Monday, May 04, 2009
Marathon: Snacky D
This is the story of the Pittsburgh Marathon 2009, as told to me by Snacky D, Eagle Scout extraordinaire (*I have added some literary license to this tale).
The adventure began driving a stick-shift Subaru to a downtown parking garage at 6am on race day after a feeding at Ritters (aka Shitters) diner. Eggs and toast: the perfect carbo protein pre-race treat?
Lost in the vast sea of runners, our brave Snacky tried to find the dude with the yellow cardboard "4 hours, 30 minutes pace" sign. The start is organized by groups according to running pace, so there isn't the hectic commotion at the starting line like there is in many 5k races. These avid runners do the whole race at a pace far slower than they're capable of in order to make up for having to hold up a sign the whole time. Snacky originally hoped for a sub-4hr marathon, but some injuries told him to shoot for safety in the 4-30 group.
Snacky started his stroll through the neighborhoods of our city, traversing the bridges, marveling at the bands and the crowds and the intensity of the experience. After 7 miles, his trip to Shitters necessitated a "nature break" at one of the course's aid stations. While many other male runners chose to break for nature behind dumpsters or cars or poles or barely even out of sight, Snacky D did the right thing, paused from running, and waited for the portable facilities. *Snacky has asked me to mention that my literary license made the nature break sound like much more of a big deal than it really was in my haste to chastise the food at Shitters. This was a number one nature break*
Soon after: Game on, and our Snacky resumed his run. It had become clear to him that the pace setters with the yellow signs were not running at the pace they claimed. Slower? Sometimes faster? It varied as much as the order of juice/water/sports drinks at the hydration stations. He broke free and ran on his own, until he found Corey who said (as only Corey would do), "You're off your pace!" Snacky began to rely on his own watch and found his rhythm.
Soon after, he realized he was hungry. Desperately, empty tank hungry. He approached a water station and said, "DO YOU HAVE FOOD?????" as he swiped and missed at several polystyrene cups. This detail is important because the race claimed it was "greening up" this year and listed wax paper cups as something to get rid of. Snakcy was not pleased with the polystyrene and even less pleased at the lack of sustennance at the water station.
Grumbling, angry, near death, he started to climb over the Birmingham Bridge when suddenly, he spotted an angel sent by God. A woman stood holding out a bag of gummy bears! Snacky swooped toward the woman, a vulture attacking carrion, and took the proffered candy. Rejuvenated by this treat, he found Corey at the crest of the bridge, which sank and swayed as a herd of runners ran past.
Snacky was overjoyed and gave Corey his ceremonial Eagle Scout greeting:
Snacky continued along the route without much to-do (giving high fives to friends and supporters in Oakland and the South Side). I got a text message from the racing website telling me he had crossed the 20.8 mile mark, mere meters from where I stood at my regular bus stop (now closed for the much faster human runners) hoping for my own high five. You see, the magical chip in his shoe communicated to his masses of followers, who registered online to get texts when he passed check points. Anyway, in the gloomy flock of runners reaching their breaking point, I saw Snacky round the turn with the biggest smile on his face. I think I got 3 high fives before he was gone, out of sight, down Negley Ave and into the home stretch.
As our hero made his way onto Liberty Ave, one block from his apartment, he had his low moment. His aching bones told him to just turn right and go to bed. But then a jazz band appeared on the corner and began to play. Re-energized, tapping his toes a bit, he got his mind back in gear, crested the Liberty hill and looked down on a sea of humanity: the city cheering him on the last 2 miles, the runners in front and behind, and a lady offering beer at mile 24.
Certain this last feature was a mirage, Snacky D kept running while the woman said, "last call for beer!" Our Eagle Scout then turned around on the street, ran back UP the hill after trudging on for nearly four hours, and swiped blindly at her cup of proffered ale. "The best beer of my life," Snacky told me later. It fueled him for his big finish.
I got my final Snacky update: he crossed the line at 3:58--under four hours! Snacky D then covered himself in a mylar blanket and ate a sub, waiting for his "green" goodie bag which was "green" because it was a reusable book bag rather than a disposable plastic tote. Disappointed with this greenwashing marketing scam but overjoyed at his accomplishments, he waited to cheer on his training buddies and then hobbled to his car, where the clutch proved difficult to press along the journey home. When I met up with him hours later for mussels and cheese, it was hard to say who walked more like a pregnant lady.
All in all, it was a memorable day marking the return of a fantastic tradition. Corey and I are so proud of Snacky and our other marathoning friends!