Saturday, December 4, 2010
Our Hero the Soon-To-Not-Be-A-Starving College Student's eyes shot open at 0415, wide awake. Finally, it had come! Race Day. For months the Starving College Student had been doing his best imitation of a Kenyan, going on long runs and gearing up for his long-anticipated Trial By Fire, and he was eager to prove himself. Bring it on, let us see who will conquer! Man will surely prevail, thought our Hero to himself.
Two hours later, he sat the Baton Rouge Marriott, waiting for the shuttle to the race area. He checked his watch: 0620. The shuttle came, but filled up before he got on. He waited some more. 0645. The race started in 15 minutes, and the bus had still not come. Our Hero grew anxious, for he still had to pick up his packet and race number. 0650, the bus pulled up. 0700. As the bus pulled near to the race area, the race began and 987 racers started, much to the dismay of the Starving College Student and his 12 other compatriots. They jumped off the bus and all started running... Except for our Hero, who found the packet pick-up tent, pinned his number to his shirt, and figured out how to attach the timing thing to his shoe. Finally, he set off, alone, abandoned.
One mile into the race, he began to wonder where everyone had gone. Two miles in, he caught up to the rear-guard. By mile 5, he had made his way to the crowds and proceeded to pass hundreds of people.
"Gee," he thought, "this isn't so bad! Look at everyone I'm passing! This is easy enough!" Oh the fool he was. For the next 8.1 miles, our Hero passed people and pondered whether he would accept a position on the US Olympic Marathon Team; really, as much of an honor as it would be, he wasn't sure he could fit it into his schedule.
At the half-way point, the majority of the people stopped, for they were "weak" and could not run an entire marathon. (In reality, as we shall see, they were not weak, but wise. Very wise. Oh so very very wise.) Our Hero felt great! This was easy stuff!
At mile 15, the Starving College Student hit a proverbial wall. He frowned. The next 11.2 miles might be a little more difficult than he thought, but no matter! He was made of stouter stuff than that! Our Hero merely pushed through the wall, running harder until it passed. Success.
Mile 18 forewarned of the trials to come, for the wall there was much worse. Our Hero pushed through it too, but now doubt crept into his mind. With over 8 miles left, this wall hit hard and took a mile to run through. This, thought our Hero, kind of sucks. Oh if he had only know. The thought that maybe he had gravely underestimated the difficulty of this race crept into his mind.
At mile 20, the Starving College Student hit The Wall. The Wall, it must be understood, differed from other, plain walls. For starters, it is capitalized. Every marathon runner speaks with dread about The Wall, and shudders at its name. The Wall gave birth to all other walls, and is by far the most powerful and deadly of all wall. Our Hero knew of The Wall, and was prepared. Or not. But he thought he was. What a fool he was. Our Hero pushed through The Wall, running harder and harder, yet to no avail. The Wall could not be broken by a mere mortal, and with every step Our Hero realized more and more just how mortal he is. The pain grew with every step, and every step was a conscious and masochistic choice to keep going.
The pain, felt with every step, was sharp. The Starving College Student decided that the only thing to do was ignore it. He ignored it. 5 minutes later, it would not be ignored. He tried to ignore it again, but realized that he was still ignoring the original pain, but new pain was layered on top of the ignored pain, so that when he didn't ignore it, the result was too horrible to describe here. The Wall was cunning and evil.
Our Hero, being something of the pious type when faced with adversity, tried to think of some encouraging scripture, as he often did on runs, but soon realized that they were, in this case, totally ineffective. God had abandoned him, cast him aside, spurned him! God had forsaken him, and The Wall had claimed him. In despair, Our Hero decided to walk for a second to drink some more Gatorade. Oddly, by some witchcraft, the pain did not desist. Baffled, the Starving College Student started running again. Running, it seemed was quite painful, and walking was much the same; however, transitioning between the two was exquisitely painful.
Mile 24, Our Hero vaguely remembered passing people during the early stages of the race, and used that to comfort himself as the old lady cruised by him. Seriously, he though, she must have a motor on the walker somewhere. For the next 10 miles, carelessly marked by the race employees as 2.2, he just tried to keep up with the lady with the walker. The Wall had a sense of humor.
As he crossed the finish line, a nice lady with a nice smile greeted him with a medal for finishing. Our Hero, however, had enough of the race. "GET OUT OF HERE LADY!" he snarled, and added something about burning the medal and spitting on the ashes. Actually, he thought this, but didn't say it because he couldn't talked to much. He tried to punch the lady as she placed the medal around his neck, but he couldn't really move. Reeling, he toddled over to the post-race area and drank water, then got some food. Why, he wondered miserably, did people think that the first thing someone wanted to eat after a marathon was fried catfish? If he had made a list of The Top Ten Things I Want To Eat Right After Having My Soul Ripped Out By The Wall, (TTTIWTERAHMSROBTW) fried catfish would have been low on the list. Very low. In fact, fried catfish might not have made TTTIWTERAHMSROBTW.
45 minutes later, Our Hero felt a little better. He had finished after all, although he didn't quite remember the whole episode, someone had put a very nice medal around his neck. He vaguely remembered some nice lady that might want to reconsider trying to talk to people the second they finish a race. Someone else asked him how he did, and if he wanted to run another one. Whilst the actual return cannot be recorded here, the answer was generally negative in nature.
Our Hero boarded the bus, and cast a weary and defeated eye at the race course. His brother the meat-head called him and laughed at him for running the race. His brother was eating a fried Snickers Bar and wanted to know if Our Hero was feeling as well. The Starving College Student might not want to admit it, there was no doubt. The Wall had won, and they both knew it. Maybe someday, on a different battlefield, the outcome may be different, but for now, The Wall added another notch to its belt and smiled?
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