Dr. J on Running

50 BCS Marathon

14 December 2014

The weekend forecast for College Station predicted 60s and 70s with a potential for thunderstorms. I packed my summer racing gear with black shorts, Maniacs singlet, 50-States hat and New Balance Minimus shoes. I took 600mg of Ibuprofen with every meal to reduce the inflammation in my ureter and one pill of Flomax after lunch to dislodge the stone from my ureteropelvic junction.

Marla and I arrived to SYR at 4:30am on Friday. TSA Brian and fellow agents wished us well on our 50th marathon. Delta flights to Atlanta and Austin arrived on time. We enjoyed an uneventful trip, save the Latina at Thrifty car rental who offered to pray for me. On the road to College Station, we noticed the desolate landscape and burned out trees from recent fires. We stopped for lunch at Elm Creek Café where I savored an incredibly tasty pair of grilled marinated quails.

Friday evening, we dined at Rudy’s Barbecue with ACE alumni Kevin, Hunter and Spencer, and we met Spencer’s girlfriend Katelyn, his brother Elliott and his roommate Kamden. Kamden and Spencer planned to run the marathon on Sunday, while Katelyn and Elliott cheered and supported. Suffering from ITB pain, Spencer had doubts about his ability to finish the marathon.

Marla and I picked up the race packet early Saturday, and enjoyed the VIP treatment for the first entry from my state. I liked the long-sleeve cotton shirt. We met Natalie, Marc, Katelyn, Spencer and Elliott for early lunch at Panera Breads. I napped most of the afternoon before rejoining Natalie and Marc at Texas Roadhouse for my traditional pre-race meal of steak, baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli, and for an early birthday celebration for Natalie. The Holiday Inn turned down an opportunity to impress the marathoners with an early breakfast, or even coffee bagels and bananas, so I bought a banana from Denny’s during breakfast.

Sunday morning, Marla drove me to the start near Post Oaks Mall. I saw Spencer and Kamden in Corral C, and Natalie on Marc’s shoulder on the sidewalk. The children wore special shirts with a heart, a star and 5020, my Maniacs number. With 3,600 runners in the start area, I crossed the start line 4 minutes after the leaders. I felt good, so I decided to absorb the 4-minute deficit into my first two miles. At mile 4, the thirteeners went their separate way, and I settled into a 13-minute interval: I ran to the next mile marker, walked to the 13-minute timer beep, and repeated ad infinitum.

Water stations every 1.5 miles allowed ample hydration with half-a-cup each of Gatorade and water at every stop. Nevertheless, I was feeling hot when I saw my crew around mile 5, so I asked to swap my hat for a headband. Marla, Natalie and Marc battled Baptist church traffic to retrieve my bag from the car in the hotel parking lot, and we exchanged the headband for the hat swap at mile 10. Excessive hydration and sparse porta-a-potties allowed me to practice my run-and-pee-and-smile talent that I had honed on many long runs. Black shorts provided better coverage than the Idaho fiasco with red shorts.

At mile 7, I passed four Aggies running their first marathon. One of them proclaimed that 7 miles was the longest run they had ever done. As expected, I never saw them again. I ran the mid-section of the race with Tracy from Houston running her 9th marathon. I told her that I was running my 14th – this year! I enjoyed repeating this line to impressionable commoners.

After a slow start nursing his knee, Spencer passed me around mile 11. His knee felt much better, so he took off. My right knee started hurting, so I hopped onto the grass whenever the shoulder permitted it. I reached the course appendix at the halfway point in 2:40 as planned. My support crew cheered and waved posters that looked like the Ten Commandments. I begged for coffee at the next rendezvous. At mile 15, my right kidney reminded me of the reason for the season. The devil and the evil eye worked overtime to keep me from finishing, so I took 400mg of Ibuprofen for physical relief and prayed for spiritual strength: if You led me to this, please help me through it, but Thy will be done.

My support crew navigated to the wrong side of a fenced-in athletic field at mile 16, giving me solo time for reflection. My kidney pain subsided by mile 20, and gave way to a nagging right ITB pain, so I took two more Ibuprofens. In total disbelief, I learned that the children trusted my wife with my coffee, which she drank to keep it from getting cold. It was after 11 o’clock, and the sun peeked out of the clouds to steam up the humidity and raise the temperature past 70F. I motored on, only to hear my name called. I turned around and I saw Elliott in a full sprint towards me with coffee in hand. Marla came through when I needed her most with a hot fresh cup of coffee.

The past 49 marathons flashed in front of my eyes in the last 10K of the BCS marathon. The clouds thickened and the winds picked up, but I was not to be denied. I felt good passing the hordes of virgins on their first encounter with the dreaded wall. I fought back tears as I heard the announcer yell my name and announce that I qualified for the 50 States Marathon Club. I crossed the finish line in 5:32:16 for a net time of 5:28:14. I received my medal from a special child, and my shirt from a very special coed. Marla, Natalie, Marc, Katelyn, Spencer (5:08), Elliott and Kamden (4:23) greeted me outside the fence.

After showing me pictures of all my descendants in white 5020 shirts - Paula in the labor and delivery ward in Yongsan, Randa, Josh, Isaac and Samuel in Laramie - Natalie and Marc departed promptly for Houston to catch a flight home. Marla and I went to the hotel for a shower and a nap, then to Cracker Barrel for steak and eggs. Later in the evening, we went to the Olive Garden for a celebratory Tiramisu. There, a woman entered wearing a sweatshirt that read “Jesus Beat the Devil”.

Dr Kamal Jabbour completed his quest to run a marathon in all 50 states.Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour