17 May 2009


My Capital City Marathon experience got off to the worst possible start: I failed to wake up. Having calculated that we should set off at 5am, and arranged to meet Marek at that time, I woke at about 5.27 with a feeling that all was not well (and a distant buzzing noise, which was Marek ringing the front door bell). I rushed downstairs, told him I would be two minutes (I lied), grabbed clothes, performed my ablutions and joined him in the car in an incredibly short time.

An empty stomach is not a good basis on which to run a Marathon, so I ate two energy bars on the way - though I was still replete from my previous evening at Bob and Grace's house, where I had rather unwisely loaded up with delicious enchiladas and copious amounts of refried beans. We arrived at junction 104 more quickly than we should have, still with over half-an-hour before the start, but unfortunately we needed junction 105a and had been talking about something else at the material time. It took a couple of minutes to get on the right road, then another couple of minutes to realise that Marek's printout from Google maps had led us to the right street but completely the wrong part of it, a dozen blocks too far south. Still, we parked up, jogged to Sylvester Park (the start of the race, and the end of the Oregon Trail), met Chris, collected numbers, pins and souvenir jackets (supposedly for finishers, but given out at the start), jogged back to the car to drop off surplus stuff, found a passerby to take a photo, jogged back to the park, waited in line for the toilets, rushed to the start and joined in just as it got under way.
Me, Chris, Marek, courtesy of anonymous passerby
The route took us north through the city - the centre of which was behind us at the start - and out past a marina along the side of Budd Inlet before the waterside disappeared behind trees and we turned right, heading down a long, straight road through the woods.

Three sides of a square brought us back to the road we had been following, which took us through attractive countryside, past those typically American wooden barns and well-spaced homes - many large and expensive-looking. Marek and I let Chris go at about Mile 1, which I timed at 8:25, far too fast for me and potentially disastrous for Marek on his first Marathon, and a short time later we found ourselves running with three local lady teachers who were to be our companions, on and off, for the entire morning. There were groups of supporters everywhere around the course, and at least one person in each group knew at least one of the three teachers, many hanging out banners encouraging Mrs Nord: we received a significant lift just by being near them.

Our pace settled down and we continued through the wonderful countryside. Although the race was small, with only 329 people making it to the end, it never got strung out and we were always running with others. At one point a deer ran across the road in front of us, but we saw little wildlife apart from that. The sun was warm, but the roads were mostly shaded by trees and a breeze sprang up as the day grew warmer: the course was slightly undulating, with only one serious climb, up from Woodward Bay at about 15 miles - preceded by an equally steep descent. I was still enjoying the boost given to me by a very vocal female supporter at mile 14 who, seeing my Against Breast Cancer running vest, shouted "A man who wears pink is a strong man!".

Our pace had dropped off a little by this point, falling below 11 minutes for one mile, then I left Marek for a while and clocked a much faster mile before stopping at a drinks station (all of which had water, Ultima electrolyte replacement fluid, and toilets, every two miles: most offered sponges and a couple also had Gu energy gels). I had the most extraordinary feeling, completely fresh as if I were just starting, and the running flowed very satisfactorily.

We had been running with a lady called Darci from Seattle for a few miles - she was alternating running and walking - and now found ourselves in the company of another lady from Seattle, Betsy, wearing a vest that announced her membership of a club called, ominously, Marathon Maniacs. She had already done several this year. As the 20 mile board approached, she remarked "ah, the half-way mark!", indicating me and adding "He knows what I mean". In terms of effort, of course, that was pretty accurate, but for Marek it was unwelcome news and he decided immediately to take a walk for a while. I took off again, seeing my pace increase to near-8 minute miles before I slowed again to run with Jim, from Vancouver, Wa, 68 years old and (he told me) running his 291st Marathon. I stayed with him for a couple of miles, then - with his encouragement - upped my pace again in anticipation of a long, fast descent to the finish. It was all flowing again, and when I came across one of the half-marathon mile markers in the path I hurdled it.

I was on what felt like 5K pace as I passed the state Capitol (Garmin indicated 6 minute miles) and a few blocks further on came to the finish - confusingly, with two separate mats across the road, so I kept my pace up after crossing the first, and indeed hardly slowed until I reached the water station behind the finish area where I was presented with a souvenir water bottle (full of souvenir water). I congratulated one or two others whom I recognised, waited for Marek, then returned to the car where we applied recovery rub to our legs and then drove back to pick up where we had left off at INTA.

Marek asked me in the car if I was familiar with Vladimir Visotski's "Marathon" - actually, I think there is more to the title than that. I wasn't, despite beng a great fan of the man, but I am now.

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