Tampa Bay, Florida, Gasparilla Distance Classic Marathon
March 1, 2009
State number 7! This is the point at which I decide for sure that I might as well try to run a marathon in each of the 50 states.
After suffering through frigid winter weather in DC, I thought Florida would provide a sunny, warm venue on March 1. But this was, so far, my coldest marathon (that is, for overall temps--San Antonio was colder in the morning) and my wettest and windiest. At the start line, about 1300 people gathered in the dark on a rough cobblestoned street. The forecast called for miserable weather: 40s, rain, wind, and possibly thunderstorms. Well, the gun went off, so off we went too, and the rain held off for about 90 minutes. I can't say the sun rose; let's say a pallid, sickly shade of mauve replaced the pitch black in the sky. We ran through some posh neighborhoods where every other yard had a For Sale sign clattering in the wind. I selected a couple of stately, beautifully landscaped properties for myself. A few crimson rays of sun appeared for just a few minutes, and then scary inky clouds obscured the light again, and the wind started, and the rain started, first as a sprinkle and then as a frenzied, battering downpour. My hair, dahlings, was Such a Mess! I was completely soaked within a minute. Socks drenched. Squish squish squish... Sneakers turned into Spongebobs. Yikes, 18.2 miles to go...
Now what you must understand is that because of a fine sinus infection that I had picked up in the middle of January, I had been out of commission and had NOT run for about 5 weeks because this illness was just incapacitating to the max. My longest run since January 15 had been 8 miles, a week before this marathon.
So, I knew I should not race this, but airfare and entry fee having already been disbursed, there was no way I was going to NOT show up. I figured I could just do a slow, fun sort of distance "walk-run." I pictured warm breezes, palm fronds swaying... But it was SO cold and SO wet and SO windy and SO just plain dreary that I couldn't walk--or I would freeze or get depressed to death! So I ran. But I really felt the lack of training. My knees were wobbly, my quads hurt, I was sure eight or nine blisters were forming, and breathing was tough (Humidity, about 200%). At some point I overheard a runner telling another that there was thunder further out and they might have to stop the race. My thought was, Oh, yes, good idea! would you PLEASE stop this torture?
As you can imagine, there was precious little crowd support, with this nasty stormy weather; but one lady in a pirate costume did her best to encourage us at mile 18 (arrgh, me hearties), and a few hardy, tanned folks under umbrellas, sipping steaming cups of java, casually cheered us on. ("You're almost done" is so cruel to hear when you know you've got 9, 8, 7, whatever number of miles left...) When I finally reached Mile 24, I was really spent and had to start walking, and what do you think happened? The clouds parted a bit, the rain stopped, the wind abated, and the sun shone for about 10 minutes. That little bit of sunshine was heaven. Reaching the finish line and getting that big, bad, piratical medal was heaven. Spent the rest of the day in bed, sleeping. Heaven.
Time: 4:56:32; Placed: 17/28 division/ 367/502 females; 1036/1307 overall.
Moral of this Marathon: State mottos are not all they're cracked up to be. Florida, the Sunshine State... yeah, right! : )
Actually, given the circumstances, the race organizers did a good job, and there was food at the finish, which was sheltered from the rain. And the medal rocks: Skull and crossbones, a symbol of the pain endured.
Note: Sadly, this marathon spoiler was the storm in which NFL players went out on a boat and were shipwrecked and only one guy survived.