This past week a T-shirt made me run a marathon.
In July I signed up for the Beat the Blerch virtual race as soon as it was announced, despite not running more than 10 miles at once all year.
- I love The Oatmeal by Matthew Inman, and The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances is one of my favorite comics/books about running, maybe about life.
- The event’s slogan is “run for cake.”
- I’ve wanted to run a Beat the Blerch race since they started—they feature cake, Nutella, couches, blerches (Inman’s rotund, lazy, gluttonous cherubic creations)—but it’s on the other side of the country.
- The money would go to charity. (OK, let’s be honest, while charities are good, altruistic reasons to run races, this was never about the money going to charity.)
Beat the Blerch has 5K, 10K, half, and full marathon distances, but you can run whatever you want. It makes no difference to anyone else—just like any other run or race. I figured I could cover at least “any distance” over the race’s five-day window.
Except, when my Beat the Blerch T-shirt arrived a few weeks before the September race dates it said “virtual marathon” on it.
That’s it. That’s the entire reason I ran a marathon distance this week, despite being woefully undertrained. A T-shirt said so. Oh, and a Beat the Blerch box of race goodies would come sometime during race week, and it would include a medal, and medals are for marathons.
I’ve run marathons and ultra marathons before, but I also have spent several months on the couch this past winter sick and at times too fatigued to go up stairs. (People want to hear about other people’s illnesses even less than they want to hear about their marathons; so we’ll just say it ends with “we don’t know why you’re sick, but it’s probably a virus.”)
I’ve worked on gaining back fitness since, and while I’m significantly better, I have not run much more than 10 miles at a time all year; my high was one terrible 12-miler sometime this summer. It was also a low. When I returned my 16-year-old had to come outside and give me Gatorade while I lay on the grass… His only comment, “good run?”
Clearly this marathon was going to be a PW (personal worst), but hey, that would also make it on trend for 2020. So, I decided to try and make it an adventure run, an experience, or something that made sense or at least pretended to make sense in a year that makes no sense.
I would circumnavigate the lake by my house. After all, it was pretty close to 26 miles from door to door, with 2,500 feet of climbing. I’d start at my Little Free Library (#24255), visit the two Little Free Libraries along this rural route, leaving children’s books and U.S. Constitutions with “Vote” postcards inside—like a civic-minded, running literacy fairy!—and end up back at my LFL. Eventually. Somehow.
I could stop and take pictures (#thingsiseewhenirun), spend the day outside. Both the route and my mindset would provide many reasons (i.e. excuses) for my slow time. Plus, I’d run this route before, knew the roads, and the logistics consisted of leaving my house, running in a giant circle, and ending up back at my house. Simple.
I called it the Beat the Blerch/Long Pond Circumnavigation/LFL/Virtual Marathon.
It would have running, books, and cake (eventually)!
Here’s a slideshow glimpse of how it went. It’s a lot faster than the actual run.
So, I did return to my house, eventually. A few notes:
- I changed into my running club t-shirt just before starting; it was on top of a pile of clean shirts. In retrospect, it made this whole thing look slightly more official and “race-like.”
- I saw many political signs, banners, and flags. Before I started I thought about keeping a tally, my own running poll, but then remembered that my math skills become nonexistent after a few miles. There was no way I was going to track campaign signs in a virtual spreadsheet in my head.
- The foliage in the middle miles turned this into a genuine Leaf Peeper Fall Classic.
- We need rain. It is very dry outside. Stream beds were empty or very low.
- I saw a dead fox, the scattered remains of a dead turkey, a crushed snake, and numerous dead rodents…in case you’re wondering.
- My husband visited me twice. He gave me pretzels and extra Gatorade and water (thanks!). Otherwise, I carried everything, and ended up not eating or drinking a bunch of it, especially in the last 10 miles.
- I rationalized in advance that walking the big uphills would save my untrained legs. This was mostly an excuse because I didn’t think I could run them anyway. Turns out, I was right on both counts, and my legs felt better than after other marathons/ultras. I could even go up and down stairs the next morning. Weird.
- I ran by one haunted house complete with creepy sounds, hanging ghosts, zombies, and music. I wanted to take a picture, but then a small, silent child appeared alone in the background and that seemed like a bad idea.
- Geography lesson: Despite being called a “pond,” our Long Pond is fairly big. It’s more than 7 miles long (but it took me more than 26 miles to get around it), has a surface area of 2,557 acres, has an average depth of 35 feet, is more than 100 feet deep at its deepest, and has a water volume of 90,248,000 cubic meters.
- I didn’t see any other runners, walkers, or cyclists, except in the village during my last quarter mile. I actually had to stop, wait, and cross the street to avoid them.
- I took more than 53,000 steps.
- My Garmin reports I went 26.26 miles, but I accidentally turned it off briefly around mile 18 (arghhhhh!) and may have lost some distance. Strava thinks I went 27+ miles, but I like the symmetry of saying I went 26.26 from LFL to LFL.
- I guesstimated it would take me 6 or 7 hours (who knows?). I returned home 5:57:54 after I left, a PW by nearly two hours! My actual moving time was 5:25:53, but I think the Little Free Library stops and pictures were worth it.
I made this Blerch cake the next day. So I guess in the end I also ran for cake.
I beat the Blerch. Then I ate the Blerch.