I Ran My Third Marathon on April 11 and I Want Some Attention,
Part 1 of 1

This may be more detail than most of you would like but I'm doing it anyway. There are three short video clips of me and a surprise at the end if you are willing to read it all. On April 11, I ran my first marathon in 19 years (2 1/2 months short of that). It was the first annual Southern Indiana Classic Marathon (known as SIC Marathon here or, the Sick Marathon) and I couldn't pass it up, even though I was morbidly obese and had no feeling in any body part below the scalp. First let's start with the basics.

The word Marathon is derived from the word 'mare', meaning female horse, and 'thong', meaning a tiny piece of underwear or an undergarment often worn as an outer garment that exposes the butt cheeks, giving the horse a more pleasing shape to the male horse to encourage mating. Phidippides ran the very first marathon in 490 BC, then died shortly thereafter from exhaustion. I was aiming to beat his record or die trying.

I ran 11, 15, and 15.99 miles in the month prior, all huge failures, the last in which I walked a good portion after the 13 mile mark. That seemed to be the magic number, 13 miles. A half marathon was fun, but anything over that was just for the pleasure of pain. I swore off alcohol the week before the race but then, stupid me, I had a few swigs the day before and after that had metabolized, went to Mom's house (at her request--she always hated me) and had a cheeseburger. After that, I didn't feel well, although I think it was more the wine than the fried cow. I slept a lot on the 10th to shake this illness, which I very likely ran with (excuse #1!).

There was a huge traffic jam on highway 41 just to get to the 4H center. They were running a marathon and a half marathon on the same course and the total turnout was 1600 runners, 976 for the half and 324 for the full, SICk Marathon. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers. Due to confusion, the entire field was facing the wrong direction, and when I asked one of the organizers where the start line was, he pointed, and I asked,"Why are they the facing other way?" He replied,"I don't know". I should've kept my mouth shut. Took me a while to get there, because they were singing the national anthem--I paused, put my hand over my heart, and scooted to the start. I was at the front, behind three runners who, just my luck, found out the race was in the other direction. I didn't really know if a warm-up was important, so I just jumped up and down and waved my arms like I was Flash Dancing, and tried to get the other runners to laugh, hoping they'd succumb to involuntary bladder activity and retire in humiliation. Didn't work, but one did throw a bucket of water on me (joke).

The lesson learned from those horrible training runs was that I needed food and water, but I was so afraid of eating Power Bars, carrying a turkey leg in my dominant hand, or any of those other so-called athlete foods. I ate a piece of Power Bar in my first marathon in 1991 and it took away control of my rear exit. I practically limped for the remaining 17 miles of the run because of it, but I did a respectable time of 3:20:41 in 1991. I was a lot thinner and more tan back then, as you can see from this photo my ex wife shot of me in 1991.

Since then I took only water from race volunteers. But my sweet Momma baked me a bunch of chocolate chip cookies, and I carried six of them with me. I'd trained with them and I didn't throw up or die, so they were good. I tried not to be too nervous about this race, and if you look at the video, I was just hopping around when our Sheriff, Eric Williams, fired the gun (in the air). After about 30 feet I noticed no one was going out, so I surged ahead and took the lead, like a rabbit being chased by 1599 turtles. I was the very first leader of the very first Southern Indiana Classic Marathon! As a result, I was on all the television shows, but they never said my name, those bastards. I did it for show and knew that going too fast at the start would be paid for in the end, so once I was clearly in the front, pushing up against the pace car which was, by the way, a vomit-brown classic Camaro loaned to Evansville by the owner/founder of Papa John's pizza, I had to back off.

Click for video

Helicopters were flying overhead, and I could imagine Momma at home, hearing them belt out,"And there is Michael Paul, the first leader! Look at that little monkey run!" Once I'd shown that I could lead, about 20-30 seconds later, I couldn't just slow to nothing and cry because I thought I might be on live television. So I slowed just enough to let someone pass me and make them think it was because they were faster than me, but in retrospect, now, I wish I'd stayed longer in the front. I had the power to lead at least for 5K. Our first mile was covered in 6:57, which is slow, even for a marathon, my slowest first mile in competition ever.

My last two half marathons had a 6 minute flat first mile, and my first two half marathons, in '91 and '92, had a 5:25 first mile. We were going pretty slow. My race ended up like my training runs--I was never fast, but my average pace dropped dramatically at the 13 mile point. At the one mile point I was looking down and saw 'Horace Rainey' on a mailbox I was passing, and realized I was running past my uncle's house! I looked up and there he was, smiling, sitting in what looked like a rocking chair, on his porch. I waved and smiled and said,"I didn't know the race was going by your house! Say hi to Viola!" He waived and smiled back, but I later learned from Mom (her name is Viola) that he wasn't sure who I was. He's 82, but we love him anyway. I'm so glad he was dressed. A few hundred feet past that, I saw a gentleman with a large, shaved Yorkshire Terrier on a leash. I missed my Gizmo and I smiled and said,"I have a dog just like that at home, and he's pretty angry". The gentleman laughed. I missed Gizmo. He was my only true friend. The 5K mark came in 23 minutes flat, the worst 5K I've ever run in competition, a 7:24 mile, 16th place in the marathon, 2 minutes 10 seconds behind the marathon leader, and 19th place had I been running the half marathon. I'd averaged a 7:37 mile from the one mile point to here. Here I am, hobbling along at about 5 1/2 miles. Hard to believe I was one of the fastest runners by watching this video.

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At 5 1/2 miles, the marathon and half marathon routes split, and suddenly there were very few runners in front of me. I hit the 10K mark in 46:15, 5:43 behind the leader in the marathon, again, my slowest 10K in competition, 11 minutes 20 seconds off my fastest 10K, sitting in 23rd place for the full marathon, and 44th in the half marathon. At this point there was a sign that said "Rolling hills, next 20 miles". That's when it hits you--you've run 6.214 miles and you aren't even 1/4 of the way through the race yet. I had another 20 miles to go, and was down to an 8:19 pace after this point. I hit 10 miles in 1 hour, 17 minutes, 45 seconds (my fastest ever 10 miles was 58 minutes, 19 seconds in 1989, on a much harder course). The next video shows the 12 mile point, to the best of my knowledge. I was hobbling along and hit that at just under 1 hour, 33 minutes. What gets me about this video is that you see a few dudes coming through after me, and they seem fine. I look like I'm tortured during the entire race, and I was.

Click for video

The halfway point of the race, 13.1 miles, a half marathon, took 1 hour, 43 minutes, 50 seconds, and I was in 35th place for the full marathon, 14 minutes, 31 seconds slower than the leader, 24 minutes, 3 seconds off my best time, 13 1/2 minutes slower than my half marathon last year. Had I run the half marathon, I would've finished 70th of the 976 finishers at my marathon pace. After that, it was almost all uphill, and that hurt. My legs cramped in training, and the race was the same. After 13 miles my legs get stiffer and stiffer, like a dying bug. I only missed two of the 34 water stations, because when I ran the half marathon in October, cramps cost me about three minutes on an otherwise fast run, and I attributed those to the fact that I ran that entire race without water. I experimented with PowerAid which splash all over my face, so I was a sticky mess and concerned that hummingbirds would assault me. At 16 miles, the backs of my legs burned so much on the hills, I was forced to walk. I was running a natural stride at the time and would go harder uphill. I walked four times, and other runners passed me, patted me on the back and said,"Hang in there", which is humiliating when you aren't quick enough to trip them.

I'd walk a little, run a little, walk a little, run a little--up until 18 miles. I felt I could go back to running full-time, but decided I needed to vary my stride and force myself to run slower than natural to avoid my legs burning up on the hills. At 18 miles there were cheerleaders waiting for me. I'd forgotten to bring my gun, but about ten feet before I reached them, I started running again, and they went crazy, screaming, tossing their pom poms in the air like they'd been goosed by a brigade of psycho chickens, making out with each other and peeing all over themselves. That was all the motivation I needed. I decided, live or die, I'd run at least until the 19 mile point. I made my steps smaller, looked straight down so as not to be aware of how slow I was going, and never walked again. After this I passed some of the guys who'd passed me earlier, who refused to vary their stride to compensate for their shortcomings. I reached 30K in 2:36:46, 57th place, 28 minutes, 47 seconds from the leaders, averaging an 8:25 mile. My per-mile pace, after the half marathon point, dropped from 7:56 to 8:25, a decrease of almost 30 seconds per mile in just a five mile portion, and by the finish, I wasn't even breaking a 10 minute mile. Here are disgusting photos of yours truly. If you look really close, you can see the impression of my nipples through my thin jersey:

I watched the miles tick away. There were plenty of fans along the course--Robin, a former co-worker from Vectren who called my name but unfortunately didn't lift her shirt up, which might have helped me run faster (or slower), and a lot of bands, including a group playing bagpipes to "Chariots of Fire" followed by a few gutless cats. I had fun with the folks handing out water, making stupid jokes as they handed me water. I don't remember what I said, but there were giggles, chuckles, and joy. I always thanked them and tried to smile--imagine the boredom of watching everyone else run and having to be stuck handing water to sweaty people, so I entertained a little. There were also plenty of sheriff's deputies guarding the roads and shooting at us for motivation. I wish I could make gentle love to each and every one of the pretty ones with chocolate chips stuck in my teeth.

At 21 miles I was at 3 hours, 25 seconds--at 23 miles I was at 3 hours, 21 minutes, about 19 seconds slower than my very first marathon finish, but with more than 5K left to run. I just kept looking down and watching the miles tick away. I was passed a lot but tried to pretend those people weren't there. I'd sung "Band on the Run" in my head about twice and was running out of albums to sing. I was suffering a lot, but that's what I expected, and the pain seemed manageable as long as I succumbed to a slow stride. Pain is just God's way of hurting us. Here I am at 24 miles with a church.

I was passed by two women (among many) in the closing stretch, but I consoled myself by telling meself that they were all kicked off the Soviet shot-put team for illegal use of steroids, or that they were all former men, or angry lesbians. I broke four hours, finishing in 3 hours, 53 minutes, 23 seconds, 66th place of 324 runners, and thanked the Lord for carrying me through this trial despite me being such an idiot over the past two years. I hit 32 of the 34 water stations, but still lost six pounds of water.

All who finished around me had friends, family, pets, and arrest warrants waiting. I'm not so lucky...I limped to my car alone, about 1/4 mile away, looking so horrbile that many organizers came alongside of me, put their arms on my back and asked,"Are you okay?" I replied,"Yeah--just a lot of pain". Then I asked them for heroine. My cracked window on my car had a nice, elaborate spider web completely covering it, and when it didn't say "some Horse" or "excellent Horse" or "radiant Horse" or "terrific Horse", frankly, I was disappointed. Lousy spider. I lost the poor little fellow at about 40 miles an hour in a shower of laughter as "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" blarred on my car stereo.

As I limped into my home, I saw the best thing I'd seen all day--my little boy Gizmo, tongue like an overactive windshield wiper, who hadn't had breakfast or his morning walk. He didn't care--Daddy was here, and he was leaping and wagging and couldn't wait to lick the salt off every curve and oriface of my nasty body. Dogs are great. He's my biggest luxury, and by far, my best friend, humans and girlfriends included.

The next day, I was sick again, but I milked it, and wore my T-shirt and medal everywhere I went for the rest of the day, and I wore my T-shirt on Tuesday, to school. I'm nearly 44 1/2 years old, but I still have life in me, like a culture of mold. If I wait any longer, I could be the first dead person to run a marathon. One can only hope.

Say bye-bye.