Dr. J on Running

38 Hyannis Marathon, Hyannis, MA

23 February 2014

My immune system collapsed after the Carlsbad Marathon, and I caught a nasty cold. I spent a week at home with a cough, runny nose, congested sinuses, earaches and sore throat. Dr. Small prescribed over-the-counter decongestant and bed rest, and Marla tended to my needs. I managed to sneak a couple of miles on the treadmill whenever she went out to get me groceries.

My first illness in three years curtailed my mileage and my energy. I abandoned an 18-mile run after only 2 miles, and I braced myself for running the Hyannis Marathon with an anemic mileage base and a longest run of only 10 miles. Six days out, I got sick again, cancelled a business trip to St Louis, and slept for two days.

The weather forecast called for two winter storms to bracket a short warm spell over the weekend. I drove east towards the ocean with few illusions. I enjoyed walking around Hyannis in sunny 45 degrees on Saturday afternoon. I picked up my race packet and nice cotton long-sleeve shirt, alas the same shirt for the Marathon and the Half, then visited with Bill Rodgers and got his autograph on my race bib, my third Boston Billy autograph on a marathon bib.

When I learned that Ohio runners Mike, Tom and Jenny, and Rhode Island sailor Jim planned to run Hyannis, I took the initiative to organize a reunion. The five of us had met first in Mississippi two years ago. So, Maniacs Cheri (MM#12) and Gregg, Mike, Jenny and Tom, Jim, Jeff, Alexis and I gathered for pre-race dinner at Barbyann’s Restaurant. I enjoyed an evening of good company, marathon stories, and a traditional steak, baked potato and steamed broccoli dinner – with bread pudding to go.

Race morning forecast postponed the arrival of winter weather until the evening, and promised partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper forties. K-Love DJ read the morning inspiration “when all the fanfare is done and it is just you and your race, run with endurance.” Dunkin Donuts cappuccino and ham-and-eggs supplemented my Barbyann bread pudding and banana for a hearty breakfast. As the temperature crept into the upper forties, I shed my hat, mittens, wind jacket and wind pants, and shivered in a 50-states long-sleeve shirt, shorts and headband awaiting the gun.

The course consisted of two 13.1-mile loops. The field included some 4,000 entries in the half-marathon, 500 in the marathon and a couple hundred relay teams. All runners started together after terse announcements and a feisty National Anthem. I lined up near the 10-minute pace sign, and crossed the start line 3 minutes into the race.

My goal was to finish. My strategy called for alternating half-mile runs with half-mile walks, but I left it to a tactical decision as to when to start executing the strategy. I breathed four-and-four, and moved comfortably with my ten-minute pace cohorts. I was pleased that runners seeded themselves realistically, so we did not have to weave around plodders in the crowded early going. I reached Mile 1 in 12 minutes and Mile 2 in 22 minutes.

The first – and second and third – water stations were disasters. Tens of runners waited anxiously for water as volunteers jugged water from large garbage cans and poured it frantically onto cups, spilling all over the table and the ground. Some helpful runners dropped their used cups into the water cans. mistaking them for garbage cans. I passed the first water station, and prayed sanity down course – but the chaos recurred at subsequent stations. After 34 years of running this marathon, the water station logistics continue to challenge the organizers.

The sun peeked repeatedly from the clouds, and I enjoyed tremendously the first several miles. I ran with abandon, and covered 6.5 miles in the first hour. My brain translated that into a sub-4 hour marathon, and dreams of a PR tumbled minutes later. I do not recall what happened at Mile 7 – whether I hit the wall or switched deliberately from tactical insanity to strategic conservatism. Either way, I upgraded my finishing goal from 4 hours to 6 hours, alternated walking half-mile and running half-mile, and reached the half in 2:28.

The course was pretty flat with a high point at 130 feet. It overlooked the harbor and the ocean a couple of times, but ran through nice neighborhoods for the most part. Much of the first loop was closed to traffic, but cars were never a concern. Directions were very good until the thirteeners split away to finish, then matters got a bit stressful.

A few steps into the second loop, I reached a traffic circle with no direction which way to go. Thirteeners walked towards their cars in every direction out of the traffic circle, and I saw no one running ahead of me. There was no sign on the road or by the road, only an old man in a lawn chair cheering me on. I asked him for direction, and he pointed me towards Main Street.

I ran-walked alone most of the second half. My right hip flexor hurt when I ran. I took two Ibuprofens at Mile 15, and two more at Mile 20. I tensed up when I went too long without evidence that I was still on the course, and I calmed down when I saw mile markers or water stations. I missed dearly the map recall feature of my Timex GPS Global Trainer that would have guided me over the second loop. I passed Mile 20 under 4 hours, and hit the wall around Mile 21. I abandoned any sub-5 hour ambition, and walked the next three miles.

As the temperature peaked at 52F, Cindy, Janice and assintights Brianna kept me company on the home stretch. We took turns passing each other, and they inspired me to dig deep and run with them in bursts. I finished eventually in 5:29:48 gun time, or 5:26:46 chip time, and received a very colorful medal, the same medal as those who ran half as far.

I crossed paths with Jim at my Mile 19, his final mile. Jim finished in 3:50, well below his sub-4 goal. Gregg ran 3:06, Mike ran 4:07, Cheri ran her 360th marathon in 4:48, and Alexis walked 4:56. Tom and Jenny ran the half.

Di and Shamu met me for post-race celebrations at Barbyann’s. I devoured a large piece of prime rib and sweet potato fries, with a brick of bread pudding in whiskey sauce as vegetable. We talked running, CrossFit and cyber.

I crashed at 7pm, got up at 3am and hit the road to beat the snowstorm. My Android navigation failed, so I relied on my intuition to head west until I found I-495. After 6 rest area stops to stretch my legs, I arrived home at 9:45.

Dr Kamal Jabbour got away with running a winter marathon in New England in shorts and T-shirt to make it 38 marathons in 38 states. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour