Dr. J on Running

34 Kroll's Diner Bismarck Marathon, Bismarck, ND

21 September 2013

On my last day as Platinum Elite on Delta, I flew First Class to BIS via MSP, and enjoyed my monthly cup of Bailey’s in coffee. While waiting to connect in MSP, a book title caught my attention “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Japanese author and runner Haruki Murakami. I bought it and read it on the trip, and added it to my list of favorite books.

I dined at McDonald’s on Thursday – three spicy chicken wings and a quarter pounder with bacon minus the bun. I noticed the Help Wanted sign offering a $500 hiring bonus and wages of $10-$15 per hour. North Dakota enjoys low unemployment thanks to its oil industry.

Friday morning, I enjoyed a cappuccino at Grandma Ginna’s at Kirkwood Mall where I picked up my race packet. I rated the long-sleeve technical shirt as one of my favorites, on par with the shirts from WY, AK and ME. I stopped at Kroll’s Diner to thank them for sponsoring the marathon, and ate liver and onions for lunch – the liver was dry and overcooked. Then, I drove to Cottonwood Park to check out the race site.

Friday night, I joined a handful of Marathon Maniacs for dinner at Walrus, including Mike and Deb whom we met in Maine and Alaska, and Michelle Mom’o’6 on her 49th state. I ate a good piece of sirloin steak with potatoes and broccoli, and retired early to a good night of sleep.

I woke up very early on Saturday morning, made a fresh cup of coffee, and ate a banana with two slices of raisin bread – the one remaining non-Paleo component of my diet. I picked up a small latte from McDonald’s, and drove to the race start line. I parked 50 feet away from the start/finish line, met David the race director and thanked him for hosting us. I spent the next two hours shuffling between my warm car and the port-a-potties. There were so many port-a-potties that I never waited in line.The temperature dipped into the thirties by sunrise.

Ten Marathon Maniacs gathered for a group picture at the start. I met Maniac Linda, an Air Force widow running in memory of Phil, killed in Kabul. My early morning chat with her put marathon and life in sharp perspective. A day later, I ran again with Linda through MSP to catch our respective flights home. She is one brave woman.

An a capella singing of the National Anthem, a few announcements and introductions, and we went on our way. The marathon, half-marathon and relay runners started all together. It was enjoyably crowded and noisy the first couple of miles, as we ran straight into a crisp bright sunrise. I wore the previous day’s socks on my hands, and a wind-breaker to stay warm.

The race director located the only hill in North Dakota and included it twice in his marathon course. He plans to skip the hill next year, and route the course along the Missouri river. The two-loop course ran up-and-down the mile-long hill to the University of Mary at Mile 5 and then at Mile 18. Armed with this information, I ran conservatively the first 5 miles in just under an hour, and climbed the 200-foot hill at a steady pace. I ran downhill with a full stride, and passed 11 miles in well under two hours. After a 9:30 12th mile, I finished the first loop in 2:18, my fastest first half in a marathon since the Marine Corps in 1997.

The course had an abundance of water stops and cheerful volunteers. I disciplined myself to stop at alternate water stops to avoid bloating. Happy with my pace and my body, I skipped the customary half-Powerbar every hour. Once I passed the halfway point and the field thinned out significantly with the departure of half-marathoners, my mind switched away from the marathon at hand to the next one, and I slowed down into survival mode. I knew I had Bismarck in the bag, so I focused on minimizing the damage to ensure a speedy recovery. With such a bad attitude, I alternated walking and running, loitered at the water stations to thank the volunteers, socialized with fellow runners, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

I met Elizabeth not far into the second loop. She was running her first marathon, and had the modest goal of finishing it – preferably under five hours. She gave me an excuse to run with her a few miles, until we came upon 50-stater Darryl who was hurting visibly. I bid Elizabeth farewell, and walked with Darryl. He had considered dropping out, even though ND was his 49th state. I talked him into walking with me to the top of the hill, confident that he could roll down safely and finish the race – that proved to be the happy ending.

I resumed running at the top of the hill to the cheers of University of Mary physical therapy co-eds sizing up their future customers. I passed Mile 21 in under 4 hours, and projected a finishing time of 4:56. I released my brakes on the downhill and floated on my tippy toes, but my exuberance proved to be short-lived. My right ITB complained violently, and I grinded to a halt. I stood to lose a lot and gain nothing by continuing to run, so I ingested a pair of Ibuprofens with half a Powerbar, and walked gently down the hill and onto the flat trail, a total of just under two miles. I resumed jogging around Mile 23 when my knee felt totally fine. I planned to alternate a half-mile of running with a half-mile of walking, and revised my projected finishing time to 5:14.

I felt amazingly good the last three miles. I ran most of the way, walking a little bit here and there out of an abundance of caution. I maintained my hydration regimen, took two more Ibuprofens, and headed for the finish line. I crossed the Finish in 5:04, my best marathon since Alabama in December 2010.

I visited with Mike and Deb for a few minutes in the finish area, then proceeded post haste to Kroll’s Diner for steak and eggs. This time, the chef did not disappoint. I devoured the food, and topped it off with a slice of apple kuchen, a delectable German delicacy. Following a long shower and a short nap, I met Mike and Deb downtown for a very nice dinner.

Dr Kamal Jabbour completed his 34th marathon and 34th state in North Dakota. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2013 Dr Kamal Jabbour