Another half-marathon is in the books and I did not die (or poop!). Hoorah! Here's the Spotify playlist I used.
"Transatlantic Foe," At The Drive-In
When I look back on some of the things I've done and written about, it sometimes comes across (to me, anyway) like I intentionally look at what you are supposed to do (or not do) and do the exact opposite. That may in fact happen, but I promise it is not intentional. It just seems to make sense to me at the time I am doing whatever it is I should (or should not) be doing.
I changed my shoes the week before the half-marathon. I trained the whole time in one pair of sneakers and then changed to an old worn out pair I previously used at the last minute. From everything I read and heard, this is like the dumbest thing a person could do. I did it. It wasn't a premeditated thing or nose-thumbing thing on my part, I had a good reason. I was training in New Balances that were pretty clunky. They were great for stability in the uneven paths of the trails I ran through, but it felt like running in cinder blocks. So I switched to the lighter pair of Nikes that I ran my first half-marathon in.
"Only In Dreams," Weezer
I didn't think it would be a big deal like, say, buying a brand new pair of shoes and running in them for the first time, since I had already run in those shoes before. My feet were familiar with the shoe and I never had a problem with them, they were great shoes, actually. So I switched the week before the race for my last long run. After that run I got a blister and my feet were killing me. I figured I had enough time to recover before race day and it wouldn't be an issue, though. And for the most part it wasn't, although my feet did hurt basically the whole time up to and including the race. The blister was fine, though.
There's really no reason to bring this up except to point out that there are no rules. There are suggestions and guidelines and all those 20 Mistakes New Runners Make-type articles, but it's all bullshit for the most part. This is the problem with Running As Told By Runners: it makes the most basic of human activities seem incredibly complicated and intimidating. You just do what you normally do to get around every single day, only a little bit faster. It's not a fucking science. You just run. Even you, slovenly mass oozing between the cushions of your couch, you can run. I promise you.
"Holiday," The Get Up Kids
I ran a half-marathon. If you've read these columns you know I've done it in probably the most haphazard and irresponsible ways you can do it and I did not die. I did not injure myself and I did not fail. I am 220 pounds of thick dude trucking along for 13.1 miles and I did it basically because I wanted to do it. Or, to be more precise, because I decided it was something I was going to do. "Want" has a connotation like it's something desirous and that is clearly an incorrect connotation for our purposes here.
I'm not suggesting that you just show up at a starting line somewhere and run 13.1 miles, you do need to prepare your body for what it's about to endure, but it doesn't have to be so hard. Here's a quick and dirty guide for running:
1. Get a pair of shoes you find are comfortable.
2. Run until you feel like you want to die.
4. Try to run for a little bit farther or longer than you did previously.
5. Repeat 2-4.
That is it. Start today if you like.
"Next Exit," Interpol
I'm not discrediting all the thought and experimenting and analysis and heart-rate monitoring and pace and all the other crazy things that Runners do to optimize running. We should always strive to better understand everything we do, especially when it comes to our own health and well-being. It's just, even the beginner stuff—couch to 5K, for example—can be incredibly intimidating for an overweight, out-of-shape person. Oh there are all these rules. That seems complicated, why don't I think about it over this mountain of food. It almost confirms how impossible you've imagined it to be.
"A Song For Our Fathers," Explosions In The Sky
If you're a fat person you don't need impediments to exercise. When you're a fat person, your entire existence is an impediment to exercise. So you need it to be easy and what's messed up is that it is easy. Going outside and moving slightly faster than you normally would walk is so fucking easy it is a disgrace that you're not already doing it. Two years ago I weighed over 300 pounds and the thought of running to the end of my driveway was so far-fetched it was not even a real thought I ever had. Since then I've run two half-marathons, a crazy relay race in the middle of the country and a bunch of other races. I'm not saying this to get patted on the back or as some kind of boast for being The Bad Boy Of Running Who Didn't Follow The Rules (such a cool nickname) or something. This is me telling you, fat person, that I am probably the worst example of a runner you can find and I fucking did it. Because it's just walking, only a little bit faster. Babies can do it and they barely have functioning brains.
"The D In Detroit," The Anniversary
So, the half-marathon. I finished the Wine and Dine half-marathon in 2:45. It was about 15 minutes off my first half-marathon in April. I was totally fine with this because the plan was to finish so I could also party after. Once you finish you go into Epcot and walk around a food festival and eat and drink country-specific foods and beverages.
I didn't want to bust my ass running the whole time and be too gassed to enjoy myself after. I had no plans on besting my time; it would have been nice I guess, but I just wanted to survive the entire night. Which went until 4:00 a.m. First things first: I did not poop. I had a feeling like I could have pooped—beginning to think I am just one of those race-poopers—but it wasn't urgent. Crisis averted.
"Moya," Godspeed You! Black Emperor
The course was basically three theme parks and the highways connecting them. You start off at the Wide World of Sports and immediately get on the highway headed for the Animal Kingdom. From there you get back on the highway and head for Hollywood Studios and then make your way over to Epcot and the finish line. It sounds so much easier and casual when you say it like that, but it's 13.1 miles so it's miserable.
The highway portions were juuuuuust long enough so that when you started seeing the Genie from Aladdin floating alongside you your three wishes were for new feet, the abolition of running and death, a theme park popped up and you were all excited to see what was inside.
"Take The Picture Now," Mineral
I love dogs, but I for the most part don't give a shit about animals so running through the Animal Kingdom did next to nothing for me, but it was at least a change of pace. Also, in all the parks, volunteers and Disney employees lined the course cheering you on. That's always a nice feeling, even if you're listening to music.
The thing about Disney races is that a lot of people run them. 14,000 people ran (or registered for) this race and 12,000 something finished. That's a lot of people running on the sidewalk around a fake Mt. Everest. And, there's also a lot of Runners, who—I can't stress this enough—are the absolute worst in these tight race paths. They weave in and out because they are selfish and single-minded and psychotic. They are motorcyclists on the highway. This is a helpful tip for running and driving: If I, the person you are darting around, have to in any way alter my course because of your movement, you fucked up. End of story. Do whatever you have to do to get around me, but don't make me adjust for your crazytown need to get ahead. There's 14,000 people running and we just started. Let the crowds thin out and then do your damage, you nutjobs. I'm not running 13.1 miles with my head on a swivel because you've decided your goals are more important than mine.
"Inertiatic ESP," The Mars Volta
The hydration stations were also a disaster for this same reason. You've got the slow pokes and old folks with their blinkers on bottlenecking two lanes into one as they try to get over to the sides for some sports drinks and then the fucking crotch rockets zipping all over the place trying to avoid them and get wherever they need to be one nanosecond faster. I decided I wasn't going to stop at any of the water spots until halfway through the race so I could sort of avoid all of this chaos and then maybe I'd even get one of those disgusting goo packets, too.
"Stare At The Sun," Thrice
By the time I made it through the first theme park and back onto the highway I was dying. This was, like, mile four or five. I stopped for Powerade and oh, was it delicious. I immediately became a fiend, wildly scratching my face and running with only one thing on my mind. Powerade. Where's the next stop. Powerade. It wasn't even the good kind, either. It was the disgusting urine-colored kind. But it was everything I ever wanted in life right then. I hit every single water station after that, sometimes doubling up on Powerade and washing it down with water. I can't believe I didn't cramp up.
The strangest thing of the night was this rapid change in temperature I felt around the same time I first tasted that delicious, delicious fake Gatorade. I had already noticed I was sweating like an animal in the beginning of the race. I am definitely a sweater, but this was a lot, even for me. I know it was Florida and everything, but it didn't seem unusually hot or humid. Then, out of nowhere, the temperature just dropped. Like, a cold breeze. I don't know if Florida is like the desert or something, but it was weird.
"Over The Hills And Far Away," Led Zeppelin
You know that feeling you get, when you can't imagine what you want to happen ever actually happening? Like, when you're a kid and it's Christmas Eve and not only can you not fall asleep but you can't even visualize morning ever coming. Or, now as an adult, when you're driving across the entire state of Pennsylvania to see your in-laws and you feel like you will die an old, withered man on Route 80 before you make it to Cleveland? That is how I felt at around mile eight or so when we were getting into the second theme park, Hollywood Studios. I could not picture myself crossing the finish line. I knew that I obviously would, but it felt like it would never happen. The same thing happened two miles later when I knew I had only a 5k left; 30 minutes seemed an impossibility.
"Seven Years," Saosin
I was most looking forward to this part of the race because I had heard such great things about it. They have all these crazy lights set up in a part of the park that's supposed to look like a city movie set. Also, Darth Vader walks around for photo opportunities.
Kind of a cool stretch to run through.
"Fuck Tha Police," Rage Against The Machine
After that, though, it was murder. You run around the park a little bit more and then back on the highway. I thought maybe the highways would serve as the absence that makes your heart grow fonder for the parks, but no. The highways were just evil. Just pavement. Pavement that could have been anywhere, but this pavement was in Florida, so some methed-out dude wearing a diaper probably drove over it on his way home to eat the roast chicken he bought at the store that's really a pair of those jelly sandals. The longer I ran, the worse the highway portions were.
"Turnstile," Hot Water Music
By the time I finally got to Epcot I couldn't tell if I was delirious or getting a second wind from the jolt of knowing I was almost done. The weird thing about these races is that there's a lot of running through the back-end of the parks, the guts you don't ever see, and going through employee entrances and stuff, so it's a little disorienting to do so in parks you're familiar with. I know my way around Epcot pretty well, the part with all the countries, anyway. Having a beer in every country is a fun way to get
some culture obliterated. I don't have time for The Land, or whatever other weirdo science experiments they want to call rides over there.
Unfortunately, there was no running through the countries because that's were the Food and Wine festival was. I don't know why I assumed otherwise, I mean, it is the name of the race. So we came in through the back of the park and ran through a bunch of employee areas. I knew once we got in the park it was basically over. I remembered from the year before, waiting for my wife and brother to finish, the areas where the race cut into the park and then where you exited and where that was in relation to the finish line.
"Catamaran," Bear vs. Shark
The best part of the race for me was entering the actual park in Epcot. There were people everywhere and it wasn't just volunteers (who, seriously, were so nice and awesome to see) it was either people who just finished the race or people waiting on someone to finish. They were going nuts for everyone. It was like an instant flood of good vibes washing over you. So cool. Once I got to that part, I thought the race was in the bag.
Brain: Hey Sean's body, remember how I am basically the worst at judging time and space?
Body: Oh...oh please, no.
Brain: Haha yeah, totally. And, it's like even worse when I'm trying to recall things from a year ago. You've got like a half mile left, dude. At least.
[Darth Vader re-emerges]
"No Easy Way Out," Robert Tepper
All those great vibes were gone. The course twisted and turned through parts I never realized existed last year and with each turn I thought this is where we'll come out and everyone will be wai—no? OK maybe the next one.
"Radio," Alkaline Trio
Finally I turned a corner and saw what I spent all night looking for: people waiting, smoke machines and a finish line just a little bit further away than I would have liked. I did eventually get there, high-fiving Minnie Mouse before I crossed, got my complimentary Yuengling (after housing an enormous and warm Powerade) and partied until 4:00 a.m.
I'd do it again.