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FOG Chronicles: The Marathon

By Richard Hubbard

Buffalo, NY – The date: October 25, 2004. The time 7:00 AM

Well, it happened. Right on time, the Casino Niagara Marathon was underway at 10:00 yesterday.

The first thing to explain is that a marathon isn't just a simple race. First of all, as you may have understood from the start of this chronicle, the marathon is not a race you just jump out the door and run. At least 4 months of training is involved, depending on your initial condition. In my case, it was closer to 8 months. Four months to get into a basic condition, then 4 more of actual training. This run had entrants from 30 countries, including Japan, Italy, Poland and Mexico. Of course, the eventual winner was from Kenya.

Which means you don't give someone a race number, and a t-shirt, and send them to the start line. You make a weekend of it.

For me, the weekend started with a 'breakfast run' starting at about 8:00AM on Saturday. The invitation was to go on a 2 mile jog, and get free breakfast afterwards. How could I turn down a free breakfast?

Before the breakfast run, various people spoke, including a woman named Kathrine Switzer (her name is spelled without the E. in the middle). If you have never heard of her, you are missing one of the great modern legends of sport, including how she fought off an army of muggers to become the first woman to officially run and finish the Boston Marathon in 1967. (I will leave it to the listener to search for her story and learn more details).

After breakfast was an expo. The expo is a large sales event, where various vendors are showing off the latest in running attire, accessories, and 'must go to' races, including a booth for the 2005 Buffalo Marathon. Lots of free samples, and very entertaining lectures by Ms. Switzer and her husband.

After the expo is a pasta dinner, to load up all the runners with all the carbohydrates they will need the next day.

The next morning is the race. The day was cold and rainy, but the Albright Knox Art Gallery opened up so that people could do their stretching inside. The rain stopped just in time for the race.

Finally at 10:00 AM the race started to the sound of a sonic boom. I know I didn't cause that.

The first few miles through Buffalo were like one big party. Lots of people cheering, Mostly friends and family and just a few interested bystanders.

At about 5 miles, we cross the Peace Bridge, and the climb up and down the hill is barely noticed as there is an entertaining storyteller running the race with me, telling tales of his past marathons.

At the halfway point, I see my time and am proud. I ran the first half of this marathon 15 minutes faster than I ran a half marathon last May. But I am worried. I am starting to feel tired. Will I have enough energy and resolve to make it to the end?

At the 19 mile point, I am reaching a milestone. I know I can go more than 20 miles, but I don't know how much more.

At 20 miles, several people I had trained with join me to keep me company for the last 6 miles of the run. Apparently, this is a 'marathon tradition'. I thank them, and am able to keep up my end of a conversation for another couple of miles.

At 23 miles, I can no longer talk. The weariness is becoming too much. But my friends are there, running when they don't have to. I think of Kathrine Switzer, who finished even after getting mugged. I think of everyone who supported me through the training. I refuse to embarrass myself and quit. I continue on.

At 26 miles I curse the British King that added the extra point 2 miles to the marathon.

At 26.2 miles I run across the finish line. I raise my arms in a lame imitation of Rocky.

I did it. In 4 hours, 36 minutes, I ran a marathon. Not everyone who started training for the run even started the race, not everyone who started the race finished it. And millions of people didn't even train for the race. And I finished it.

Now what. I have run a marathon. Do I stop there? No. I'm a runner now. I can see what running has done for me, the new friends I met and the new resolve I have found. I think I'll sign up for the Buffalo Marathon.

Will this set of tales of a Fat old Guy conquering a marathon help anyone else do the same kind of task?

Why don't you let me know how it goes? For the FOG Chronicles, I'm Richard Hubbard.

Listener-Commentator Richard Hubbard is a computer instructor for ITT.