Saturday, October 13, 2012


Marathon weekend was fantastic, even if Jeanine couldn't be there. All the money and time and early morning beat-the-heat runs were worth it. Before Minneapolis, I stopped over for a night in Northfield, MN, to give a talk at Carleton (and sell 5 books!). And unlike returning to my high school over the summer, which disappointed, Carleton and Northfield remain just about the perfect place to go to college. If anything I de-reromantized the place during school, and it's even better now that it has some real restaurants, an amazing new arts center, a real rec center, etc. I also got to have lunch with my fellow Nordic-dork friend, Christopher.

I had time for a few miscellaneous stops around the cities like the Groveland Tap, which remains resolutely resistant to the food revolution. And I got to see Murph's Bluegrass band in action at Patisserie 46.


They are too small to read, but the yard signs are for Keith Ellison, the only Muslim member of the US House, and against the anti-gay marriage amendment to the Minnesota constitution. After all my time in Utah and Kansas, it was fun to be in a place with a true range of politics.

Flash forward to about 7:52 on Sunday morning, when, after meeting up with Murph outside the Metrodome, I made a wrong turn on my way to corral 1 and somehow ended up at the back of corral 3. A couple minutes of pushing my way through the throngs didn't accomplish much, so let's just say there was a bit of frantic barricade jumping involved.

The first few miles of a marathon, I now realize, are pretty much bliss for a runner. The pace is easy, and you can enjoy the surroundings -- which in this case meant a continuous street party (though I missed the MN Supreme Court justice and former Viking playing his tuba, which is apparently quite the tradition) and the Minneapolis lakes. I went out too fast, of course, and a few miles in someone said we were running at about a 3:05 pace (3:15 was the Boston-qualifying goal). This was surprising news, because I hadn't seen the 3:05 pace group (the guy carrying balloons leading people to exactly a 3:05) -- turns out there was no 3:05 pace group. What really helped was that my GPS watch went screwy at about mile 8, I think after scratching my back. This was my first watch malfunction during a race in 4 years, which I took as a sign to relax already. So for a few miles, completely out of character, I turned off the watch and just enjoyed the running and the thousands of spectators. And seeing Annie (Murph's wife) at mile 11 was great, too (apparently I told her, "Hey, this is fun"). Spectators' signs provided a great diversion. My favorites were "Paul Ryan would have finished by now," "Stop here for a beer -- you know you're only running from your problems," and "This parade sucks."

I went out in 1:33:33 (7:08 miles). My logic was that if I could run the second half at my originally planned pace of 7:19s (I did reset my watch halfway), I'd come in just under 3 hours 10 minutes. I'd say it started feeling hard around mile 18, and 18 to 21 were probably the most boring and also the mentally toughest because the hills of miles 21 to 23 still lay ahead. But then the hills were a non-event (thanks, Utah), and turning onto Summit Avenue was a fantastic moment. At this point I could tell that my quads and calves were shot (but, thankfully, I had no back issues), and the last mile was truly hard because I didn't have much room for error, especially because the clocks were gun time and thus I wasn't sure how much cushion I had between gun time and chip time (the latter being the official time based on when I actually crossed the start line). I kept imagining the 3:10 pace group creeping up behind me like something out of a horror film, but thankfully I never saw it, crossing the line with a chip time of 3:09:27 and a gun time still under 3:10. I finished 433rd out of 8782 runners, 385th among males, and 69th in my age group. The party at Murph's and the elk burger at the Happy Gnome, one of my favorite gastropubs, capped off the day perfectly.

Wish I'd remembered to get a haircut.

How does my time compare, you might wonder? Here are some marathon times of note:

2:03:38 male world record
2:15:25 female world record (disputed due to use of pacers)
2:20:59 winning M 40-44 time Sunday
2:32:37 winning F overall time Sunday
2:36:57 winning F 40-44 time Sunday
"Two hour and fifty-something" Paul Ryan's purported time
2:59:36 Lance Armstrong's debut NYC time (proudest of this comparison, especially with doping!)
3:07:27 women's world record from 1967 until 1970
3:09:27 my actual time
3:15:16 winning M 65-69 time Sunday (hold steady for a mere quarter century and I win this group!)
4:01:25 Paul Ryan's actual time
4:16:41 average time Sunday (all ages and sexes)
4:17:36 median time for males in U.S. marathons in 2011

In any event, the best part was that I beat my Boston-qualifying time by more than 5 minutes, which means I'm all but assured of getting into the race (I place to run it in 2014) because I'll be in the second-to-last but not last registration group.

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