Dr. J on Running

7 Myrtle Beach Marathon, SC, where the wall tumbled down

Saturday 19 February 2011

I adopted a simple strategy for the Myrtle Beach Marathon: walk half-a-mile, run half-a-mile, and repeat until N=26 or calf=pain. This strategy allowed me to run for once in Marla’s shoes. A full moon in a dark 45-degree sky, a national anthem complete with ramparts, and a civil war canon sent off 6,000 runners into downtown Myrtle Beach.

As I nursed my injury by walking the first half-a-mile, I suffered the added insult of being passed by two flight attendants who sit in the back of the plane during take-off, an amputee with a prosthetic leg, a first-round elimination on the biggest loser game show, the oldest living man in the Carolinas, a Mother Teresa look-alike – except smaller, and a devil impersonator complete with horns and fork. I traded lead with these characters for many miles.

I met the 5:30 pace group at the start. Our pacer, 30-year-old Holly from Michigan, went through the usual pre-run safety brief, advised us that there are toilets at each end of the course, and suggested going into the bushes when necessary. I followed her advice with an unexpected outcome.

Two miles into the Marathon, excessive hydration sent me behind a bush. As I relieved myself, a voice from the bush spoke to me. “Dr. Jabbour,” he said, “you are the last person I expected to see here.” “Who are you?” I asked. The short-haired fair young man answered: “I am Peter of Seymour Johnson. We are almost F-15 mission capable.”

The sight of an ACE 2006 graduate with his pants down lifted my spirits the rest of the way. I laughed loud every time I thought of him, and left my fellow runners wondering about my frame of mind. Subsequent off-course excursions proved uneventful, albeit co-educational.

The temperature rose with the sun. I passed 10 miles in 2:06, 11 minutes faster than my 10-mile run on O’ahu a week ago. I felt good, except for a nagging pain in my left butt. I stuck a finger into the site of the pain. With nine fingers to spare and no sign of calf distress, I limped along. I passed 13.1 miles in 2:45 as the field thinned out with the loss of the half-marathoners.

I continued my walk-run-drink-pee routine like clockwork. I passed Holly on the run, and she passed me on the walk. Her 5:30 pace group dissipated gradually, and she ran alone the last few miles. My calf held up well, and my butt became numb from manipulation. Both big toes blistered symmetrically, ensuring that I maintained a straight posture. The temperature rose into the seventies. I felt good. I thought of Peter and laughed. I sprinted towards the chute and crossed the Finish in 5:32:18, for a chip time of 5:29:24.

With South Carolina behind me, 43 states remain ahead of me. A thorough analysis of the data dump from my Timex GPS confirmed that I ran the perfect Marathon. All my splits hovered around 12:45 minutes per mile. I did not cramp up, and I did not feel tired. For the first time ever, I did not hit the wall. North Carolina, here I come.

Dr Kamal Jabbour looks forward to the Wrightsville Beach Marathon in four weeks, with an irresistible urge to walk half of it. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphines call.

© 2011 Dr Kamal Jabbour