Ultimate, Neverending, Rainbow Glitter Pegasus Explosion Sunrise.
This was an amazing race weekend with a variety of highlights and gold star moments, but the sunrise will always stand out as a glorious herald of a perfect race day. I walked a mile to the start line, beginning with brilliant stars twinkling in the ether beyond fairylight streetlamps and ending with neon and teal fireworks sizzling at the ocean’s edge. It seemed like the sunrise went on for an hour and every second was a scenically fanciful fellatiating foreplay to the sun finally cresting the horizon. Anybody who was there that morning knows what I am talking about – I saw more than one runner crying as they looked longingly at the sea.
Let’s take a step back. Two months prior to the race, I was talking about my upcoming races and trainings with a great friend, Jennie Marvelle. When I mentioned I was the sweep for the Newport Marathon, she immediately offered a place to stay at her Mom’s (literally a mile from the start line) and then proceeded to offer “sherpa” services – offering to chauffeur, guide, and support me through the race. How does one say no to being COMPLETELY spoiled as a race participant?
I was spoiled indeed. Not only did I get a ride down to the race, I finally got fully immersed in Jennie’s podcast obsession. If you think music can make a road-trip fly by, you have no idea what podcasts will do for your gallivanting gab sessions. Not only did the time fly to get to Rhode Island, when we got there, it seemed Jennie had done more research on the course than I had. Granted, she grew up there, so she had intimate memories of most miles of the course, but she knew every turn and provided ongoing historical and geological commentary throughout the drive. The prerace carbloading at Sardello’s with Jennie and her mom was perfect in every way. After the race, there was a Lasagna Competition at the Elk’s club. I’m not saying Jennie arranged the Lasagna Competion for me, but I don’t believe that it is beyond the scope of her powers. I am truly grateful.
You already know about my sunrise salutation and happy ending. I was pacing again with Beast Pacing and I am always amazed to be included in such an illustrious group of runners. Some of my co-pacers have run literally HUNDREDS of races, setting records and inspiring others. My only disappointment is that I get to spend so little time with my fellow pacers on race day. Thirty minutes to maybe an hour before the race and then maybe fifteen or twenty minutes after with the pacers closest to your time. Another reason I am grateful for Facebook is I can follow their continuing exploits after the race.
What I was not expecting was a little notoriety at the beginning of the race. I had many people ask what a sweep does. I told them – I come in last and motivate the people who are in front of me. I had my photo taken about a dozen times by people glad that they would not be the last person to cross the finish line. I was happy to provide the pre-race relief. Unfortunately, many of those same people were disappointed ten to fifteen minutes later as I ran by them. The Newport Marathon starts their Marathon and Half Marathon concurrently and we were only providing a sweep for the marathon.. So although I started running slowly at the back of the pack, I worked my way forward, looking for the last of the marathoners. I would say “Good Morning! Running the Half or the Full?” As I explained to some of the runners I passed, if I stayed with the end of the Half Marathon, I’d never be able to catch up during the second half to the end of the marathoners. Instead, about a mile and a half into the course, I found my people and essentially stayed with them for the entire race.
The first half is an amazing 13 miles. You truly see the best of Newport. One big hill, right at the beginning, helps burn off some of the adrenaline built up from the start line. After that it’s down hill or flat with only one small gentle incline in the middle of the most scenic portion of the ocean view. You run through the downtown and pass marinas, farms, seafoam and mansions. The second half has some truly memorable scenery especially along Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. The dunes and beaches were amazing enough to make us forget about the headwind. There are many more hills on the second half of the course and not nearly enough variety to distract us from them.
Lastly, I’d like to talk about the two ladies I “helped” finish the marathon. Mo Terry-Carelton and Becky Eleck Bruce are passionate, committed competitors and I feel like I learned more from them than they learned from me, I just kept providing running commentary (litterally) whether wanted or unwanted. Becky started to lose her wind around the nineteenth mile but she never gave up. Her mantra of one foot in front of the other kept her focussed. Mo was an amazing running partner, both compassionate and insistent, breaking things down to simple step counting when all other distractions became too blurry. There were many great runners that day with some truly unique stories, but when you run just over twenty four miles with someone, they’re family.
The race technically has a six hour limit, but when I asked the race director if he wanted me to run a 6 hour pace as a marker or stay with the finishers he said stick in there til the bitter end. His team really made it happen as well. The cleanup crew that started following behind us around mile 21 kept a respectful distance up until the last mile when they started cheering and blasting rock and roll down the final slope leading to the beach. It was awesome. We crossed the finish line just over 7 hours with officials timing, photographers flashing, volunteers cheering, and food and refreshment waiting. A very emotional day that will go down as my first time pacing a full marathon.