After hitting up Target and Starbucks for some rejuvenation after my half marathon in Georgia it was time to head to Alabama. I was surprisingly not tired and feeling great. The drive would take about two and a half hours. I stopped every hour to walk around and stretch my legs. Once I started to see more of these I knew I was close.
Before long I had reached the state line.
I checked into my hotel, took a shower, and got ready to do some exploring. The expo was right near the start of the race in downtown Birmingham at the Auditorium.
I found parking in a ramp and headed into the expo. The expo had some great merchandise, but I was able to bypass it all and head straight for my packet. The shirts we got were great; they also gave free gloves since the start of the race would be cold.
Packet pickup was a breeze. Leaving the parking ramp was not. There was not an attendant and the machine would not take my dollar bill. The only other cash I had was a twenty and some change, but not enough to make one dollar in quarters. As the cars piled up behind me and my stupid dollar bill refused to be accepted, I threw some curse words out in case that might help. I’ve found it rarely improves the situation, but makes me feel like I have some control I suppose. I had no choice but to squeeze myself out a very small opening in the driver car door and ask the car behind me if they had quarters for my dollar. I felt really stupid. Then I remembered, I will NEVER see these people again! Crisis averted.
Next on my list was to head to The Summit which I had heard had great shopping and places to eat. I can tell how to get to most shopping centers in major cities once I’ve been there at least once. Add The Summit to my list. This both annoys and irritates my husband, but I can’t help the skills I possess.
I had wanted to buy a new pair of shorts for some time from Lululemon, but since the nearest one is in Madison (this is good, I
just haven’t made it there yet) and I despise their return policy with internet orders, I thought what better night than tonight. I had decided to wear shorts to the race the following morning, but hadn’t packed any. It would be in the 30’s, but it would be warmer towards the end. So I headed to Lululemon and bought a pair of shorts. I am sort of seeing if my husband reads any of these posts by putting this paragraph in my post. He won’t like to read it, but this is a test. Please don’t throw me under the bus with the shorts. I don’t mind if he doesn’t read it-I’m just checking.
I had seen a Pinkberry a few stores down and knew I had to stop there. I had some amazing frozen yogurt with strawberries and raspberries on top. The cutest little kid kept running over and trying to sit on my lap. It was very entertaining. From there I went to California Pizza Kitchen to place a to go order. The place was absolutely packed; a person could hardly move in there. I wanted pasta though, so it was worth the wait and I had never eaten there before. I tried the Tomato Basil Spaghettini with Grilled Chicken. It was great.
While eating in my hotel room I lucked out and caught the Beyonce documentary-Life is but a Dream. It was part documentary and part video diary. Ever since the Super Bowl, I’ve been intrigued by her and I loved the documentary. It helped motivate me because I run the world-well, my gender does, so close enough.
With the alarm set for 5:45 I was off to dream a little dream. The next morning my legs felt good. They were not stiff or sore. Perhaps my quads a bit. I stuck with my choice to wear shorts even though I felt unsure. I didn’t give myself extra time to decide. Parking was not so great and I ended up making my own parking spot and jogging to the start. I visited the restroom as the starting gun was going off. I was running for fun today so I felt stress free. I was one of the only people in shorts, but then many of these people are not from Wisconsin.
The goal today was to run near a 9:00 minute mile pace (under four hours) so I would be able to easily finish. I had never ran a double and did not train for a double weekend. The first miles were like many races-filled with adrenaline, uncertainty, and excitement. My legs were cold, but excited to be free from pants and capris. I had on a stocking hat over a headband, gloves, and a throw away long sleeve shirt. I also was wearing my life savers, aka, my compression socks. I love these!
By mile 5, I could feel that my legs didn’t feel fresh and I was having trouble keeping my pace even. This made me nervous, but since they didn’t hurt I wasn’t too concerned.
As I turned the corner approaching mile 6, I noticed the church parking lots full of spectators with their own water stations set up. They were so generous. At mile 6 I was actually handed my water by a baptist preacher in full preacher attire. This is how you know you are south. Baptist preachers don’t generally hand out water at their church’s water stop on a Sunday morning race.
Speaking of preachers, running is often when I feel the most spiritual. Something about pushing yourself to a certain pain level makes things around you seem more clear. I see the best in others as people cheer for complete strangers, volunteer their time, support loved ones, raise money for charity, and offer their bodies in the memory or support for another person or organization. In our busy world with crime-filled headlines on the news each day, running marathons and seeing the kindness and unity of others together is a treasured, and what I call spiritual awakening. Certain amounts of pain are also humbling and make one very aware of their need for their loved ones and people in their lives. I felt this with a great strength on this Sunday morning. Perhaps running a mile for someone who inspired and supported me made the experience all the more magical.
Tons of police were at every intersection. Many streets were not closed, and hundreds of police helped keep runners safe at intersections. The water stops were especially well run and people were so incredibly helpful and kind. There wasn’t any sweet tea at the waters stops which I’d expected since they were always asking if you wanted it at restaurants.
Birmingham was so friendly that farmer blowing is common practice. I’ve always prided myself on this skill I have, yet feel embarrassed to do it in the company of others. On this Sunday morning there were many people out their clearing their nasal passages-me included. I was so excited to not be alone.
It was around mile 11 that the weather started to warm up. I was grateful to have put on shorts that morning. As we neared mile 13 I knew my legs were getting tired. It was as I came up on mile 12.5 that I got some extra motivation. At the exact moment I passed a police SUV with all of its doors wide open I heard “in the woods of Wisconsin” (Red Hot Chili Peppers-Around the World) blasting from the vehicle. What a motivational boost. I was pumped.
During the second half of the race I began thinking about what it would have been like to run down these streets 50 years earlier. I thought about how the world was so different 50 years ago, especially in Birmingham. The civil rights movement was in swing and Marin Luther King Jr. had been jailed where he wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. It was in Birmingham that four young girls were killed while at Sunday school and riots erupted as a result. It was strange and surreal to run down the streets of Birmingham and imagine this unimaginable world.
After the race, I saw these signs and realized 2013 is the 50 year celebration of civil rights in Birmingham.
As the miles ticked by I continued to take in my surroundings. Some were sad and hopeful like the thoughts of Birmingham 50 years ago. Others were funny. Many were of people in my lives.
Around mile 18, there was a family cheering on the side of the course. The daughter who appeared to be four was screaming and crying her head off. Her mother stated to runners passing by that her daughter was simply feeling our pain. I laughed out loud at her statement.
As the miles to go went down in number and finally reached single digits, my legs were grateful. They were definitely losing steam with each passing mile. I took hope in the sunny skies as my skin celebrated the vitamin D. I felt overjoyed at the sight of green grass and the sounds of chirping birds. Winter has seemed to be going on forever in Wisconsin. On that Sunday morning I smelled it! I smelled spring again! It filled me with hope and put a smile on my face.
The final stretch means it is time to buckle down and just go. Forget the pain. Forget the deadness in your legs. Just move it. As Thrift Shop came to an end, Eminem-‘Till I Collapse came on like clockwork.
‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that **** out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.
Perfect for the final stretch!
I accepted my finisher’s medal and then my finisher’s hat (did I mention they spoil runners at this race) and did some stretching in the park at the finish.
Then it was time to get some free food at the post race party. They had unlimited free beer, too!
It was then time to say good bye to the city of Birmingham.
I headed back to my hotel to shower and pack up before my afternoon flight. As I reflected (literally and figuratively), I was proud and excited to have completed both races and not feel terrible. I know there will be more double weekends in my future.