by Maggie Beason, wife, mother, student, Army gal, aikidoka, hair stylist, runner, woman-extraordinaire shares her latest adventure after the Hogeye Marathon.
It is hard to fall asleep when you’re flat on your back. It’s
especially hard to sleep when you have a pillow wedged between your
legs in a desperate attempt to keep your knees from either touching,
straightening or bending too much while still trying to maintain a
modicum of comfort. You wrap a blanket around you, tucking in the lose
ends around your aching body while carefully avoiding your toes; any
weight on your toes is almost unbearable and the thought of donning a
pair of socks is simply out of the question. You close your eyes and
will yourself to fall into the blissful slumber that continues to
eludes you–a side effect from having eaten five packets of Gu (Energy
in goo-form. Necessary, but rather unpleasant.) earlier in the day.
The five medals that hang on your bedpost make a jingling sound as
you fold your arm underneath your pillow to support your head as you
stare at the ceiling replaying the day’s events in your mind. Today you
added one more medal to your small, but growing, collection. It took
it’s place at the headboard with the other four medals, your goggles
and your Buddhist prayer beads. You’re not actually Buddhist, but you
are a runner. A slow one, but a runner nonetheless.
Distance runners are usually depicted as “crazy” or “nuts” and
people often say something to the effect of Willy Wonka’s famous line,
“If God had intended us to walk, he wouldn’t have invented Roller
Skates.” Silliness aside, there is something about running that gets
people in the way that shoes get Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in
Sex in the City: you just get addicted.
Once you get bit by that bug, you will run–by your own
choice–through the pre-dawn chill of a ten-degree January morning. You
will run through rain and snow for miles and miles with glee. You will
relax (or try to, anyways) in an ice-cold bath with a drink in your
hand, a smile on your lips and joy in your heart because you just ran
eighteen miles. “Uphill both ways. Man, that was a great workout,” as
you’ll later reminisce to whomever will listen. If the idea of
running for five hours over the hilly terrain, thirty-something mile an
hour head wind, freezing (or at least what feels like it) temperatures
seems like fun and you don’t mind that you are the last person to
arrive, you are a runner. If all of this seems like fun to you, well,
need I say it?
My latest addition to my collection of medals, is from the Hogeye
Marathon on April 5th, 2009, at the beautiful downtown square of
Fayetteville, AR. The race started out like any other: cold, windy and
in the company of old friends, new friends and friends I hadn’t met
yet. Two of my companions were running the half-marathon, and judging
by the hills that they had to run up on their return trip, I was
thankful that I was doing the full.
I stayed in the back of the pack for the majority of the race, and
once the half-marathoners broke away, it was safe to assume that only a
handful of runners were behind me. I was focused on taking in the
scenery and enjoying my first hometown marathon–plus, in a town
renowned for it’s outstanding University of Arkansas track and field
program, I knew that it would be a marathon composed entirely of elite
runners and myself, about as un-elite that you can get.
For the first thirteen miles the roads wound and wove their way
through subdivisions, back roads, and running trails. Spectators and
volunteers dotted the course and brought with them supplies,
refreshments and cheers (I must say, the aid stations and volunteers
were phenomenal. Well done, Fayetteville!).
Between miles thirteen and fourteen, some friends had set up a
celebration station of sorts. Bringing with them were gifts of
oranges, water, Gu and a surprise: a bratwurst and a beer for my return
visit at mile twenty.
The brat has been a dream of mine ever since I was denied one by
the vendor who had stationed himself inside the course at the
twenty-six mile mark at my very first marathon. He told me that I could
have whatever I wanted so long as I had the money for it, which of
course, I didn’t. Thus, effectively smothering my hopes of crossing the
finish line with a giant bratwurst in hand.
The next seven miles where spent with dropping temperatures, a
nasty headwind and having every single runner who was behind me, pass
me. I paused for a moment to celebrate the passing of my very favorite
mile, Mile seventeen. Mile seventeen is a huge deal for me as the
remaining miles are now in the single digits. Meaning: nine more miles
to go. However, the elation I experience when I realize this is often
diminished by the fact that there are still nine more miles to go!
Usually, by the time mile twenty rolls around I’m in pain, exhausted
and somewhat insane. But this time there was my tasty manna from
heaven, bratwurst and beer.
At mile twenty-three, a dear friend of mine met me on the trail to
offer her support, water and to snap a few photos. Mile twenty-five
found me running up Dickson Street, thanking the police officers and
volunteers who had stood in the cold for five-plus-hours. Mile
twenty-six found me on the corner of Block St. where I burst in to
tears when I saw my family cheering.
The urge to cry was replaced by the urge to vomit as I realized
that I still .02 miles left and half of that was up a hill. I trudged
on, more hobble than stride. Most of the bystanders (apart from my
family, the racing officials and the paramedics) had left by the time I
crossed the finish line at five hours, eighteen minutes and some-odd
seconds. I failed to break through my five-hour barrier, but was too
exhausted to care.
Running for five hours at a time allows plenty of time for
introspection and often your sanity gets called into question. After
four and a half marathons, I’ve stopped asking myself why. I know the
answer: it’s an almost-spiritual experience and a guaranteed way to
quiet an over-stimulated mind. It is a chance to commune with nature:
to watch the birds flit among the branches of trees, feel the rain on
our skin or the heat on our backs. And it is an opportunity to explore
what the saying “one step at a time” truly means.
So as I listen to the clinking sounds of my five medals from
Little Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, Salt Lake City and Fayetteville, I
drift off to sleep smiling with a new appreciation for what my medals
really mean: it isn’t the destination, but the journey.