Dr. J on Running

47 Omaha Marathon, Omaha, NE

21 September 2014

Uneventful flights via Chicago got me Eppley Airfield before noon. The Omaha flight featured an all-girl crew, and the passenger next to me was the only passenger larger than the flight attendant. The Courtyard van took me to the hotel, and I checked into a split-level suite on the second floor of this Old Market Downtown hotel. I loosened my legs with a walk for a Cobb salad at the Old Mattress Factory, and napped much of the afternoon. I dined on steak, baked potato and steamed vegetables at DJ’s Dugout, and retired early.

  The night receptionist at the Courtyard made me a complimentary Starbucks tall skim cappuccino, before I walked towards downtown. Early morning breakfast at The Diner in the Old Market was a pleasant surprise. Besides the tasty steak, eggs and fried, the service was very friendly. The old guy with a Vietnam Veteran hat asked if I was from Holland?! He emigrated many years ago from Germany, and he traced incorrectly my accent to the Netherlands.

  I walked to the Expo at TD Ameritrade Stadium at 11am, and saw briefly Jenny, Tom and Mike while standing in line. I picked up my packet and race bib number 2 – I must have registered really early. I liked the red long-sleeve T-shirt. On my way back to the Courtyard, I stopped at DJ’s Dugout for a grilled chicken platter, and rested most of the afternoon.

  I saw Tambourine Andy in the hotel lobby with Maniacs Lori and Mike. Andy sported a red cast on his left hand that he had broken in a fall around Mile 17 in Pocatello in his quest for Maniac Titanium and a Boston Qualifier. His broken hand denied him the BQ, but he achieved Titanium with 30 marathons in 30 states in 365 days.

  Deb, Mike and Wally picked me from the hotel for dinner at Pasta Amore with the wrong Larry - a former co-worker in the railroads - and his lawyer wife. I ate Tiramisu for appetizer – I gave it an A- on account of the cocoa powder topping - and enjoyed a piece of grilled salmon for dinner. I retired later than planned, and dreamt of trail running along the Missouri.

  My pre-race breakfast consisted of another complimentary cappuccino, a banana and a Protein Plus Chocolate Powerbar. The Courtyard shuttle dropped us near the start line, and we arrived in time for the Maniacs picture. I met Army Amy, chatted with Mike and Deb, and got psyched up for Marathon number 47. The wimpy sound system denied us the National Anthem, and we took off at exactly 7am. The temperature was 54F, and the weather forecast promised a good day for running.

  I crossed the start line two and half minutes after the gun, and shuffled for several minutes alongside scores of half-marathon runners. The organizers estimated 600 runners in the marathon and 1,400 runners in the half. I reached Mile 1 in 13 minutes, and my 1-mile GPS split and 13-minute timer beeped simultaneously. I kept running, and looked forward to walking at Mile 2.

  The city run through the half-marathon turnaround was entertaining. I ran until my GPS beeped, and I walked until my timer beeped. My walks increased gradually in duration as my overall pace crept asymptotically towards 13 minutes. Free from the thirteeners, we motored towards the Missouri river trail.

  I felt horror and disappointment when the river trail that appeared dotted on the course map turned out to be hard concrete under a burning sun. My feet and joints felt beaten both physiologically and psychologically. We followed the concrete trail through a soul-less industrial district for miles on end, with the occasional aircraft take-off shattering the monotony of a lackluster run. Granted, the out-and-back course allowed us to watch the leaders and the followers. I saw Columbus Jenny and Mike, then Tambourine Andy and both Florida Mikes.

  I estimated that Mike had a 20-minute lead when we crossed path, he at Mile 14 and I at Mile 12. I reached the turnaround in 2:40 as planned. I counted 20 runners behind me, including Barefoot Eddie and Lori. I hunkered down, and checked off the miles as my walking breaks grew steadily longer. Around Mile 15, I walked 0.5 mile and ran 0.5 mile. By Mile 20, the walk-to-run ratio approached 2-to-1 by distance.

I passed many runners on the way back, and expected to finish around 5:30. With a mile and a half to go, we merged with the 5K runners at their turnaround. This was a very bad move on the part of the organizers. They could have easily started the 5K at 7:30 and avoided all marathoners and thirteeners.

My survival instinct kicked in, and the desire not to get tripped overtook me, so I resumed running. I ran most of the rest of the way. I entered the stadium for a victory lap, and crossed the finish line in 5:30:54. This gave me a chip time of 5:28:35, and a second half in 2:48. I saw Mike just ahead of me in the chute. He suffered from the heat on the way back, and ran the second half in over 3 hours. The official results gave him a chip time 8 seconds faster than mine.

The medal showed the skyline of Omaha, and had a row of battery-powered LEDs. My LEDs never worked. The chicken barbecue sliders were the highlight of the post-race party. I ate a banana and three sliders – minus the bread - and I drank a bottle of water before walking back to the Courtyard for another TS cappuccino, a shower and a nap.

Dinner at Spencer’s Steakhouse across the street disappointed. The filets for the ladies were way overcooked, and had to be redone. My prime rib was dry, even dipped in au jus, and the mashed potatoes were non-descript. Thus ended the Omaha adventure, the seventh marathon with Mike since we met in Maine.

Dr Kamal Jabbour checked off Marathon 47 and State 47 in Omaha. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour