I recently had the wonderful opportunity to lead a book club discussion on the book, Kosher Nation. I use the term lead loosely, as the group really led itself. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been to any kind of book discussion where there were absolutely no lulls, all of the points brought up were interesting, and everyone there was engaged. Good stuff.

I did panic a little bit when I realized that I couldn’t find any book club discussion questions or guide for leading a discussion of the book. Sure, it’s not on Oprah’s reading list, but I thought I might come across something. So, I put together a few questions for every chapter, and have shared my document via Google docs. If you end up leading or wanting to lead a discussion on this title, I think they’re at least good base to initiate a discussion . Or if you’re reading it alone, they might still be useful for you.

Happy reading and discussing!

Last night, though my desire for a post-work cat nap could not be quelled, I made it to the Wild Flag show at the Black Cat. Wild Flag is a relatively new effort by four women, two of which are ex-members of the iconic riot grrl band Sleater-Kinney, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. The other two band members, Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole have been involved with their own awesome bands such as Helium and The Minders, respectively. Despite the fact that they have yet to release an album and in their own words, are touring right now to kind of figure things out before hitting the studio for a full length release, the show sold out. The band did not disappoint. The openers, Yellowfever and The Aquarium, were pretty mellow and seemed tame in comparison to the melodic noisefest that followed. It has been a long time since I saw a stage full of women look so completely comfortable in their own skin. Watching four seasoned performers work the stage, the crowd, and each other was a genuine treat. 

It was interesting to watch the band as a whole. Wild Flag is it’s own entity, however it’s almost impossible not to see or hear them without waxing nostalgic for S-K. While everyone was singing in Sleater-Kinney, Corin Tucker was really the main front person.  For Wild Flag, Brownstein seemed to have the lead on vocals in addition to rocking the guitar. Her voice is unmistakable and last night ranged from that low, kind of almost bored tone that I associate with Northwestern music from the 90s to a wild, all out scream. It was great to hear her live again. Janet Weiss is one of my two favorite drummers to watch (the other being Samantha Maloney who I managed to catch back in the day with Shift before she played for the likes of Hole and Motely Crue) and she was all over the place, hair flying, sticks a blur. At one point I think Rebecca Cole was literally punching keys with her fists moving up and down the keyboard. The highlight of the night had to be when the band jammed out, maybe 3/4 of the way through the show. DC native, Mary Timony raised her guitar over her head to catch feedback repeatedly, fighting her guitar strap and the cords to her amp. The sound was amazing. The action was at once sensual and needy and defiant. At that moment she was visibly, 100% invested in the sound and led the crowd in with her. Together the band, the crowd, the bartenders, everybody was swaddled in the reverberations of four women rocking the fuck out.

Recently I have heard more than one of my friends wax nostalgic for the 90s – for grunge and riot grrrls, and well, angst. Sure, part of it is probably just a desire to relive that portion of our lives when we were younger and there seemed to be more possibility. But more than that, this music for me was part of a movement; It was overly feminist. I remember watching Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder on MTV, flailing around the stage, writing Pro-Life on his arm as he jumped from a chair. The riot grrrls movement was a big, musical fuck you to all of society. No pasty-white all male hardcore band of the same era had half as much of an excuse to scream angrily on stage as the ladies. They sang songs about friends who had been assaulted, about reproductive politics, about not taking anybody’s shit. There was an inherent confidence about the music I was listing to in the 90s. Even when it was overtly personal, there was power in the sharing of emotion.

Despite the fact that I’m a feminist, and pretty much surround myself with feminists in my personal life, I miss having almost an entire genre of music that touts feminist ideals.  Am I removed from it because I’m old and out of the loop? Is there a new crop of feminist music and art to carry today’s generation of girls into adulthood?

Yesterday I ran my second marathon in Richmond, VA. I ran my first in Pittsburgh, PA this past year in May after a Christmas Party agreement with my cousin’s husband, Luke last year. After we recovered a bit from Pittsburgh we talked about doing the Marine Corps, here in DC but it filled too quickly so I pitched the idea of running Richmond because it’s still pretty close and is supposed to be a nice time and a good course.

With Joanna gone in Maine for a few months, I thought that I would have plenty of time to train and would get tons and tons of miles in. While I did have a good deal of time I also took on a freelance editing project and work got really crazy. On top of this I ended up visiting in Maine more than I anticipated. A wonderful thing, but the traveling did leave me more tired than I anticipated from time to time. I also ended up being sick on and off for two weeks or so before the marathon. That said, as the marathon came closer, I kept reminding myself that I was averaging about 5 more miles per week in training than I had for the last marathon, was running faster, had been doing more controlled training, like speedwork and tempo runs and was feeling better during and after my long runs. As Luke and I walked out of the hotel to position ourselves at the start I remember talking about how we were each nervous but ultimately, it was like any other weekend – we were heading out for a long one.

My family was coming from around the Morgantown area and were kind enough to offer to pick me up and take me back – I had planned on taking the train as the thought of driving after the marathon sounded completely miserable. So they arrived just after noon on Friday. We had an easy drive down to Richmond, stopping on the way for lunch where we ate carbs, carbs, carbs. We hit the expo and picked up our race packets. Luke got a headband to cover his ears in the cold and I introduced him to BodyGlide. I’m not sure how he has survived running this long without it.

We checked in to our hotel, the Comfort Inn on the north western part of Richmond. It was a bit of a lackluster pit whose advertised internet didn’t work. But it was cheap and we booked it just a few weeks before marathon time. Finding dinner the night before proved to be a complete and unanticipated fiasco. It never occurred to me that we should book a reservation but we found no wait under an hour at any of the restaurants we tried in Carytown so we gave up and hit the chain restaurants just outside of the city. At that point it was a relief just to find a place to relax and I played word games with their son as Luke and my cousin worked out the logistics of the next day.

I was nervous, but I didn’t feel as overwhelmed or anxious as I had before Pittsburgh, maybe because it wasn’t a complete unknown. We went back to the hotel. I got my things together, talked to Joanna on the phone, took a shower and went to bed about midnight.

The next morning I ate a spare bagel Luke had brought with honey and almond butter (I found these great packages where a nut butter and a sweetener is combined in a little packet. Really convenient.) I had a little bit of coffee, and some gatorade. I met up with everyone and we headed out to the car to drive to the start. My cousin, Sherea and Perry were going to try to meet us at a couple of points during the marathon but really, most of the city was blocked off in some way from the marathon. Figuring that out was going to be a real trick for them and as we got further downtown we were noting streets that were open and where they were in relation to the marathon course.

It was freezing when we got to the start. Both Luke and I were wearing top layers. I planned to chuck mine at some point along with the cheapie gloves that I was wearing. Luke was planning to give his shirt to Sherea at mile 3. Instead of stand in line at the porta-potties Sherea located a Starbucks inside the Marriott on the same block as the starting line so she and Perry got beverages while Luke and I stood in line with a bunch of other runners inside the nice warm hotel once, and then again. I will say that the entire marathon, for being as large as it was, wasn’t a hectic experience. We didn’t head outside to line up, maybe 10 minutes before the marathon start, finding plenty of room around the midway point for our respective corrals. I ended up ditching my sweatshirt just before the gun went off and we headed off and were able to cross the actual start pretty quickly.

Last marathon Luke totally went out too fast and bonked a bit at the end so my good pace is his reserve pace so we ran where I felt like I was making a little effort and used my Garmin to reign in our pace around a 10 minute mile from miles 1-4. It was nice to hang out, chat and actually get a little running time in together. It’s funny that we do running events together but haven’t actually run together until this marathon! Somewhere around mile 1, we were still downtown and on a straightaway before me I see a man with a mike, a small speaker and a huge sign that starts with the word, “repent” – no good ever comes after that word, especially on a sign. I quickly scanned the sign and sure enough partway down I saw the word, “homosexuals.” There’s nothing like being condemned to hell within the first 10 minutes of a race. I couldn’t help myself, as we passed the man, I leaped in the air, hands waiving and yelled, “I’m gay! I’m gay!” a second later we heard, “and God loves gay people, too…” I apologized for my outburst but Luke seemed to think it was pretty funny. Around 2.5 miles I ditched my gloves. As we approached the first turn at mile 3 we began to look for Sherea and Perry but didn’t see them so Luke ended up stashing his shirt at the corner of a building, hoping that it would still be there if we came back to look for it post-race.

At mile 4 Luke and I split up because I decided to hit the bathrooms. I grabbed some water at the stop and as I waited in the port-a-potty line there was a guy in front of me with very cool green stripy arm warmers. He was also drinking water and as he turned towards me I noticed that his bib said, “moose”. Being a little over-excited from the initial race endorphin rush, I slapped him on the arm a few times and pointed to my own bib which said, “m00se”. He was very gracious about it and only spilled a little on himself. I got back on the road and had a few sports beans. The back pocket of my knickers was loaded with various energy things and it looked like I had a weird tumor growing out of my back so unloading the oddly shaped things first seemed like a good idea.

Though I was warm from running and I could tell that the temperature was rising, I noticed that my hands were absolutely freezing. This has happened to me a few times recently, that my hands get so cold during a run that by the end I can barely move them. I really wanted those gloves back. It was getting difficult to even change songs on my MP3 player. So, around mile 6 I started scanning the ground for abandoned gloves.

I found a really cute pink striped pair but spotted the mate too late to make a grab. I was still keeping up a great pace for me, about a 10 minute mile, but I was missing pacing myself off of someone for whom the pace seemed effortless. As I was thinking about this I noticed a younger fellow in red shorts and a white top. We seemed to be running at about the same pace. So without thinking I just kind of tried to keep up with him for a while. It wasn’t hard, and didn’t require me to push myself too much but it was just nice to have a focal point for the run. I could keep running and pretty much know that I was on target in terms of pace without looking at my watch all the time. I kept this up until I stopped to make a pit stop around mile 12.

As I ran over the Huguenot Bridge at mile 7 I spotted a black pair of gloves almost identical to the ones I had tossed previously. I thankfully put them on my freezing hands as I took in the view from the bridge.  We were entering the more rural part of the run along the James River. It was simply gorgeous. There were some houses but for the most part they were off to our right with the river on the left and a gorgeous canopy of autumn leaves above us. This was probably my favorite part of the whole run. It was funny how serene it felt even surrounded by all those other runners.

This was also about the point in the race where the crowd support got kind of funny. Richmond is hailed as the friendliest marathon course. So far I hadn’t seen it, but I didn’t really have much to compare it too besides Pittsburgh. Except for a mile or two here or there, the Pittsburgh course felt like a party the whole way, despite the lousy weather. The support over the course of the Richmond Marathon wasn’t as constant but it did have it’s quirks. After we left the riverside, we ran though a more residential area, passing a woman standing at the edge of her lawn with a noisemaker a huge bowl filled with pretzels held out the the runners. Lawn or even living room furniture filled with spectators was a common sight as was people out on their stoop or leaning out of a window shouting support. At one point I high-fived a little girl in footie pajamas still wearing a bit of breakfast on her cheeks. I remain awed by the support one finds when running a marathon not only from fellow runners but from the spectators. Before we took off Luke and I were discussing the way running in a marathon felt, how you could have this little rockstar experience that one might not get in any other context. It is hard to explain, but it is crazy to spend a few hours with people holding signs, screaming, telling you that you can do it, and you’ve got this, and you look great, passing you food and beverages and cops stopping traffic for you. Really, it’s just wild.

Remember those abandoned gloves? Without thinking, from mile 7 until about 12 I proceeded to take those gloves of unknown origins and wipe my entire face with them. Those gloves were on the ground and probably had been run over by a few hundred runners. Long distance running, as a general rule, is pretty gross. Around mile 10 I took a Gu gel which in retrospect was a mistake. I think the gel really screwed with my stomach for the next 10 miles forcing bathroom stops at miles 12, 14, and 16. I didn’t feel completely terrible, but I didn’t feel great either which sucked after the first 10 miles, which were pretty great. As I waited in line for the port-a-john at mile 12 I tucked my gloves into my bra, then realized it had warmed up and I really didn’t need them any more so back to the ground they went.

Around the halfway point I ran for a bit behind a woman who had a sign on her back saying that she was running in honor of her late husband who had died earlier this year. It was a sobering way to think about running as a solitary experience, even in the sea of runners. I saw her several times over second half of the race.

I hadn’t really poured over the course map the way I had for Pittsburgh. According to what I had read, something happened around mile 15, a hill or something. I knew whatever it was, it was coming and I was trying to prepare myself for it. Despite the stomach issues, I really wasn’t feeling too bad, but kept having weird thoughts about quitting, which was strange for me because that rarely happens. As I approached the marker for mile 15 I saw a long bridge stretch out to my left and I got excited because I love running bridges, then I realized that this was the dreaded thing. I couldn’t figure out why just looking at it so I made the turn with just a little pang of dread but still, looked forward to running the bridge. I got a “lookin’ good” from a cute cop as I hit the overpass. I allowed myself to think that she actually meant it just for the ego boost. Then I saw a sign that said, “Make the Lee Bridge Your Bitch.” It seemed like a good plan of attack. The view of the James River from the Lee Bridge was just extraordinary. This was a nice distraction until about ¾ of the way across the bridge when I realized that the problem was the bloody headwind. It felt like you were fighting for every step as the end of the bridge got closer, but then just like that it was over.

My stomach felt the worst miles 16 though 19. I was afraid that it was just going to get worse but as I ran on to mile 20 there was a drastic improvement. Somewhere in here I was offered pretzels, I don’t think it was from the designated junk food stop at mile 16 (where I had a gummy bear and tossed the rest of them. I don’t know how anyone eats a gummy bear while running). Again, a testament to how disgusting running is – the woman offering the pretzels, God bless her, had a hand full suspended over a bowl and deposited them directly into my hands after we made eye contact. Brilliant, because I didn’t even slow down. Disgusting because, well it was. I think double dipping amongst a group of marathoners wouldn’t even be an offense. Eating and running is something that I’ve been afraid of as I’m clumsy and figured that the focus required to chew and run would automatically result in my tripping right into a ditch, but I happily munched on 6 or 7 pretzels over the next few miles. I finally saw my cousin and her son at mile 19 which was a welcome sight and gave me a nice boost as I approached the last 6.2 miles.

Mile 20 always seems kind of scary because you’re tired, and maybe a little bored and you know that “the wall” is supposed to come and flatten you and grind you into the pavement. I made my last pit stop here and as I left decided that I should check out the local NPR station on the radio because I was bored with my music. A little clicking around revealed only a classical music station and no fun weekend NPR shows which was a disappointment, so back to the music. The beginning of mile 22 was a glorious festival of people and snacks. First the usual water and Powerade stop, then no kidding, a homemade sign showing pretzels and beer. As I was offered a cup I said, “beer?” to the nice lady and she nodded as I said “brilliant!” as I trotted off. Part of me wondered if this was a good idea. Theoretically I knew it was not, however as I gazed into the fizzy head atop my little dixie cup of light beer swill (yum!) I said what the hell and took a sip. It was good. I felt good. It was awesome.

As I approached mile 23 I saw what looked like someone stretching in the middle of the street off in the distance. I thought to myself, come on man, you’re going to do that, right there? You can’t move off to the side? As I got closer I saw a man crouched down with his right leg stretched out at an angle in front of him. In typical me fashion I was still a little annoyed even though there was plenty of room to get around him. I waited for him to switch legs and stretch out the other. A few more steps and I saw that his left leg was fitted with a running prosthetic. I don’t know how many times I have to prove to myself what an asshole I am. Running for me has always been a quantifiable way to know that I was improving at something. Distance running especially is a chance to see how I can push myself, to literally see how far I can go. Here was another reminder that there are other ways of pushing myself, to not be so quick to judge and quick to annoyance. Sometimes, yes you do just have to stretch right there in the middle of the street and everyone else will just have to get out of the way. As I passed I sped up and felt the full weight of my body on each foot as it touched the ground, grateful for each step. I cried right through to the water stop at mile 23.

I have a bad habit of wanting to be done with a run just before I hit my target distance. It’s like my body knows how far I need to go and really doesn’t want to go a single step farther and just to ensure that this doesn’t happen wants to stop just a mile or two before I’m done. This was mile 24. I kept flipping songs, looking for the right one and telling myself just two miles, you can do two miles without even trying. This is so easy, just keep going. At mile 25 I picked it up and “In for the Kill” by la Roux came on around mile 25.5. I booked it right into mile 26 and hit repeat. There is a short sharp downhill at the start of mile 26 which I actually think kind of sucked because the grade felt severe on my tired quads. The descent was short though and there was the finish line right in front of me. I surprised myself by running even faster, tired though I was, and was running about an 8 minute a mile pace as I crossed the finish. I hope to learn to maintain that kind of speed through the whole race in the future.

My official time was 4:51:06. It was better than my first by about 22 minutes, but not as good as I had secretly hoped. It was sub-5 hours and that was a time I could live with. I am happy that I learned to eat and run and to know how good a little beer can taste on the race course. I think I need to ditch the Gu for good and find something else that works for me, the bathroom stops are killing me and I’m far to slow to absorb them. Overall it was a fun and quirky race but I don’t think I feel the need to make it a repeat event, but thanks Richmond for a great race!

Today’s run was a fucking revelation. It was the prize for every step I’ve slogged through, every hour on the treadmill, every run I didn’t feel up for and did it anyway. For the past two weeks or so I’ve been cutting my miles back, in order to give myself a little rest before the big push during the 26.2 miles of the marathon. This is usually referred to as tapering in the running world. Very often when someone tells you they’re tapering, this is quickly followed by a reference to “taper madness”. After weeks of training, and ideally peaking your mileage towards the end of of your training cycle, squeezing miles in around your already busy schedule and then going out for 3-4 hours on the weekends all of a sudden, you’re not doing that. You have weird blocks of free time and you’re supposed to be resting those muscles a bit. This free time increases as the specter of the marathon comes closer.

This is not a formula conducive to maintaining one’s sanity. You begin to wish you had a hobby. One of course, which you’d probably have to drop during your next training cycle, so… you see the problem. For me with this free time, inevitably I end up reading more which is nice. However, I also seem to veer towards reading books about running, which makes me want to run, which I’m not supposed to do. This pisses me off and just fuels the fire of my already shit mood. For anyone who has had to deal with me on any kind of personal level for the past two week, allow me to offer my apologies now. Clearly all the blame lies on the taper.

With the Richmond marathon just a week away I realized on Friday that my running plan for this week probably had me logging too many miles. At the last minute I had to rethink my training for the weekend which lead me to shorten my last long run and skip another run entirely. This also didn’t make me feel particularly good. I was planning to do my long run on Saturday but was feeling kind of tired, so I pushed it off until today. Today’s run confirmed that this was the best decision. It took me about a mile and a half to warm up but once I did I found myself running faster than I typically do. I’m a slow runner. I enjoy the distance and try not to beat myself up for logging 12 minute miles. But today, I watched my Garmin report my time and I was shocked when I saw numbers that indicated I was running miles in the 9 or even 8 minute range. I maintained this for about 4.5 miles of my 6.5 mile run. For me this is race pace – like short race pace for a 5k or 10k. While I don’t expect to be able to run the entire marathon like this, it does make me feel confident that can pull down a better time than my lackluster 5:13 at Pittsburgh this past May.

I felt like a million bucks this morning, dodging strollers, and racing through intersections just before the light turned. It felt better, really than any monetary figure I can pin on it because I was running. This was no jog, no training run, no run just to get those miles logged. It was a beautiful thing.

So, I believe in the taper. I believe that sometimes you need to feel like you’re going backwards in order to make progress. I believe that I will rock the house during the Richmond marathon, because really, when you’re running you’re biggest challenger is yourself. Oh, and I also believe in getting new running socks a week prior to the race! So, I’m ready Richmond! See you next weekend!

As a newish resident of Ward 5, in Washington DC, I’ve been loosely following the race for our Councilmember as the September, 14th voting date comes closer. I’ve seen the number of street signs increase on lawns on my runs around the neighborhood. Months ago I became curious about Kenyan McDuffie and his stance on marriage equality and the recently passed approval of gay marriage in DC. I tweeted a question at him and after some back and forth due to technical issues, received a confirmation that he does indeed support same sex marriage (SSM). As I already knew that Harry Thomas had been an advocate of SSM this year when it counted, I knew that I had another candidate to at least consider. Recently I’ve been seeing signs for Delano Hunter. A little bit of digging revealed that he did not support SSM in any way and even went to far as to take money from NOM. Being a frequent user of Twitter, a few tweets revealed that he seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth, stating via his Twitter feed that

“There is much room in the SSM conversation for mutual respect and genuine open mindedness. What I’ve noticed at times is advocates on all sides that promote positions that do not take into account the complexity of this issue. There are ways in which we can provide equality and respect religious convictions and traditions. It’s just gonna take honest dialogue, openness, and compromise.”

As NOM’s sole purpose is to  campaign against gay marriage, guess who’s supposed to compromise? Delano Hunter says that he won’t move to overturn gay marriage in Washington, DC but clearly thinks that we’ve reached an adequate state of compromise. I find this curious as being married in the district still affords married, same sex couples little or no federal protections including social security spousal or survivor benefits, hospital visitation outside of the district, tax-free rollover for a non-spousal beneficiary for 401K retirement plans, etc., which are just a few of the examples of why localized SSM marriage laws are still not enough.

So based on this, you can imagine my surprise this morning upon waking to discover that the Washington Post has chosen to endorse Delano Hunter of the four candidates running for Ward 5 Councilmember. The article states,

Mr. Hunter is not a supporter of marriage equality, but he is not the homophobe his critics make him out to be, but rather someone who thinks there is a way to provide equality for gays while respecting the beliefs of religious groups. He said he would not seek to change the law.

It is this type of statement that truly drives home my second class status. I feel as if I am expected to respond by saying “Thanks for letting me live in this neighborhood with you fine, straight folks!” or be pleased that he’s going to be upset if someone tries to burn down my house because I’m gay. The message is really, it’s not okay to hate gay people, but it is okay to bar gay people from something that straight people don’t even have to think about. It is as if it is expected that I hate myself just enough to be grateful that I’m “welcome” and not question that an individual can represent my interests but not respect my right to love, to build a home, to raise a family and have that investment protected like any other couple. To know that if something happens to me I will be able to be seen in the hospital by the person I share that home with and I will be able to put provisions in place that protect that family in my absence.

Look, I don’t know anyone who enjoys mere toleration. Gay people live in Ward 5.  There are three other candidates for Ward 5 Councilmember. Harry Thomas, Kenyan McDuffie, and Tracy Turner all support marriage equality – pick one.

This morning I ran in the Global Race for the Cure 5K. It is the first time that I’ve done this particular race by myself. I admit to feeling an odd sense of entitlement when I am running in it. I find myself entertaining thoughts along the lines of “get out of my way with your stupid stroller,” or “why the hell did you stop dead two steps in front of me – you signed up to run and we’re a quarter of a mile in,” or “I know that you didn’t just throw an elbow right into my survivor shirt just to gain a whole step in front of me, asshole.” It feels like my race. I had breast cancer, so all of you, really you’re running for me. I own that shit. At least that’s the weird twist my brain puts on it when I’m out there. It’s always crowded. It’s always blisteringly hot, even though it starts early. Honestly, were it any other race, there’s no way I’d do it every year.

But I got up early. I ran to the metro for a warm up, rode down to Chinatown and jogged over to 7th. I had considered doing the “Parade of Pink” because they move to the front of the race line, though I think that would make me feel like I was on display in a weird way, but I got there a little too late. I did hear the official announce the Survivor of The Year, which made me wonder how the competition plays out for that annually, considering the nature of the honor. It’s funny if you think of it in the right context. Honest. So, instead I walked over towards the start line and noticed that there were signs placed where the parade of survivors would go so I meandered over and squeezed myself in before the actual parade came.

It’s so big and such and event that the time you spend waiting at the start gets tedious.You are bored. Everyone around you is bored too, and when there is any indication that you’re going to get to move, the crowd converges in on you from all sides. It’s a little frightening. So the gun went off after I listened to half of the playlist I had prepared for the race and the crush made its way across the start line. The first hard turn is not long after the start line, and the crowd is still thick. So it’s kind of annoying because I felt as if I was getting pushed more towards the sidewalk the closer I got to the turn. The crowd stayed heavy until the first mile when the heat really starts to get to everyone, and some runners succumb to improper pacing at the start. I started out fast for me, somewhere around a 9 minute mile. I felt good but knew the heat, and that thick cotton survivor shirt that I actually wore right out of the race packet like an idiot, would eventually get to me.

Mile 2 was uneventful. The sun was brutal and as I approached mile 3 I discovered the benefit to starting out in the back of the pack – I was missing the freak sightings which make this kind of thing amusing. My pace had slowed a bit, but I was still running sub-10/mile, I was getting passed, but I was also doing my own share of passing, however there were no pink flamingo hats, only one tutu, and no big teams, feather boas, anything. All I could do was repeat my “make it easy, make it light” mantra in my head, turn up the Gnarls Barkley, and wonder how much of a disaster it would be if I tried to take off my shirt for the last half mile while running instead of finishing wearing the equivalent of a  soaked cotton towel. Next year, damn the gun time – I’m running in the back of the pack, just because it’s more fun!

When the finish line became visible, I checked out my Garmin and sure enough, it looked like I was going to come in sub-30 minutes. If it happened, this would be the first time that I’ve ever done that and it was my goal for the race. Sure enough, my official time was net- 29:33. 29th/258 bc survivors, 786th woman to cross the finish and 147/856 in my division. For me this was not bad, not bad at all. Still, next year I’m going to run at the back, just to try and get the full experience.

Sunday, May 2nd was my first marathon. All week the weather was predicted to be pretty nasty – rain and thunderstorms all morning. I hate running in the rain, plus the added possibility of a dealing with lightening made for a doubly stressful week leading up to the race. However Saturday was beautiful, if hot and the severity of Sunday’s predicted weather diminished as the day went on. By Sunday morning, the reports said that the thunderstorm would probably occur later in the day, if at all, and the morning would just have scattered showers.
My cousin’s husband, L. and I decided to run this marathon during a family Christmas Eve party. They live in WV so we met up in Pittsburgh for the weekend. The morning of the race, after scarfing a bagel and peanut butter, some gatorade, and a mini snickers bar, we met up at 6:30 and made our way down to the starting line. His wife and son along with Joanna  accompanied us despite the early hour.
L. is a faster runner than I, so we waited together, heard the gun go off and made our way toward the start line. After crossing the time-chip line, we separated. I tried to avoid starting off too fast and getting caught up in all the excitement at the start line. I checked my pace, and reigned myself in a bit.
Hour 1, Miles 1-5
Typically in any run, I hate the first two miles. Even in a short run, I hate the first two miles, and this experience was no different. During a race my nerves get the best of me and I have to pee in the first 30 minutes. Apparently I’m not the only one because I had my longest port-a-potty wait around mile 2, at 2.5 minutes. I met my cousin, her son, and Joanna around mile three as we looped back near the start line before crossing our first bridge. It had just started to rain in earnest, so they were all under umbrellas. I stole a quick smooch and headed off. The rain really picked up then, and it kind of stung when it smacked you in the face as it dripped from the bridge arches . I started to get worried about the slickness of the metal bridge joints, so I tried to be mindful of them.
Hour 2, Miles 5-10
These miles were uneventful. I was surprised to find myself on the 7th Street bridge near the Warhol museum. I didn’t really take a good look at the marathon map pre-race. I enjoyed the slight incline as we approached the West End Bridge and passed my second runner freak (which I love) – a guy dressed up in a Steelers jersey, complete with football. I checked his bib, and he was in it for the full. I told him that his outfit was awesome, wondered when he was going to ditch that football, and kept going. Around mile 10 I started checking out bibs. There were a lot of half-marathoners and relay runners. I began to wonder what the course would be like once the halfers branched off of the course. By this time it was steadily raining. I was really glad I bought a good lightweight hat. Typically I hate running with anything on my head, but I was so soaked that rain was dripping off the bill of my cap. With all that rain on my face, I would have been beyond miserable.
Hour 3, Miles 10 – 15
Somewhere after mile 12 started the hilly portion of the run. I knew it was coming. I was still maintaining a decent pace, was drinking a lot and walking through the water stops. As a result I had to stop at the port-a-potties pretty frequently, maybe once an hour. Fortunately there was never a line, but it was still annoying as this doesn’t usually happen for me on my long runs. It’s possible that I wouldn’t have needed to stop so much but I kept thinking about avoiding any kind of unfortunate accident near the end of the race so I just stopped when inclined.
At mile 11 the half marathoners broke off from the full marathon course. All of a sudden the course really cleared out and you could see who was in it for the long haul. There were some ROTC kids hanging out in the rain waiting for the marathoners to go by who offered a lot of support which was nice. Mile 12 had the Nike DJ who, at the time was playing MC Hammer which was fun and energizing. Going up the hill around mile 13 on Forbes Ave., I realized I was half way, that so far, it had been pretty easy, despite the rain and told myself that I could just keep going exactly the way I had been, and then I’d be done. Just past the aid station I watched a not-so-lucky marathoner toss her cookies all over the street, stumble over to the sidewalk and do it again. I tried to wave to the paramedics down the hill but they must of thought that I was gesturing to someone else, so I ran down the hill a bit to tell them about the situation. The woman might have been fine, but if I hadn’t said anything, I would have worried about it for the rest of the race.
Hour 4, Miles 15 – 20
These miles were a bit of a blur. I was just plugging away. I was feeling a little tired but was seriously suprised around mile 18 that I felt pretty solid. I was a little bored, which never happens on a long run, sick of all of my music, but still going strong. I started to wonder when I was just going to feel exhausted but quickly put the thought out of my head. If I’m not mistaken, somewhere around mile 17 we ran past a church where there were kids banging on some marching band type instruments, and just down the hill was a band called “Fire and Sex”. There was pretty much no point where you could just hear one group or the other. It must have been driving the band nuts, but the kids looked oblivious and seemed to be having a good time. There were a lot of kids on this part of the route, many lined up for high fives, which was amusing. Around mile 19 was Steel City Greyhouds, a greyhound rescue group. There were lots of dogs. I thought it would be bad form to run over and pet one, but I really wanted to.
During this time, the rain had let up and I was just wet, and tired of being wet. It was still so humid that even the barely-there quick-dri fabric of my singlet was soaked and just didn’t dry at all.
Hour 5, Miles 20-25
By this time I was starting to get tired and hungry. Not  in a I-can’t-take-another-step kind of way, but more like it’s Sunday, and I’d like brunch and a nap. At mile 20, I felt good. I was running a little more slowly, but not by much and despite the tired and hungry stuff, I was still feeling surprisingly good. At that point it was the furthest that I had ever run, and I knew it and was trying not to psych myself out about it. Everyone that I had spoken with who’d run a marathon acknowledged that the last 6 miles were all mental, so I was trying not to screw it up.
Considering that everyone knows that we were entering the worst part, there were lots of great aid station action and fun mile sponsors through this area. Around mile 20 there was a church group passing out water. Near the water table there was a man with a sign that said “Need Prayer?” and an arrow to a few people. I’m not religious in anyway but at that point a little extra help didn’t sound like a bad idea. I giggled as I ran past. Later another church group was passing out orange slices, which will no doubt be the best tasting fruit that I will ever eat. Further ahead another church group was out there with their own cups and water. I was becoming a little overwhelmed by the kindness and graciousness of the volunteers, standing for hours in the rain just to help me get through this run. It makes it hard to believe that, at our very core, humans aren’t hardwired to do good.
Around mile 22 I started to feel it. I was tired. I had taken 3 Gu gels already and could feel my stomach getting a bit weird, and debated opening up the last one I had brought but decided to hold off. At the water station the guy who handed me a glass of water looked into my eyes and said, “You’ve got this – don’t think about it.” For the next mile I tried to heed his advice. Okay, let’s not think about it. Um… so, what do I think about, then? At that point I realized that I pretty much hadn’t been thinking about anything really during the whole race. I had just kind of zoned out and focused on what was in front of me. When it didn’t seem to work, I ran through some topics in my head and felt myself slow down. I stretched my arms, switched songs on the ipod, and just tried to get in a good headspace.
Then I hit Bloomfield and it was just in time. It was like a block party. Thre were multiple bands, a lovely old lady on a PA system welcoming the runners and encouraging us to keep going. The buzz was palpable and I was distracted by everything that was going on. It was perfect. My feet felt lighter, and as I approached the water station, Shakira was playing. At this point I lost it and turned into the freaky runner. I skipped and danced my way through the water stop, while double fisting water and gatorade. After dumping the cups I switched my ipod back on and the Beastie Boy’s “Fight for your Right” came on. I was in. I began running a 10 minute mile at mile 23. I played air drums and pumped my fist in the air to the beat and passed a bunch of walkers who must have thought I was nuts. At one point I saw a woman in a bus shelter give me a weird amused look, I caught her eye and looked a bit sheepish, she smiled and I kept running. It was downhill and beautiful and I was on a roll. I went on like this until mile 25, where I got tired again, but not nearly as tired as I had been at mile 22.
The Last 1.2 Miles
There were lots of cruel turns in the last 1.2 miles. I kept looking for the finish line but really, maybe it was best that I couldn’t see it. Finally at the last turn, there it was. I felt awesome and tried to decide if I should mug for the camera as I crossed the finish line. I rolled into the finish running a good pace and I didn’t feel like I was going to die. I heard my partner yell my name and caught a glimpse of my family as I approached the line.
It didn’t take long for the stiffness to settle into my muscles. Despite the fact that the rain had ended, I was still soaked, and now cold. I never thought that those foil wraps would do any good, but they were welcome insulation from the little bit of wind. My cousin’s husband had already finished so my parnter passed me a larabar and I leaned on my Dad as we walked back to the hotel for showers. After we headed to Primanti Brothers near the airport so Joanna could have her first coleslaw and french fry laden sandwich. I was starving, and stiff but ultimately, felt pretty amazing.
I’m not crazy about my finish time of 5:13:50. My goal was to come in sub-5:00 but I’ve decided to be satisfied with this time for my first marathon. I didn’t hit the wall, I finished strong, and I only walked through the water stops. I got emotional around the start and again at mile 20. After bagging my first half-marathon training with the breast cancer bull shit, I know even when my run sucks, it’s better than not being able to do it. Hitting mile 20 and knowing just how far I had come was an amazing moment. Now,  if I can just figure out how not to stop at the port-a-potties, I can easily shave a whole lot of minutes from my time…
Two days later I am still sore, my body feels oddly swollen, the tops of my feet hurt and my toes are the same shade of pink as a raw, skinless chicken cutlet. I’m waiting for some toe nails to darken, but am hoping they won’t as my feet are already a hot mess. I’m trying not to run until next Monday, but oddly I’m already thinking about it despite the fact that it takes a few minutes to get up the stairs. I’m checking out the race calendar, looking for the next one, trying to figure out how best to improve my time.
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