17 September 2008

How I Met Your Blogger

It’s probably bad form to steal a title from a television show I’ve never seen. So what? Flog me. It’s catchy. It works. But with the election drawing near, it’s time you all knew. I can see Russia on a map from my house. No, that’s not it. No, what you must know is how I landed on RunRunLive. It’s a fun story, it’s time you knew. (If you’re reading this on Blogspot, my alternate hosting site, Chris’s site www.RunRunLive.com is the primary home. Go there. Cool stuff.)

A couple of posts ago I wrote about a chance meeting with a gentleman named Claude. He was just another guy out walking down the street, or was he? Oh, what you don’t know about people. Well, that’s sort of how I met Chris.

It’s October of 2005 and I toe the line in downtown Falmouth for my first marathon. I’ve followed the standard marathon prep plan. I’ve eked out one twenty-miler. I have no idea what will happen at twenty three, let alone beyond. To top it off, every time I tell someone it’s my first marathon, the almost universal response is, “And you picked this one? It’s hard!”

So to say I planned a conservative race is a bit of an understatement. As with everyone else running their first, all I really wanted was to finish. It was something I’d wanted since my First Lap days. Goal Number Two was four hours. And I’d mentioned to just a few people that I had a stretch goal of 3:30. That seemed unlikely based on my 20-miler pace, but, well, it was a stretch goal.

Cape Cod may be a tough course, but it’s a dramatic place to start your marathoning career: they start the race with a cannon. Ka-BOOM, off we go. Irrational exuberance. At mile 1, someone’s playing the theme from Rocky, and I find myself yelling, “Adrian!” Adrenaline! Pumped! What am I doing? Slow down, you idiot, this is your first marathon, and it’s going to be a long morning.

By mile 4 or 5 or so I find myself in an animated group of runners who are clearly fueled on banter. I have no idea who these people are, and I feel a little out of my league since they all seem so, well, so used to this, but like most runners, they’re friendly and don’t mind at all my attempts to catch up with their high-speed conversation. Our chatter is interrupted at every mile marker as I and a couple other newbies check our watches and generate mild curses at our out-of-control 3:10ish pace. What in God’s name are we doing? Why can’t I slow down?
Well, because we’re having fun! These guys are running a marathon and having fun! What a concept. The apparent ringleader of this troupe in particular. He’s chatting up everyone around him, telling stories of his hellacious week ranging from canine-transmitted poison ivy to power failures, and generally keeping our minds off the 20 left to go. Nearing mile 8 I mention that my family will be out, and as we approach he yells, “Photo Opp!” and makes sure the pack parts so my wife gets a good shot (she does, as you can see, one of the few race pictures ever taken where I do not look like Death Warmed Over). After issuing a few more mile-marker-induced oaths, Sir Ringleader catches on to what’s happening in my head and drops one of the more memorable lines I’ve heard in a race, which of course I paraphrase for maximum drama: “Look,” he says, “You can run your perfect 8 minute miles from here till the finish and get your perfect 3:30, or you can do what you’re doing now, go out way too fast, crash horribly, struggle valiantly, drag yourself home, and still get your 3:30. Which is going to give you the better story to tell on Monday morning?”

Of course, he’s smack on target. Eventually I lose track of this pack, and as advertised, things get ugly later on when the Cape Cod course starts dishing out its seemingly endless series of not-all-that-big-but-big-enough rolling hills. I smack the wall, the wheels fall off, the body is goes into a weird tingle zone, the vision is flashing, my wife is pretty darn worried at how I look coming in, and guess what? I get my 3:30. Actually, 3:29. And a hell of a story for Monday morning. So good, in fact, that I get tired of telling it, and write it up. Such is born my first blog. I’ll post it someday.

It would end there, but a few days later I’m perusing Coolrunning, and there’s an article on the Cape Cod Marathon. The author’s got me in stitches. Then he starts talking about these people around him going way faster than their target pace. Gee, sounds familiar. Then, no way, can’t be! The dog and the poison ivy! The power failures! The rest of the story…it all matches up!

Long story short (who am I kidding, my stories are never short!), Sir Ringleader was none other than Chris Russell, writer for Coolrunning and other various venues, author of The Midpacker’s Lament (which, by the way, includes the Monday Morning Story bit), and Exalted Member of the Runnerati, that shadowy network of people who all seem to know each other. We’ve gotten to know each other over the past couple years including a very amusing day at the Fred Brown Relays – another story for another post. My first marathon write-up became a tradition of post-race write-ups, and so when Chris became the Keymaster of RunRunLive, the rest is still being written.

Kind of like running into Claude the other day. Who knew?

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