Columbus: the race that isn’t

Before the 2019 marathon.

Today was supposed to be Columbus Marathon day.

My running goal is to run 50 full marathons before my 50th birthday. Pre-pandemic, Columbus was going to be Marathon #10 and I was looking forward to the milestone.

First time – Columbus Half Marathon 2016. Time – 2:20:07.

In 2016 I fell in love with running and was determined to run the half that year. At that point I had only ran one road race before – the Columbus 10k that past June. I loved the 10k and immediately felt the need to accomplish a half marathon. Training went well and was a lot of fun, so I was feeling confident I could run the half in 2:10.

The race was tough. I learned – the only way you can learn this lesson – that BodyGlide is a necessity, not an optional. Right around Mile 8, in front of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, I felt the burn. And it wasn’t the fat crying or whatever goofy Fitspo memes are saying in 2020 (I feel like I’m dating myself as a college student circa 2010-2014. Anyways …)

My mom was waiting for me at the finish line, after having a rough morning herself (nausea.) The first thing I said was, “That’s the hardest thing I ever did. I’m hurting. My thighs are stinging. I can’t do this again.”

But I already knew I was going to sign up for the full in 2017.

Second time – Columbus Marathon 2017. Time – 5:37:34.

I foolishly though I could run the marathon in 4:20, with a 10:00 pace based off successful training runs. 

I was way off on this one.

I wrote a lengthy blog post about the race either on here or a defunct blog, and the short ‘n sweet version is that I woke up with stomach aches, which evolved into the constant urge to go to the bathroom throughout the entire race.

It was 70 degrees and humid by 7 a.m.  I felt crummy going in, but then had that jolt of energy back in the corral when I heard the National Anthem, followed by the fireworks over the start line and Bruce Springsteen. When it was my corral’s turn, we were off.

I got to experience Gatorade getting in my eyes with my sunscreen, seeing all the Patient Champions, running through Columbus neighborhoods and at one point I’m pretty sure I flashed a bunch of high schoolers when I took my tank off.

This was also the year when a thunderstorm rolled in and the race had to be called for a bit. The group I was running with was already on the back course, so we were going to finish come hell or high water.

I didn’t finish in 4:20. My final time was 5:37:34, and by the time I crossed the finish line I was exhausted, ready to be done and a sobbing mess after what I had just accomplished. And miraculously enough: nausea and stomach aches aside, I didn’t crap myself like I was convinced would happen at some point during the race.

You all probably could have done without that last detail, but if I had to live it, then you have to read about it.

Third time – Columbus Half Marathon 2018. Time – 2:10:01

The marathon offers opportunities for the runners to fundraise on behalf of the hospital as Children’s Champions. I wanted to make 2018 special. My goal was to PR, but if that didn’t happen then I figured raising money for the kids would be the best way to get those productive feelings. As well as do something for the kids.

I had too much fun at the expo on Saturday and was joined by my mom that afternoon at my place. She likes to watch my half marathons, and we wanted to see each other that weekend. I can’t remember what all we did though (this isn’t a booze reference either.)

2018 was the opposite of 2017 weather-wise. Instead of 70, humid and thunderstorm, we had temperatures in the 20s that morning. Which would be awful for my spectator/pit crew but wonderful for the runner.

I started out that morning wrapped up in my puffer coat. I’ve had this thing since I was 14 or 15, and I wore it back in the corrals. I didn’t want to stand back there, freeze and be miserable, but I also didn’t want to throw my coat aside and have it be taken away with all the other throwaway clothes.

It was time to go. I slowly slipped my puffer off and tucked it under my arm as our group made its way to the start. Then we all started jogging until we crossed under that start line. I heard my mom call out to me and extend her right arm.

And in that moment, which will likely never happen again, I threw my coat to her so perfectly and she caught it.

This race was everything I could have asked for. It was chilly and felt perfect as we all ran through downtown to Bexley, then through Bexley towards Old Town East and the hospital. I took a walk break around the hospital to find my sign with my name on it among the other Children’s Champions.

Running in front of the hospital at Mile 8 is always emotional. The Angel Mile at Mile 11 is gut-wrenching. I told myself I wasn’t going to read the posters about the patients who … Well, are angels now. But I did like I do every year and wind up crying while I’m running.

2018 was the strongest I ran and I finished the race in my fastest time yet – 2:10:01.

I PR’ed.

And as Spongebob sang, it was a sweet, sweet victory.

Fourth time – Columbus Marathon 2019. Time – 4:56:40.

I started dating Sam right at the tail end of 2018 – Dec. 29th, to be exact. So 2019 was a year of new running challenges for me, and a learning year for Sam to discover what it takes to be spectator/pit crew/race photographer.

We woke up bright and early that Sunday morning, after a night before of celebrating his private lesson student’s bar mitzvah. There was lots of merriment and hora-ing(?) and that carried into the next morning. We had to make a pit stop at Starbucks for Sam, and I was pumped to take Sam into the Celebration Village for Children’s Champions fundraisers.

I was feeling way too good. And before I knew it, it was go time.

2019 was a good race, but it was more emotional than the years past. I cried five separate times – first at Mile 8 in front of the hospital, then again during the Angel Mile. I choked up and lost my voice then.

I cried at Mile 16, when a jumbotron set up on Ohio State’s campus played videos of various runners’ families sending them encouragement and love. Mile 20 got me because I’d hit The Wall and I knew I only had 6.2 miles to go, and Mile 21-ish (or maybe it was 22) got me when I heard the DJ was playing “Thunderstruck,” which is the theme song of the marathon.

Mom tells me pretty regularly that whenever she hears “Thunderstruck” at the start, she starts crying. At first I thought crying at AC/DC – or really feeling anything but hyped up – was odd. But when I ran down that hill in Grandview Heights and heard “Thunderstruck,” I thought of her, understood and cried.

I didn’t PR this race, although I ran it in under five hours. Crossing the finish line never stops feeling surreal, and that walk through the finisher’s chute – when my body hurts and my thoughts are becoming coherent again – is one of the most humbling. Thankfully my voice came back by the time I reunited with Sam.

One of the perks of being a Children’s Champion was the on-site massages after the race. I decided to get one of those, which was a great idea minus one part I didn’t anticipate:

I’m an involuntary grunter. And a loud one at that. The lady next to me got the giggles and asked if I was okay, and I discovered Sam got a picture at a very compromising moment.

I’ll go ahead and be TMI: the picture is the massage therapist bending both my legs up while I’m laying on my stomach. The unfortunate angle and our faces looked a little less rehabilitative and a little more porn-y.

I’m actually really proud of that picture. It makes me laugh.

Final thought

I’m going to be honest: learning the marathon was going to go ahead and cancel this year, with refunds going out to everyone who signed up to run, hurt. I wasn’t surprised but definitely disappointed. And this past week leading up to today has been seeing some tears and sadness. It may sound silly, but I’m mourning.

So today I’m running and pretending I’m at the start line. I’m going to pretend I’ll see the kids, that everyone will be cheering me on, and that there will be a banana with my name on it somewhere. And I’m going to have faith this time next year the race will be back and bigger than ever.

Yours in reading and running,


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