Dr. J on Running

Manchester City Marathon

Sunday 7 November 2010

The ten-day weather forecast iterated between cold-sunny and blustery-snowy. I experimented with short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, hoodies and wind suits, mittens and socks. I waited with apprehension for race morning and a last minute decision on attire. Meanwhile, I pondered the unknown of running two Marathons 28 days apart.

November ushered the Tea Party into congress, and to me a trip to Dulles and Atlanta. I tapered off with a 6-mile run on Monday and a 2-mile jog on Friday. I took off from work on Friday and stayed lazily at home. Saturday morning, Marla and I made the 350-mile 6-hour drive to Manchester. We picked up our packets and numbers, and met race director Sarah – a lovely twenty-something ultra runner.

Our hotel room wreaked of a strong smell of curry. We dined at Bertucci’s. Marla kept alive a pre-race tradition of experimenting with an exotic dinner that gave her the runs on her half-marathon run. I stuck with dry pasta, grilled chicken and steamed asparagus – Alfredo on the side. The Tiramisu disappointed.

Sunday morning brought windy and cold to a course described as hilly and challenging. Marla opted to start an hour early with three dozen deliberate runners. I stayed warm inside the race hotel, and contemplated my choice of clothing. Shortly before the start, I removed the wind pants. Seconds before the gun, I removed the long-sleeve cotton shirt. I ended up running the race with a long-sleeve sweat-wicking shirt, a pair of pocketed shorts, and a pair of socks on my hands. I wore no hat. The resulting run vindicated my choice of attire.

I started the race slowly, averaging 11:30 pace the first several miles. I walked a minute every two miles, and drank water and Gatorade at every aid station. The figure-8 course passed by the Start around 13.1 miles shedding two thirds of the runners. My right illiotibial band became irritated and very painful around mile 13, but the pain subsided as we moved to the left by mile 14. The never-ending rolling hills aggravated an already-irritated knee and forced me to stop several times to rub it and loosen it.

Earlier in the race, I met Meghan, a personal trainer from Peterborough, NH, on a mission to pace a friend to a 2:30 half. We ran and chatted on-and-off for several miles. Her task complete, she took off at the half. I caught up with her around mile 18 and ran together a couple miles. A sore hip flexor forced her to walk. I reached mile 18 in 3:18, an 11-minute pace and 7 minutes slower than Steamtown.

Maureen ran Manchester as her ninth Marathon. She had run five times Boston as a fundraiser for the Liver Foundation. She calls herself a liver! She plans to run five Marathons next year to celebrate turning 50.

The downhills in the later miles took eventually a toll on my knees and forced me to walk repeatedly. Confident of completing the race, I abandoned illusions of a 4:40 finish and walked much of the twenties. Meghan caught up with me on the last mile, and we ran together. A spectator urged me on “you can beat her” to which I invoked Bill Cosby “there will be no beating today.” We finished strong in 4:55 – two minutes faster than Steamtown. I bid Meghan farewell, then Marla and I embarked on the 7-hour ride home.

Symptoms of food poisoning and frequent potty breaks did not slow down Marla. She finished the half in 2:46, significantly faster than her time at the Arc half in September. A McDonald’s take-out bag served the dual role of a breathing bag and backup sickness bag on the ride home. Fortunately, she spared the Terrain.

Sore knees ushered the morning after as I headed to Houston. My Achilles and quads felt fine. I iced the knees at every opportunity, and felt well enough to run 2 miles on Tuesday morning. By the third day, soreness and pain subsided into the noise. My left index toe turned black, ushering potentially my first toe nail loss in 20+ years of running.

Five states down, 45 to go. Alabama here I come.

Dr Kamal Jabbour embarked on a challenge to run a Marathon in each of the 50 United States. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphines call.

© 2010 Dr Kamal Jabbour