Sometimes I try to get clever with my blog titles, but this one is pretty straightforward—running sucks.
A few days ago I boastfully announced to the world that I would be running a half-marathon, and yesterday was the big day. It was about 75 degrees without a cloud in the sky; absolutely beautiful. By 9:15 a.m., all 4,500 runners—including yours truly—were corralled into the starting area. My goal was to finish around 11:30 a.m.
The bell chimed—the race was on! I began weaving around the masses of runners lining the streets, feeling very proud of myself for putting in the training, for the shape of my legs, my strong, muscular calves. I couldn’t believe how slow everyone else was. It felt like a race full of stationary obstacles.
The water stations were placed every mile or two. I can’t really remember, because I zipped by most of them. I didn’t have water on my training runs, and it seemed silly to mix things up on race day. Besides, the stations were so crowded they would have totally messed up my final time. And I had a race to win.
It was kind of hot though. In retrospect, a little water might not have hurt too much. I was running in the race-issued long-sleeved shirt I received at registration. I probably didn’t need long sleeves on such a beautiful day, but I also didn’t want to get a sunburn. Clever me.
Around what I thought to be the sixth mile, I ran past the four-mile marker. “That’s strange,” I thought to myself. I’d have guessed I was closer to half finished. Guess not. So I slowed my roll a little. I started talking to myself, not in a crazy way, but in a motivating way.
Me: “Focus. Keep your head down. Go to autopilot. Knock out a few miles without thinking about it and you’ll be ok.”
Other me: “How bout we walk a little?”
Me: “How ’bout you stop embarrassing me?”
And on and on (and on) it went. I kept running, albeit it a little slower than I’d started. Around mile eight I was really feeling it, and it didn’t feel good. I think I was blubbering a little bit, even letting the occasional primal shout erupt from my quickly deteriorating body. I’m not sure if it hyped up the other runners or freaked them out, but I quickly found a little extra room to operate as the runners distanced themselves from me like I was protected by a circular force field. “That’s cool,” I blurrily remember thinking to myself. I have super powers.
However, my other super power—the ability to run long distances at blazing speed—was beginning to falter. I would keep a steady pace for a minute, then slow to a shuffle for a little bit, then pick it back up. And I started to get mad—in both senses of the word. I was angry that I was still running in what suddenly felt like Sahara heat, and I started to go a little crazy. Even the people cheering me on started pissing me off.
Fans: “Keep going! You’re looking great!”
Me: “YOU ARE EITHER BLIND OR A LIAR!”
I saw a guy drinking a beer out of a cheesehead coolie give me a thumbs-up. I barely managed to keep my middle finger down.
By now, all of the people I passed over the previous 90 minutes started running past me. I think I heard two ladies say, “Get around this guy—he looks like he might puke.”
At this point I knew my finishing time would be nothing to brag about, so I decided to adjust my goal and just try to make it without walking. I could do that. My body begged for reprieve, but my mental toughness is the stuff legends are made of. And so I denied every screaming request from my legs, my head, my feet—even my chafing nipple—to walk, even for just a minute. I would not, could not.
I’m sure you’re reading this thinking, “Way to go Avocado! Way to triumph over the pain and mental anguish! Even if you are a bit of a crazy person, we’re proud of you.”
Well, this is where the story takes a twist.
I was at 11.5 miles—so very close to the end—and then things began to get fuzzy. I swerved maniacally, barely managing to keep my feet. Another runner, seeing my distress, kindly helped me to one of the medical tents.
At least, that’s why I’m told happened. All I remember is that I was running like a champion … and then I was inside a tent with a woman asking me to sit down.
Me: “Get off me! I’m finishing this race! What the F is going on here? I didn’t run all this way to hang out in this stupid F’ing tent! Who the F are you? This is bullshit! I’m leaving! This is so f’ing stupid!
Woman: “I really think you should just sit down for a second.”
Then another voice chimed in—and it was coming from my legs.
Legs: “Yo dog—chill out. We’re going Jello, like, right now, so sit your ass down.”
And so I sat. And then there were needles in my arms. And I was resting my arm on a young woman’s leg.
Me: “Thank you for letting me rest my arm here. I’m not flirting with you.”
Primary nurse: “I hope not. Your wife would be upset.”
Me: “Haha. Wait, you talked to my wife?”
Primary nurse: “Yeah, so did you.”
Me: “I did?”
Primary nurse: “Maybe you should sit for a while longer.”
I drank a gallon of water, a half-gallon of Gatorade and got four liters of IV fluid pumped into my veins. At about 1:15 p.m.—almost two hours past my original finishing goal—I was finally able to stand up again. Yay for me.
The final diagnosis: heat exhaustion and massive dehydration. I apologized profusely for my rampant, delirium-induced swearing, and they assured me it was just a side effect of breaking my brain. They’d all seen it before, they said. Much worse, they said. I kind of doubt it, but they were very kind nonetheless.
And I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned that “mind over matter” only works when you’re fully conscious, and that otherwise, the more fitting phrase is “dehydration over determination.”
Now, I know I promised you race photos, but unfortunately, trying to survive took precedent yesterday. At any rate, here’s one from today. As you can see, I still look like crap. Imagine what I looked like 24 hours ago.
Huge thanks to the medical volunteers who kept me from going to a hospital/graveyard, and thanks to the runner who delivered me to medical volunteers.
Maybe next year I’ll do better.
Then again, maybe not. Because running fucking sucks.
The Beat-ass Avocado