The Utah Valley Marathon happened yesterday. The race organizers did an incredible job and the weather was perfect. This was my fourth marathon and fortunately my best, in many ways. Nonetheless, it was still chuck full of hilarity (the main reason I put myself through these things).

For a dramatic recount of last summer's marathon experience in SLC, see this. You can assume that most everything written there is a pretty accurate description of this marathon as well, with a few differences.

Pre Race:

We had to catch the shuttles in Provo that took us to the starting line at 3:30AM (because, as usual, the race organizers wanted to make sure we were standing by, somewhere up in the dark cold mountains, hours before the gun went off). Most people spent this time standing in a slow-moving line for one of the 3,000 porta-potties. These lines remained 30 people long each, right up until we all heard the sound of a gun at 6:00 when all immediately stopped hoping for relief and sprinted toward the starting line, meaning that dozens upon dozens of people presumably started the race carrying more than they had hoped. Fortunately more porta-potties lined the course throughout the remainder of the 26 mile adventure, although sadly for those in the back, conditions were likely less ideal inside the by-that-time-highly-trafficked-by-tired-and-desperate-people potties.

Miles 1-10:

I ran the race with my friend David, expecting him to eventually split away from me and probably set some kind of world record. But at least for the beginning of the race we stayed together. We also tried to stay relatively close to one of the designated pacers who held up a protest-type sign on a stick for the entire race saying that he was on pace to run a 3:10 (Boston qualifying time for men in their 20s). For this period of the race David and I recounted word for word our favorite episodes of Friday Night Lights.

Miles 10-15:

Somewhere in this space David got ahead of me (never to be seen again) as I ran with the 3:10 pace group. Running with the pace group could be compared somewhat to living a self-help book with a group of strangers. The pacer was possibly the most positive human-being of all time; this is the kind of person you would like to punch on normal days but find yourself trying to stick as close to without touching like a parasite that fees on positive emotion when having to run 26 or so miles. So our parasitic relationship lasted until mile 15 where I stopped to use a porta-potty, only to find that the pace group apparently didn't feel the need to wait for me (and after all that we had been through together). It was probably about time for us to split anyway. Not only was I out of my league with that group, but one of them smelled like he should have used a porta-potty himself around mile 10 but probably didn't want to experience the abandonment that I braved at mile 15.

Miles 16-23:

We saw the mouth of the canyon ever approaching as we climbed a few more surprising inclines (surprising because I never bothered to check out the course before the race to find out that it actually wasn't a 26 mile free-fall like I had originally assumed when I heard we would be running down a canyon, but rather a long road with ups and downs and an overall small net-loss). At about mile 19 an aid station handed out more energy gel packs (our third offering). I accepted (because I was in no position to decline aid by this point) but then desperately asked every runner within earshot whether eating a gel pack that late in the race would really kick in and benefit me in time. As I asked I found myself silently begging all of them to tell me there was no use by this point so I would feel justified in not eating another one of those terrible things that has the texture of your grandma and tastes like your great-grandma. The general consensus was that it was still worth it, and so I sucked another one down, dramatically shuddering and whimpering for the entire 8 seconds that it took to complete one long continuous swallow.

Miles 23-23.7:

Micalyne jumped in after not having run 12 feet in about 4 years (this little girl was once one of the fastest runners in the state and is not shy to admit that baby-raising and a dozen other impressive pursuits has led her to slower pastures in recent years . . .). Typically by this spot in a marathon I'm going at a speed that is slow enough to make my family and friends on the side-lines pretend that they don't see me when I go by so they don't commit social suicide by claiming me through cheering in front of all of the other spectators. So Micalyne probably thought this would be no different. But I was actually maintaining a pretty good speed when I met up with her so our little stint didn't last very long. Nonetheless, her words of encouragement were both motivational and comforting during my time of great need. For that short stint, I heard some of the following (if you read these in a WWF wrestler voice, they are much more entertaining):


Miles 23.7-26.2:

We approached Corey who now jumped in as Micalyne's motivational speech suddenly came to a complete halt and she exited the race without saying goodbye. Corey, being a great friend, immediately took over the role of inspirer, using an approach that differed dramatically from Micalyne's. After pressing play on her phone in hand to serenade me with her favorite collection of Britney Spears songs (just what I always wanted (note: sarcasm); she claimed she had a Paul Simon song ready to play as well but I never did hear it . . .) she began her own string of motivational statements that differed dramatically from Micalyne's:

Corey: Your haircut looks great! Also I really like your running outfit! Most of the people we've seen go by are dressed terribly. You wouldn't believe it! Like, their clothes are really loose. It's like, "hello? You're running a race! Wear clothes that fit you!" Why aren't you responding to me? It's really awkward to talk to you when you don't respond.

Somewhere around this point, the statements turned into self-compliments:

Corey: Guess what?! I didn't eat any chocolate yesterday! So I guess we're BOTH accomplishing big things right now. And my hair also looks super good. And I'm running so fast with you right now!

We then ran through the last of the aid stations where I think I literally took over one-dozen cups of fluids from the 10 or so people holding out water and Powerade (and just so we're clear, the proper use of the word "literally" is the only strict confinement of hyperbole I consistently hold myself to). I felt like a monster running through that line, grasping for everything placed in front of me with both hands, and pouring it onto my face just in time to grab another. I actually took three cups at once from the last guy. As I finished going through the line I heard shocked laughter from the volunteers behind who likely felt like very recent victims of a rapid and violent pillaging. It was at this point that Corey said something in a tone that clearly indicated that she thought this was the most important accomplishment of the day:

Corey: Those people back there think you're so funny! I bet they all want to be your friend!

Shortly after this we approached the final few blocks and Corey disappeared as mysteriously as she came. I realized that she and Micalyne had successfully motivated, distracted, and entertained me during the most difficult part of the race, and I'm incredibly grateful to both of them

I finished with a 3:22. I was pleased with it. It's a 14 minute personal record for me and the first marathon I've run without feeling the need to be hospitalized the next day. As usual it was incredibly hard and for the rest of the day I vowed never to do one again. But the memories of misery are slowly slipping away and I'm starting to wonder if maybe I have a few more left in me. But much of it will depend on whether they can find a way to make the power gel packets edible.

~It Just Gets Stranger