A Guest Post by Chris the Husband.
Mercedes and I have a history. We loved, and we lost. Ingrid, wherever she is now, is a 2002 SLK AMG, a two-seat retractable hardtop convertible with 350HP. I cling to the happy memories, and think of her fondly when the Spring peeks through the cracks in Winter’s wall.
I’ve been running weekly for 12 years now, nearly always alone, but it takes me a while to reach new heights. Only a few months before I bought Ingrid, in February 2012, I ran my first half-marathon. The local premiere race series in Birmingham is the Mercedes Marathon Weekend, a 5K, children’s events, a half, and a full marathon.
I enjoyed the experience, but after 13.1 miles on that cold morning 3 years ago, I was exhausted, nauseous, and nearly fainted at the finish line after stopping suddenly. I didn’t believe people my size, my age, and my historical activity level could ever live going around the loop again – the Full Mercedes is a double-loop course – so the average half-marathoner gets lapped by the motorcade accompanying the full marathon leaders, generally an exceptionally fit and lanky bunch who are totally killing it running 5 minute miles and blowing past all the water stops.
I was content to be a running loner, and a half-marathoner, and went on about my life, bought the aforementioned convertible at a delightfully depreciated price, and rode off into the sunset on a daily basis.
Fourteen months later, after waving goodbye to Ingrid, who was happily in the hands of another man, I was a newbie member of the Birmingham Track Club, in particular a new regular attender of the Saturday Morning Long Run group that meets at 6am on Saturday mornings at the Trak Shak on 18th Street in Homewood, right down the hill from Vulcan.
This is a diverse group of weekend warriors – from easy going 13:00/mile folks to 6:00/mile shirtless guys – and everyone in between. Feel free to come out and run with us anytime. I can’t thank them enough for the friends they’ve become, the encouragement to push myself, or the passion I got to try the unthinkable – the Full Mercedes Marathon.
6000 people start the race, and 4500 stop at 13.1 miles. The rest go around again, with less company, less energy, less pomp, and less circumstance.
The long, lonely second lap was a mountain I wanted to climb.
By now it was the fall of 2013, and although I wanted to – I already mentioned I’m a slow burn on new levels of achievement – I didn’t think I could get ready by February, so I made a year-ahead commitment to run the marathon in 2015, to give me a whole year with the track club to develop my base ahead of the marathon training season.
I stuck with it for all of 2014, and the scorching heat of August with its dripping wet running clothes faded into the marathon training season and rainy December Saturdays doing 17 miles in wet squishing shoes, also with dripping wet running clothes.
The longest training run I did was 22 miles, and for much of it my sore legs made me doubt my endurance, but I was determined to finish the full marathon – walking, crawling, or otherwise.
Race week rolled around, and with a gross sinus infection not getting any better, I got shots on Saturday and began antibiotics before a light supper and an early bedtime. I had only been on antibiotics for about 21 hours when the race started, so my apologies to any runners who grabbed a handful of gummy bears or Vaseline or both out the same bowls that I did.
Sunday morning brought a light rain and a mild temperature, better than the storms forecast earlier in the week. I had no time or pace goals for this day – merely to survive – so I ran at a comfortable pace, whatever that meant at the time, and I crossed the finish line 5 hours and 18 minutes later, with a group of BTC friends waiting and cheering, escorting me in, videoing, and high-fiving.
I wasn’t about to die. I wasn’t nauseous. I didn’t want to faint. I could have kept going. I felt far better this day than I had 3 years before after half the distance.
All 38 years and 200 pounds of me crossed the finish line of a full marathon with breath and energy to spare. The chubby 2nd grader in my yearbook cannot believe it. So the truth is, a bunch of you people could totally do this. Maybe not on your own, but with a little help from your friends.
And I’m at peace with Ingrid. I wish her well in her new life. I’m Team Mercedes all the way.