Joan the Baptist – A Short Story
The woman inside her mind in the balcony alone wondering if she’s changed for the better by being a Baptist or not. And all the people below her wondering who she is and what she is doing in the church dressed like that.
Drawing and short story © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
The Final Week
We flew into Washington DC on Wednesday. I had run both Monday and Tuesday evenings, about 4 miles each night, and planned just one more run for the week. This run would be in Virginia, on a beautiful trail near where my daughter lives. But before that we were going to have a full day on Thursday taking care of our Granddaughter Vivian. We took her to her favorite lunch place, the Silver Diner, then to see ‘My Little Pony – The Movie’. Then we walked through the mall to the toy department at Target and found her a My Little Pony toy and coloring book. I brought all my drawing stuff with me but never used it because I spent a good portion of the remaining days coloring in the coloring book with her. The ponies in My Little Pony are very distinct one from another, and she knows what color each one should be. She was not happy when I wanted to make one of them polka-dotted and another one striped, but she let me do it. Then we carved her pumpkin together.
Saturday we went to her Tae Kwon Do lesson that she gets from her Aunt and Uncle, who run a Martial Arts Academy. It was way cute to see her do her routines. We then went to a quaint little village called Occoquan for lunch and some shopping. As you can tell, playing with a 4 1/2 year old is a great way to distract oneself from an upcoming anxiety-inducing event. I was happy for that since there wasn’t much to do besides fret over the race if I wasn’t distracted.
I did do my final run on that Friday. I got out the door at exactly 7:55, the time the race was going to start in two days hence to see how the temperature would be. I had run this beautiful forested trail before and it did not disappoint. It was deeply wooded and cool, with the sunrise slipping through the trees as I ran. I did four miles and called it good.
The Marine Corps Marathon has about 30,000 participants. It’s the largest marathon without a cash prize in the world. That meant it was much wiser to take the Metro than to try to drive to the start in Arlington, Virginia. My wife was doing the Marine Corps 10k so we went together. I awoke around 3:45 and didn’t really go back to sleep. We left my daughter’s house at 5:45 and made the first Orange Line train at about 6:05am. We were the second stop from the end but there already was a crowd of runners coming in. Linda had a different start location than I did so we said our goodbyes when I transferred to the Blue Line. By the time I got off at the Pentagon Station it was wall-to-wall people. I then had about a mile long walk to the start line. Luckily for many there was a long line of bushes to one side. That meant men (and a lot of women too) were running off course into the bushes to pee. The alternative was waiting way too long in a line for some nasty Porta-Potty. I feel bad for the grass that died for me, but oh well.
Sunrise on Runners
I found Tulsan Jennie Loucks at the bag drop off. Great to see a familiar face.
The Sun was just peaking over the trees as the Howitzer sounded the start of the race.
Loud and low flew the Ospreys as they buzzed the crowd before the start.
I knew of at least 6 or more runners from here in Tulsa who were running it but the logistics of trying to find people in that crowd was not on my side. But I did run into one fellow runner, Jennie Louck from Tulsa, at the bag check line. It was great to see a familiar face. But we weren’t going to be running the same pace so we parted ways at the corrals. I went into the 4:00-4:15 corral just as the gun went off. But it took probably another 5 minutes or more before we started to move forward towards the actual start line. I could see the 4:15 pacer ahead of me, he was carrying 3 balloons with 4:15 on it. My plan was to keep him in sight with the hopes of eventually catching up to him. How crowded was the race? it was impossible really to weave ahead for at least the first 2 miles. Eventually I was able to move in and out just enough to catch up at mile 5.
By then we were over the river into Washington, and into Georgetown, on our way into Rock Creek Park. I went ahead of the 4:15 pacer at that point hoping to finish between 4:10 and 4:15. The park is a gorgeous, deeply forested area that goes through the Northwest area of DC. It was cool and quiet since there was no room for any spectators, with rock cliffs on one side and a creek on the other. I was feeling great and my pace was on target. I had one mile under 9 but that was a downhill mile. All the rest so far were right where I wanted them to be, about 9:15 – 9:30.
This was the crowd around me for at least the first 10 miles.
Miles 8 – 13
We then returned to the river and hit probably my favorite stretch. The Kennedy Center is right on the Potomac and it has a second story cantilevered over the parkway along the river. We went under the building for a while then came out to a big crowd of spectators. This included an amphitheater type setting at the base of the Lincoln Memorial’s river facing side. A long set of steps up from the river were filled with a cheering crowd. It was exciting to see after the quiet of the park.
Then we ran through the most solemn and profound part of the race. It’s called the Blue Mile (mile 11) and consists of photographs of fallen Marines along both sides of the road every 10 ft for an entire mile. This was also along the Potomac, on a very small park road. There is no crowd, just the river and a quiet golf course on the other side. We proceeded along the entire mile and I didn’t hear anyone speak. The pictures went all the way back to 1944. At the end of the mile there was about a quarter-mile of people holding up large American flags that we ran under. It was quite impressive and moving, to say the least.
The Blue Mile
The Power of Patriotism
Mile 12 and feelin’ good!
Backing up a bit to mile 9 or 10 I started to notice something not good in my run that could completely and utterly mess up everything if it continued. What was it? In spite of putting on a very generous coating of Glide (the anti-chafing stuff all runners use) I started to notice my left nipple was getting very sensitive. If you have ever been to a big race you may have seen a guy with ‘bullet holes’ on his shirt. the tell-tale red spots meaning his nipples had chafed so much they were bleeding. It’s just about the worst thing that can happen beside falling down. And it was now happening to me! YIKES, this could be a very bad thing indeed.
Luckily I knew that somewhere around the halfway point there was going to be an aid station for medical emergencies. While they obviously are there to help those in distress most of what they do is hand out Vaseline on a stick for those who are chaffing. In this particular case they just had it in their hands. I swiped a bit from a gooey hand as I passed and, with great relief, smeared it all over my chest. Whew, crisis averted! Of course my hands were covered in Vaseline at that point which made holding my phone to take pictures a bit of a challenge, but I did it. I was still on pace for the finish I wanted during these miles and feeling strong.
Miles 14 – 19
This is where the crowds got really big. We ran parallel to the reflecting pool down to the Lincoln Memorial area, then turned around and passed the Washington Monument. The last time I was in DC I was there at night so I hadn’t seen the latest addition to the museums along the mall. There is now a huge building housing the National Museum of African American History and Culture right at the western edge of the mall, near the Washington Monument. It is covered in what seemed to be dark brown lattice surrounding inverse and truncated pyramid shapes. It is solid and big and at first seemed jarring and unsettling because of it’s uniqueness. But that is part of the point of the building and it’s message. The African American experience is jarring and unsettling for many. But it needs to be seen and known by all Americans for us to truly understand and appreciate who we are. I stared at it for a long while as I approached. It was in stark contrast to the Monument it’s so close to in both style and message. And that is a good thing. It was as much a part of the profound nature of the race for me as any other part.
Some big random thing sticking up in the middle of nowhere
National Museum of African-American History and Culture © National Geographic
From there we went up and down the mall, passing some of my favorite museums, especially the National Gallery of Art’s modern building. Passing the Capitol, gleaming white, we came to the National Museum of the American Indian. Another building that seeks in its look and it’s content to open up America to who we are in totality. These Smithsonian buildings, while not ‘monuments’ per se, really are what I consider to be some of the best, most profound monuments to who we are as Americans in principle and action. They make me proud and I believe these are just as much what our Marines fight for as anything else.
Still on pace at this point but starting to feel the miles add up.
Miles 20 – Finish
At mile 19 we are headed over towards ‘THE BRIDGE’. This is the big cut-off point for the slower runners and walkers. If they don’t make the 14th St. Bridge by 1:15pm they get shuttled back to the finish line and don’t get to complete the race. Luckily it’s a very liberal time and it wasn’t an issue for those around me. This brought us into Crystal City and huge crowds. Then the scariest moment of the race – I almost fell! And I mean it was really close. I lurched forward having caught my toe on something and had to stride out 3-4 times not sure if I was going to fall or not. I caught myself just barely and was back up running. But the near fall made my left quad freak out a bit. I wasn’t sure if it was a cramp or an injury or what for a few seconds. I kept running and just hoped it wouldn’t affect the rest of the run. Luckily it didn’t.
Then all there was left was a 2 mile long stretch out of Crystal City, past the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery. The sun was up high, the heat was up too and there were no shade in sight. It was the only part of the race that I really felt my energy and strength start to wain a bit. I slowed down about 30 seconds per mile at that point but kept running. And then another unexpected thing happened. Remember that 4:15 pacer who I passed at mile 5? He passed me at mile 25.5! I really wanted to make 4:15 so it had me worried. But I trusted my Garmin watch’s time and calculated he was running just a bit fast and I would still finish on time.
They advertise the end of the race as being a true test because it is uphill. But looking at the elevation chart I knew it wasn’t THAT much of a hill. I mean really, how bad could it be, right? Well, it was actually a VERY steep final 200 yards uphill to the finish line! But with the finish in sight I wasn’t about to let some stupid hill slow me down. Plus there was a huge crowd at this point cheering us on. I hoped to find my family but it was just too loud and too crowded.
Sun at my back, finish line ahead!
I crossed the finish line strong and fast in a time of 4:14:49. I had made my 4:15 goal and a new personal record by 22 minutes!
A Marine Lieutenant gave me my medal, I collected some water and food and saw my family on the other side of a chain link fence. That was when I made my only real mistake of the race. I didn’t keep walking it off but instead went over to their side of the fence, found a grassy spot in the shade and laid down. Big mistake. I didn’t get up again for probably 45 minutes. My calves and feet went through some intense cramping that really did make me scream out in pain. I think I traumatized my granddaughter Vivian. She was not expecting to see Papa Marty looking or acting like that!
My Supportive Family!
Eventually I was able to get up and we walked it off, going over to the baggage claim and finding a place to eat. I was still pretty wiped out and incoherent at this point. We made our way back to the Metro and were able to get seats all the way home. I took a nice long nap and was up and at it later that afternoon. The next morning we got up just as early to catch a plane back to Tulsa. By Monday afternoon I was back at Fleet Feet showing off my medal, telling race stories and leading my runners in their active warm up before their run. No, I did not run!
After All That
And so, 31 weeks of surgery recovery (including running) and 19 weeks of intense marathon training led to a successful race. A PR by 22 minutes, a new found love of long distance running and most importantly, renewed love among my family and new goals into the future.
My family made this shirt for me to run in. It shows my ongoing goal, to run a marathon in every city where I have a sister or a daughter. I’ve done 3 and have 3 to go; New York, San Diego and San Francisco bay area. And somewhere along the way, if all goes right, I might just be able to qualify for the Boston Marathon. But that is a whole other story!
Coolest Shirt Ever!
Here are my stats for the race:
- Distance – 26.54. It’s accurate. I ran 1/3 of a mile farther than required (and probably everyone else did as well). They measure the course from corner to corner but due to the crowds no one is really able to run that exact same route. The runners had to go around corners much wider than is most efficient.
- Time – 4:14:49 (PR by 22 minutes)
- Average Pace – 9:36 (according to my Garmin, accurate for my true distance) 9:44 – Official race time (for 26.2 miles).
- Age Place (60-64) – 38th of 396 – top 10%
- Gender Place – 2,925th out of 10,757 – top 30%
- Overall Place – 4,187th of 19,993 – top 25%
Thanks to all who supported me at home and from afar.Thanks for reading these posts over the summer and fall and cheering me on. I hope this journey has been an inspiration for you and will help you on your fitness journey. Remember, if I can do it, you can too.
See you running,
If you would like to read the rest of the Marathon Training posts simply find ‘Marathon Training’ from the Series drop down menu on the upper right. If you have questions or comments, I would love to hear them.
NOTE: If you would like to follow my progress or send cheers during the race, there is info at the end of this post on how to do that.
The Waiting Game
So, now I wait. Or rather, I taper. Tapering is a needed but disconcerting time of training. It’s where you reduce your workouts in mileage and intensity as you get closer to your goal race. In the case of marathon it is usually 2 weeks with the first of those being just a mild reduction and the 2nd week being a much more severe reduction.
This past week I ran my usual 5 days but didn’t do as many miles and I didn’t do a lot of hills. But I did do speed work, even though I wasn’t planning on it.
Waiting, waiting, waiting
Over the past weekend we found out that the elder statesman of Tulsa running, Bobby Bomer, had to have emergency abdominal surgery. He leads our weekly workouts at the University of Tulsa track on Tuesday mornings and evenings. I was called to take his place on Tuesday morning. That meant a 4:45am wake up to get there on time. I was planning on just leading the warm up and encouraging people as they ran, maybe doing some light running, but not doing the sprints. But Bobby’s wife Judy was there to help lead so I gave into the temptation and ran. It turned out to be wonderful. It was the first true fall day, with temps in the low 50s as we started. It was refreshing and exhilarating. Later that day I led my usual group on our afternoon run (not speed work) and that same feeling continued. It was cool and dry and we ran strong and fast for the entire time. I was thinking ‘I hope my race is at this temperature!’.
At the end of our early morning speed workout the TU Students were warming up for theirs.
Reducing and Refining
The rest of the week I ran just the mileage I would normally run with my group, nothing extra, nothing intense. I also ran just what Pathways was running on Saturday, 10 miles. I didn’t do any extra before or after. It was odd after so many weeks of continually pushing the weekly miles up to be reducing them.
Strong Runners at Sunset in Broken Arrow, OK
Aches, Pains and Fences
One of the worst things about tapering is ‘ghost injuries’. I had 2 days this week where I ran with my big toe aching quite a bit. An injury? A problem? Serious? Long Term? What does it mean for my race? Will I be able to run? Then a day later it disappeared. My back was aching, probably will be a problem I am sure. Next morning, it was gone. I felt weak a few afternoons ago. Maybe the flu? A cold? What if I am sick for my race? But the truth was I just needed to eat lunch. What is that all about? It’s about freaking out about every little thing. You have invested so much for so long in running towards this goal that when you are so close you see the tiniest little thing as a potential game changer or ender. It does sometimes happen of course, but the vast majority of time it turns out to be nothing.
The other thing you worry about is doing some other random activity in these taper weeks that will wipe you out. For example, in the 2 weeks before my first marathon in 2010 I rebuilt a fence in my backyard. It had to be done, the fence was falling apart and we had 2 dogs who were about to get out. But it was back-breaking work and I came to the start line of the race with a very sore back. I learned my lesson that day – no heavy lifting, no DIY projects, no fence building in the weeks leading up to the race.
The old fence during a hail storm – note the chairs blocking the gaps so the dogs wouldn’t break through.
And of course I am constantly checking the weather for that day. What would be my ideal conditions? Probably about 45-50º to start and moving up to 60 or so, with cloud cover and just enough wind to keep the air moving. What does it look like it will be? As of now, it appears it will be about 53º to start moving up to about 70 by the time I finish with a mild wind. It will be part sun, part clouds. That sounds pretty good to me, I’ll take it.
Beautiful sky during our first true fall run.
Tomorrow we head off to Washington DC. If you would like to follow me and find out how I am progressing during the race there are a number of ways to do it. Feel free to spread the word to others you know who might be interested.
Go to the MCM website and you will find lots of options.
I suggest the simplest, which is the ‘RUNNER TRACKING’. All you have to do is type in my name or bib number (24944) and put in how you want alerts to come.
A cooler way to follow is to do the ‘MAP TRACK’. It has a map that allows you to see in real-time where I am on the course.
I am also registered with the MOTIGO app. You can record cheers and encouragements and they will be played wherever in the race you tell it to play.
And the very best way to do any of that is to download the MCM app.
That is it for now! Next time you hear from me I will hopefully be tired and smiling with a big medal around my neck!
See you running,
The woman thought about her selves and didn’t feel anything but.
Drawing and short story © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Being an artist sets you outside a certain framework of society. Think of it this way. If you were a back-to-nature family living off the land, growing your own veggies, killing your own wild game, making your own clothes, and building your own home and furniture, how connected would you feel to a media that was constantly talking about and advertising processed food, big box stores, beauty products, vacations to all-inclusive resorts, and more? I expect you would feel like none it applies to you. You aren’t who they are talking to, right?
The Needy System
Being an artist can be the same way and here’s why. The social system I just mentioned wants us to need it for entertainment, creativity, purpose. It works hard to integrate (or entrap, depending on your perspective) individuals into that system. It wants dependence because that is how it runs. But artists don’t need that. We don’t have our identity in a job we do, we have it in our own creativity. We don’t have our identity in the system and thus we are not dependent on it. We are a danger to that system’s hegemony.
Now in most cases the artist isn’t THAT big a danger. They aren’t creating something that is going to threaten or destroy the system, they are just a grain of sand in the lotion. And, just as sometimes lotion manufacturers like some sort of mild abrasive in their lotion to clean or refresh the skin better, the system likes these artists because they give the illusion of freedom. They are free to do what they want and that means so are you. But the system knows that while technically you are free, you aren’t going to exploit that freedom to do anything radical.
What happens when artists really do something radical? They are attacked, minimized and ostracized. Their creations are publicized as dangerous or evil or ugly. It is the product of a disturbed mind or a dangerous philosophy or a perverted morality. It is not to be trusted. To show interest in it casts the viewer in an ugly light.
A great example of course is music. in the 20th century we have plenty of examples. Elvis was dangerous. The Rolling Stones were dangerous. ‘Negro music’ was dangerous. Go back even farther and, hard as it is to believe, the Waltz was dangerous.
The Beautiful Effort
And underneath it all, why is art dangerous? Because it gives sight and sound to pain, longing, need, wonder, love, hate and more, and turns it into beauty. I don’t mean everyone will see it as beautiful, even those not entrapped in the system. What I mean is the artistic impulse and the artistic process is beautiful. Not because the end result will always look beautiful but because the effort is a beautiful and noble effort to understand all those things at the deepest level.
And that is dangerous.
Drawing and commentary © Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
“What marks the artist is their power to shape the material of pain we all share.” – Lionel Trilling, 1905-1975, American Essayist and Teacher