Dr. J on Running

41 Med City Marathon, Rochester, MN

25 May 2014

The diverse population of Rochester, MN, took me by surprise. Home to the Mayo Clinic for the past 150 years, the city of 100,000 residents boasted 2.7 million visitors in 2013. Many of these visitors donned traditional ethnic attire, and the television in the hotel offered a selection of foreign stations to occupy its guests. On the streets, almost everybody wore a Mayo badge – employee, patient or relative. Wheelchairs and scooters roamed the sidewalks, and an underground walkway permitted travel among the hospital, hotels and restaurants sheltered from inclement weather.

The bustling downtown on Friday turned eerily quiet on Saturday. Merchants in the subway closed shop, badges disappeared from the streets, and even Starbucks operated on reduced hours. I enjoyed a hearty breakfast in the Marriott Concierge Lounge, and explored my surroundings.

I picked up my bib number from the race expo at the Civic Center – I had to wait until Sunday to earn the short-sleeve finisher T-shirt. I found the finish line and the bus pick-up, both within a 3-minute walk from the Marriott. I enjoyed a hearty lunch at the Pannekoeken Dutch Restaurant.

I joined a handful of Marathon Maniacs for dinner at Victoria’s. I had met Michelle Mom-o-6 in AK, ND and OK; Cade R in NM and OK; and Alison in OK. After finishing the 50 states in October, Michelle focused on 50 sub-4, Cade worked on 50 sub-3:30, and Alison recovered from a stress fracture that forced her out of the Tulsa Marathon in November. Both Cade and Alison are Titanium Maniacs.

The bus ride to the start line in Byron was uneventful. Coffee and snacks awaited us at the elementary school that provided ample floor space and bathrooms. I decided to join the 5-hour pace group, and stood at the back of the pack in solemn observance of Memorial Day.

Pacer Pete provided steady entertainment as our large pace group dwindled by the mile. A social worker from St Paul, he cheered and told silly jokes like: “What do you call a runner that was run over by a car? Tired” and “What do you call a runner following a car? Exhausted.” In the early miles, I chatted with Michelle, a graduate student preparing to run in a relay across America to raise money for cancer. Later on, the 5-hour pace group shrunk to three – Pete, Cat and me.

Cat ran the Fargo Marathon two weeks ago, and graduated from law school last week. A public defender in Minneapolis, her goal was to complete Med City and qualify for Marathon Maniac bronze level. To prepare for her second marathon in 14 days, she ran a half marathon the day before, demonstrating maniacal behavior.

My normal gait translates into a 10:20-10:30 running pace and a 15-minute walking pace, averaging around a 12-minute pace over a marathon. However, staying with the 5-hour pacer at an unnatural pace of 11:27 brought about left ITB pain by 13.8 miles. I took leave of Cat and Pete, and walked until mile 14 on the right shoulder of the road. My pain subsided, so I resumed running at my normal pace, and rejoined them at 14.5 miles.

At 15.3 miles, Cat looked very pale, and started walking. I abandoned Pete and stayed with Cat. We alternated walking and running until mile 19, when Renee joined us. A 40-year-old substance survivor, Renee worked in human resources at a municipal recreation agency. She decorated her body with elaborate tattoos, and etched on her back the date and location of every marathon and ultra that she ran. As Cat and I introduced Renee to the Marathon Maniacs and the 50 States Marathon Club, she decided to seek out her tattoo artist to discuss how to fit 50 marathons on her back without dropping below the waste.

The three unlikely companions motored on until 20.5 miles, when we abandoned running and decided to walk it in. The sun shone bright in the sky, and the temperature broke 80 degrees. I poured water on my head and neck at every opportunity, but failed to convince Cat to do the same. She worried about friction and chaffing. My 14 percent legs did not have this problem. I convinced eventually Cat to let me pour water on her arms, and gave her ice to hold in her hands.

At 21.6 miles, I grew impatient for running and bid my companions good bye, but they joined me for a half mile run. At 22 miles, we resumed walking, and did so until mile 25. Cat looked good, and the two of them decided to run the final mile. I joined in a spirited push to the end, and we crossed together the finish line in 5:39 gun time.

A lengthy shower and one-hour nap preceded a hearty steak-and-eggs lunch at Pannekoeken. I took a second nap, then proceeded to the Marriott Concierge Lounge for the largest shrimp I had ever eaten, sauteed with vegetables. An unexpected upgrade on my Delta return flight allowed me to indulge in a Bailey’s Irish Cream in my coffee – a fitting ending to an epic weekend.

Dr Kamal Jabbour completed Minnesota to make it 41 marathons in 41 states. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour