Tuesday, March 04, 2008

run, blarney, run

If all races were like the Napa Valley Marathon, I'd encourage every kid on the continent to go try distance. The course had a near-steady drop in elevation all the way along, with clear, straight sailing for the last six point two miles. Race officials were super lax with their no-headphones rule and there was a water station just about every third mile or so, plus plenty of aid stations. Always stocked, always friendly. (Several had the works—water, Gatorade, pretzels, bananas, and oranges. And Vaseline for the chafers.)

It's a very quiet race—not for those runners who depend on the encouragement of boa-clad, cow-belling yahoos on the sides. I mean *very* quiet. Which was just fine seeing as the entire stretch was nothing but unthinkably beautiful scenery: Napa-type estates, rolling vineyards, hills, horses, cows, green, green, green, and beauty, beauty, beauty. The kind of setting that gets you awful-sentimental about life and all its fleeting, precious wonder. (So yes, I cried while I was out there. I admit it.)

But before I get all carried away with the dreamweaving, I will say this: the start was a little dodgy. Their PA system was so weak, we were still in our sweats in the Portapotty line when they started the race. Very exciting to try running and taking off warmup pants at the same time. But that, I confess, was kind of fun. It got my adrenaline going and cut out the start-line jitters completely. Others may not have felt so forgiving. Chip timing would have solved this frustration for the more serious folks.

But otherwise, it could not have gone better. It was all quintessential Irish blessing business: the road rose to meet us, the wind was at our backs, the sun shone warmly on our faces (and on our everything elses, making for slight sunburn despite best sunblock efforts).

I've gotten a few mails asking for marathon tips. My secret is simple: have all the pizza and doughnuts you can eat. And be willing to hurt.