It is done. I ran a half-marathon, front-to-back, without having to stop to walk. I did have to stop to shit, though. Here's a Spotify playlist that helped me through it.
"Degausser," Brand New
Usually, I can power through an impending poop. Whether I'm driving or in an unfamiliar place—like, not my own bathroom—I can just hold on to the poop and wait it out. Somewhere around mile eight, however, it became urgently clear that this poop would not be waited out. This poop was coming whether I jumped in the woods, managed to find an empty porta-potty or found one of the stores we were running past was actually open and I could shit like a civilized human being with toilet paper and a door with an actual doorknob.
"Catamaran," Bear vs. Shark
It was a prominently situated Dunkin' Donuts. It sat alone, amid the strip malls, on Jericho Turnpike, half of which was shut down for the race. It was no surprise, then, that many of the roadside establishments—7-11, gas stations, etc—were closed. I learned that the hard way when I finally gave in to the inevitability of this poop and found the 7-11 closed. Have you ever resigned yourself to a poop and then not been able to poop because of outside influences? It is a terrible feeling. Your whole world is rushing toward this one moment and then all of a sudden you have to jam on the brakes after you've made the decision to take this road. It's why excessive nudity scares me. Clothes are the last line your body has between not shitting and shitting. I feel like if your brain knows you are wearing pants, it will try its damnedest not to shit them. No pants? There is nothing to stop what your body is doing; you've made the decision to strip away the final layer of protection.
"When the Levee Breaks," Led Zeppelin
I had resigned myself to this poop in a 7-11 after miles of fighting it and telling myself to just go on. When I got to the door and it was locked, I thought I was going to cry. And shit myself. But I did neither, and carried on, if a little backed up. I never saw Aragorn shit once while he was tracking hobbits. You have your whole life to shit, Sean! Just run. Then the street widened at a major intersection and everything became brighter. I saw a Dunkin' Donuts. More importantly, I saw a woman with an enormous plastic bottle of iced coffee walk out of Dunkin' Donuts. Customers! I ran into the parking lot, through the mini-vestibule and right past a dozen customers and staff as I guessed the location of the bathroom. I was right, it was to the right. Now, please God, be open. Jackpot. There was no time to construct a toilet-paper nest on the seat, and there was no handy one-piece thingy. So I went commando. It was probably the most disgusting shit I've ever taken. Not because of anything gastro-intestinally. It's just...I'd never been so sweaty while pooping before. It was just...gross. It was gross.
"I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," My Chemical Romance
I felt like one million fucking dollars afterwards, though. I got out of Dunkin' Donuts and ran the fastest two miles I probably ever have. There was only one downer. In the scrum to get down to business and also pause my GPS/music/timer I must have somehow hit "end run." Which shut down the timer and cut off my mileage right there. I didn't realize until I got back outside, so I had to get myself and the app back up and running. It was not a huge deal, although I did kind of want that one screencapable moment where it shows the map of your run, the time and the mileage. Now I had to split it up into two. The really annoying part, though, was that my mileage was now a bit off from the course.
"Transatlantic Foe," At The Drive-In
Since the Dunkin' Donuts wasn't at an actual milemarker, my mile alerts on my app were not the same as the actual signs on the course. A quarter of the way into my first "new" mile, I approached the ninth milemarker. This would come back to bite me in the ass at the end of the race.
"Swing, Swing," All American Rejects
"Insistor," Tapes 'N Tapes
I don't want to turn this into a whole contemplation on bowel movements, but racing culture is apparently like the Wild West when it comes to bathroom decorum. Before the race started and we were all just milling around by the starting line—which was on a nondescript, tree-lined service road—people just walked off to the side and started pissing. Men, women, children, just pissing in the wide open. There were cars driving by not five feet from where some guys were just pissing on a shrub, undeterred. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen.
"Bringing On The Heartbreak," Def Leppard
I immediately had to do it. Part of it was that I just had some coffee so I was going to have to do it at some point anyway and some of it was the thrill of a tacitly-sanctioned public outdoor piss. I approached the defiled shrub when it was empty and began to publicly urinate outside. Seconds later a whole group of people showed up, one guy yelling "This the spot?!" Indeed it was, sir.
Looking back it was clearly an omen, but how could I know?
"Only In Dreams," Weezer
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about Boston. We weren't allowed to bring bags to the race, there were no spectators allowed at the start and there were helicopters everywhere. It was kind of impossible not to think about it. At one point in the first mile or two I saw a firetruck with its sirens going off driving back toward the starting line. It was weird, but there was obviously nothing to it. A lot of people were running with shirts or signs of support for Boston, which was cool. The whole spectre of the thing was still a little unsettling, though.
"(The Gym Is) Neutral Territory," Lifetime
There were spectators throughout the course and it was pretty cool, even though I had my headphones on and I spent the first half of the race fighting a poop. They did not line the entire course, but there were designated areas. So it was a lot like seeing an attractive woman at the gym and you suck in your gut and saunter around like hot shit. Only for the race, you just run a little bit faster. Yeah I got this no problem, guys. [wave, smile] Havin' a blast out here, not struggling at all—ohmygod FINALLY I'm past them and I can slow down.
There were also kids lining the course giving out high fives. I high-fived the shit out of those kids. How can you not high five a seven-year-old cheering on a bunch of weirdos running?
"No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future," Titus Andronicus
The other great thing is that when we ran through, like, real neighborhood-y areas, people were just camped out on lawn chairs or barbecuing and drinking. It was like a big event that at first made me think "wow, that's pretty cool they're all watching us." Later, though, I realized I would much rather be barbecuing and drinking and pretending to care about a bunch of weirdos running than running. The former is, like, one of my all-time favorite things to do. The latter is running.
"Take The Picture Now," Mineral
It's kind of fitting that my race was interrupted by an emergency pit-stop in a Dunkin' Donuts because I did two stupid things that morning. I did not eat breakfast and I drank coffee. We were told that we should plan on getting to the parking area for the race by 7:00 a.m., otherwise we'd likely be shut out. This meant leaving at 6:15 a.m. The last time I was awake that early, on purpose, was probably when I was still an attorney. Which is some time ago, now.
"The Artist In The Ambulance," Thrice
So, that was annoying. I was rushed in the morning and didn't get to eat anything. I'm all over the map when it comes to breakfast. I go through stretches where I make elaborate omelets and weeks where I only drink coffee. But I wanted to eat something on race day because it seemed like the right thing to do. I wanted to have something to burn off. But I didn't and was forced to grab one of those Gu packets halfway through the race and it was vanilla-flavored and I wanted to throw up, it was so sweet and gooey. OK, so that was dumb thing number one.
"Radio," Alkaline Trio
Dumb thing number two was drinking the coffee. I am not hooked on coffee, I easily go days without drinking it, but I figured I should have some on the drive out to the Island. I have a very specific and simple routine. Coffee. Shit. Shower. The order is very important for a care-free and refreshing day, otherwise my whole day is jacked up. The coffee is really the first domino. Since I was drinking the coffee on the road I had skipped the shit and the shower. But the shit and shower must always follow.
"First Day Of My Life," Bright Eyes
This is my wife's and my wedding song. We've been through some shit together, it felt appropriate to put this on here.
"Don't Stop Me Now," Queen
After the whole pooping-in-a-Dunkin' Donuts fiasco, I had to start my GPS tracker over again mid-mile. At first I found this annoying, but then I had this great idea: it would essentially function as a signal to empty the tank on the last part of the course. Since this happened right before the mile 8 sign my new first mile would actually be like mile 8.75. Therefore, whenever I heard "5 miles completed," I'd know it would only be a quarter of a mile or so to go. Well, there were two things about this that made it a stupid idea. First, I must have looked at it incorrectly in my haste to get back to the course and the mileage difference was probably closer to .35 miles. Second, I forgot that mile 13, though the last milemarker, was not, in fact, the end of the race.
"On With The Show," Motley Crue
When it came time for the empty-the-tank moment, I heard my GPS lady in my head and proceeded according to plan. Only it wound up being closer to a half mile of me
running slightly faster than I had been getting my Roger Bannister on. I was passing people left and right, getting excited about actually fulfilling a goal. It was a very emotional. I was proud of myself; I did it. There were so many times, especially on those last two miles, that I really thought I was going to break down and walk, but I didn't. I thought all these thoughts and then I thought some more.
"Everything Evil," Coheed & Cambria
Specifically I thought Hey, what the fuck? This is a lot of thinking to be taking place in .25 miles. Where is the goddamned finish li—are you kidding me? It's all the way up there? [People I had passed begin catching up and passing me] What the hell? I planned this out with math and everything. Keep moving your feet. Don't look at anyone. You stupid idiot you emptied the tank before you were ready and now everything's ruined. So much for getting all emotional you weak, pathetic excuse for—oh thank god I'm done!
"My Hero," Foo Fighters
"Summer Stars," Taking Back Sunday
When I crossed the finish line I don't remember feeling anything but relief. I saw the person ahead of me get two water bottles from the volunteers, which was great, I thought. Two is much better than one, but I only got one. My body and mind were just worthless heaps of primordial soup though, so I didn't do anything. I just drank my one bottle of water in a couple swigs and felt my calf muscles begin spazzing out. It was almost hard to breathe after the water. It's like when your kitchen sponge is all hard and dried out from not being used for a while, and you put it under the water and it's still hard for a second or two before sopping it all up. That's how my insides felt; like they needed a moment to realize they were being rehydrated.
"Killing In The Name," Rage Against The Machine
It's funny, I put these songs in the order I have them on my playlist and I don't remember hearing any of the first half of this playlist. Probably because I was focused on the burgeoning mass of excrement snaking its way through my large intestine.
"Inertiatic ESP," The Mars Volta
"Anothing Morning Stoner," ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
I do remember all of the course, though and it was pretty unremarkable. We ran through some residential areas, past a cemetery and on major roads and highways. It was a generally flat course—which was nice—until the last leg, which I thought was a pretty dick move. All that momentum and relief I had from my Dunkin' Donuts deposit went out the window at around mile 11 after the course took a quick turn on to the Wantagh Parkway. Parkways, if you don't know, are much more scenic and lovely to drive on than expressways. Same goes for running; it was tree-lined and green and pretty. But, there were also a series of hills. Still high on life and re-energized, I charged up those hills. They weren't anything compared to the hills in my neighborhood, anyway.
"Saturday," The Promise Ring
Man, was that a bad idea. A few minutes after I got past the hills and back on a regular road, I felt completely gassed. Annoyingly, there were only a few miles left which made it a struggle I had to win. There were times I just looked directly down at the pavement in front of my feet, watching them move forward and others I just stared off into the distance. Anything to keep from looking for those mile-markers.
"Dammit," Blink 182
"The Rat," The Walkmen
It was actually much harder to zone out during this race than I thought it was going to be. Granted, I had only ever raced in 5Ks, but I had found it fairly easy to just tune everything out and get through it. I could not do that at all with this race. Almost immediately I wanted to know when I had eclipsed one mile, so I could figure out my pace. I didn't want to be too fast, so I kept wanting to check my phone or look around for signage. Once you start having those thoughts, they're nearly impossible to get rid of.
"No Easy Way Out," Robert Tepper
The sheer number of people made it difficult, too. I was ready for the jostling in the beginning of the race but there was never really a moment when you could stretch out. And every time I got close to that point where you are just in your own world, there was someone or something there waking me up. There were some race volunteers on bikes, riding alongside us and cheering us on with whistles and stuff. It was nice, though a little misdirected: I watched two girls on bikes ride up alongside some guy and scream "WOOOOOOOOO" and blow a whistle right in his unwitting face.
"Irish Car Bomb," Hot Rod Circuit
"The Story," Brandi Carlile
Brandi got me through my final-leg miscalculation. Not running last week and thus not hearing this song in quite some time really worked out and helped me finish the race and finish it running. I ran the whole thing; I don't count the poop break because I'm not crazy. You can't poop and run at the same time unless you have completely given up hope of ever being a functional part of a civilized society. Therefore I had to take that detour and I should not be penalized for not shitting myself on the race course. You can, however, walk and drink water or walk and eat disgusting Gu on the race course. If you walk on the course, your time is your time. I nearly choked to death on water because I could not figure out how to run and drink at the same time. I'm running a marathon here, not walking and drinking one.
So the poop break doesn't count, OK? Likewise, I am shaving 2-3 minutes off my official time of 2:29:41 because of it. And fuck those 41 seconds, too. I finished a half marathon in 2:27. You don't like it? It is the very definition of a YP. I'll remember that the next time you tell me gas cost 3.87 when it was really 3.8799.
"A Song For Our Fathers," Explosions In The Sky
"Minno," Hot Water Music
The problem now is keeping this going. I am signed up for another half marathon in November. It's the one in Disney with the booze and food afterwards. My goal for that will be to finish in such a state that I can go on to drink and eat without violently puking. But that's in November, which means it's a lot of time for stupid, lazy me to show up and make a mess of everything.