stations. Ally and Emily had to be here. I slow down.
I see some women in pink, but not two women in pink. And not even two women in their mid-twenties. Wow. Am I that late? Are they ahead of me still?
I continue running without stopping for water.
I blow past more groups of runners. I wonder if they think I’m part of their team. Are they judging my speed? No one this side of the Atlantic can run 20 miles at a 7:34 pace.
By this point, I’ve gone four miles. Where were they? I surge past more and more strings of runners. I see the head of the line. I know they cannot be at the front, no offense to them. Have I sprinted past the entire darn team and passed them?! Or have they never been in this group?
Is this the right group?
At this point someone calls my name: “Cazey?”
I turn around, in all my sprinting glory. “Oh, hey!” It’s my assistant professor. “Hey,” I repeat and fall back. “What’s up?”
Professor: “Are you training for the marathon? I didn’t know you were on the training team.”
Me: “Funny story…. I’m not. I’m trying to find my friends, though. Is this Intermediate Team A?”
Professor: “No, it’s B.”
Me: “Is Team A ahead of B?”
Professor: “I’m not sure. We sorta mixed together at the beginning.”
Me: “Well, I will see you in class Monday. I’m gonna drop back and find my friends.”
I pull off and stand on someone’s lawn as runners jog past me. I debate just running the 20 with this group of strangers, but I came here for my friends, so where was the fun in that?
Finally, I see Ally and Emily – two women in pink. I jog toward them. “I found you!” I declare.
They do not seem as overjoyed as me. They’re obviously going through the “I’ve been up since 5:30 AM and eff this” phase of running that usually breaks around mile five. Meanwhile, I’m going through the “I’m on adrenaline because I woke up 40 minutes ago, only drank a glass of water, didn’t poop, didn’t drink coffee, didn’t eat, and I’m going to run 20 miles, what about you??” phase.
Jogging alongside them is a tall, older man. “This is our coach,” Ally huffs between strides. “This is Cazey.”
I’m immediately confused. Coach?
Coach: “Are you a runner? How long are you going to run with us?”
He asks this good-naturedly, but this is their coach? Do I admit I’m mooching all 20 miles?
Me: “I thought I’d do five or ten miles and then peel back.”
Emily: “Aren’t you going to do the whole thing?”
Me: “I mean, I want to, but I’m worried how I’m going to feel at mile 16 without food or coffee in my system. I don’t make promises I can’t keep.”
Coach: “Are you training for anything soon?”
Me: “Um, uh…the marathon…”
Coach: “Why aren’t you on the team?”
Me: “I’m only here, like, two weekends this month, so it didn’t make sense to sign up, and…” I’m cheap.
I keep mum while the coach continues to jog with us. This is so awkward. This is the paid employee of the training team, at least I assume he is, and of all times to catch up with my friends, it’s when they’re hanging with the coach! It’s like telling Trump, “I just illegally wandered over. Gonna stay a few years, then head back.”
Finally, the coach jogs ahead.
Ally: “Honestly, I would have just skipped the run if I woke up that late. I have to mentally prepare for a run like this.”
She still doesn’t seem mentally prepared given her grim expression.
Me: “Yeah, I haven’t had time to mentally process what I’m doing. When is the next water stop? I need water.”
Though I worried, at a water station, would I be recognized for the outsider I was? Would someone ask me, “What team are you with? What’s the name of your coach?,” and I would stare like a deer in the shotgun’s sight? Thankfully, this never happened.
However, I still only drink water at the stops we come to because I didn’t want to be accused of being a bigger mooch than I am. I probably should’ve just embraced it all and taken some gummy bears and Powerade.
In the end, I didn’t run all 20 miles. At mile 16, I said I had had it. That was enough. I am not invincible. I had left my bed three hours ago. I needed to pee. I wanted food. This was my breaking limit. I walked home.
At the finish line, the coach asked Ally and Emily what happened to me. “I saw him walking around mile fourteen,” he reportedly told them.
Me: “Tell him I didn’t want to mooch the whole 20 miles. Just sixteen of them.”