Shine a Light - Wolf Parade

Apparently there is a traditional training technique that seasoned athletes use in which a person builds their training up to a certain point before the Big Day, and then they taper off, saving the body energy and protecting it from injury before its finale. In my case, Coach Cadwallader had me scheduled to run 20 miles on Saturday, my longest outing before Marathon Day

20 miles.


Now, for some reason, because 26.2 miles is a famous number, its actuality fades into cliche for me sometimes, like the distance of it or the real live meaning of it becomes a weird sound byte, an over there number, a fiction. But twenty, well, that just seemed fucking nuts. Crazy. And I don't mean that in a colloquial zany kind of way, but actually in a literal way. 20 miles. That's Crazy. 

I made very sure to be fed and fueled, watered, outfitted in sunscreen, and committed before I left the house. I mapped my route, donned the sausage outfit with tank top option for the heat, and observed myself as the anxiety climbed. Ginger made me oatmeal with fresh white nectarine cut into it and a perfect cup of stovetop espresso. I showed her the route and told her it would take me around five hours. Plus I'd have to stop for traffic, water, peeing, what not. Also included would be the train ride to and from my start/end point at the Ferry Building. 

So you won't be home until about four in the afternoon?

Or later.



I felt incredulous, too. I mean I don't do ANYTHING for five hours unless someone is paying me. It's like I was telling Ginger a fairy tale for breakfast. 20 miles. WTF. 

I ran the first 15. By the time I got that far, my left heel was throbbing. My right hip was joining it. I felt truly like throwing up a few times. The journey had me on the back side of Golden Gate Park. I was making my way back toward Haight Street. I began to walk. To tell the truth, my running stride was so labored by then, I may have been walking faster than I'd been running. I walked for at least twenty minutes. Maybe twenty five. By the time I saw Stanyan at the end of the park, which featured wild blackberries for me, I wondered if I would just have to walk the last entire part all the way to the water. 

Now, this thought would have been a tragic straw for a weak back in my recent past. But not that day. I didn't give a crap if I had to walk or crawl. Who the hell goes 20 miles on their feet? I mean it turns out a lot of people do, with the marathon entries capping around 25,000 for July 25th. But I mean really? It's a staggering amount of road. Then I got weirdly American about it in my light head. It was July 3rd, a pretty American day to get American. Trudging in the sausage outfit in the hot sun, my mind was flooded with pioneer images. People making their way across plains and mountains and rivers. Traveling on faith, getting sick, losing their loved ones to sunstroke, heart attacks, snake bites, allergic reactions and exhaustion. Dehydration took some, murder took others, drowning, exposure, grief. I had a paved path. water fountains. My loved ones safe at estate sales or in east bay offices. I thought about how people can do just about anything. In the American sense, that unfortunately included a massive and systematic racist elimination of people, and I thought about that too. About how I am afforded the chance at a weird victory that won't cost someone else something.

Anyhow, California is the product of folks doing a great deal of work to find it. The promise of adventure, a new life, gold. All of which I have been the inheritor of. Except the gold. Which I'm open to. (Speaking of gold, how are the 49ers going to move to Santa Clara and still be the 49ers? Maybe they can be the Silicone Chips or the Innovative Startup Companies. Goodbye, I say. Get out. We'll get a new team.) I decided to try running again when I hit Haight Street. 

Is there anything worse than Haight Street on a sunny Saturday? Sure. But not as you run through it. I am now an avowed Haighter.  I tried to be open to it. Tried to embrace the nice historical neighborhood from the Summer of Love. But like Blue Oyster Cult said, Things ain't like what they used to be, and This ain't the Summer of Love. It's horrible. And in its horror, it gave me the impetus to continue running. The faster the pace, the shorter the suffering of it. I ran on the street, hugging the cars on the right side of the road, as I couldn't fit on the sidewalk and people don't move at all. They just stare at your bad spandex fashion and walk right in front of you. 

But then I was running again, off toward the water. Run. Walk. Run Walk. I almost quit at 8th Street, the BART sign seducing me with it's promise of cushy blue seating and a ride home. I actually stood at the top of the escalator about to descend the moving staircase to my chariot, when something pulled me back, sent me on my way of the last two miles. 

20 miles.

I may not finish the marathon in under six hours. Who knows? I have 3 weeks of physical therapy and adjustments to help me. Plenty of ice. And a growing cadre of people sending me the nicest, most encouraging messages. Maybe I'll come in under 6. But I can see the finish line. And it doesn't look like a fairy tale anymore.

Sara Elise