Saturday, September 21, 2013

Call me Ahab.

Dear Diary,

This past weekend Sweet Baboo and I ran the Air Force marathon. We're on our way to completing all five military marathons this year, and have already done the Army, Navy, National Guard, and will do the last one--the Marine Corps marathon--in late October.

This one has been around for 17 years. It's held on Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, OH. There is a 3/4 mile walk to the start line, so there's your warning. But at the start they have Potty City, and there are two long double banks of porta potties with NO WAITING. One might tempted to hang out in one and nap, or just get out of the rain. Might. The full marathon is small, and you aren't too far back from the start line when the cannon goes off.

By mile five I had found my white whale.The white whale is that person in every race that I choose, for some arbitrary reason, to chase down. It clears my mind of the general despair and tendency to compare the race to an exponential decay function, which theoretically never reaches zero. In other words, the race feels like it's never going to end. Like Ahab I'm a little mad at the end of a race so this keeps me sane.

There are criteria for being my white whale. Usually they done something to catch my eye. Maybe they just gave, or I imagined that they gave, me a weird look at mile five, or they look just a bit too smug and cheerful while I'm suffering, or maybe it's something real like I saw them cheating or acting like an asshole. Maybe they run really funny and it must seems like I should be able to beat them. They aren't nice thoughts that put a person on my radar. It is what it is.

There are several reasons why I chose this particular gentlemen as my white whale.

First, he had a really stupid haircut. I believe it's referred to as a "faux Mohawk" and I'm sorry to say this, gentlemen, but everyone looks stupid in one.

Second, he had a really stupid tattoo. I think it was supposed to look like the muscles of his legs were showing with the skin peeled back, but it was badly done so just ended up looking stupid.

Bu most importantly, the third thing to make him my white whale was what happened around mile five. As I was reaching for a Gatorade in the outstretched hand of a volunteer, he ran up, reached across me, and snatched it away, inches from my hand.

Oh fuck no you did not just do that. It's on, buddy.

A major White Whale requirement, I forgot to mention, is that it looks possible to run them down. This guy was tall and muscular like Sweet Baboo but unlike Sweet Baboo he had a highly inefficient stride. As he sprinted away, his greying rooster hair bobbed in the breeze. He stomped down the course and out of sight. I figured he'd wear down eventually.

I'm patient in hunting the whale. I run along, seething, thinking, oh, I should have knocked that cup out of hand accidentally...that's what I should have done. I should have called him a dick to his face.

But I am a master of patience. And passive-aggression.

About mile ten, as I was coming out of one of the many potties on the course (this marathon had more potties at the start and on the course than any marathon I've ever done. It was a dream. No waiting.) I caught sight of him about a block ahead, already walking. I was almost disappointed, having built up in my mind a scenario where I passed him near the finish. I ran along, using a Galloway 4:1 ratio, and caught him by mile twelve, passing him easily. Despite several more potty breaks after that, I never saw him again.

Then I was bored. Stuff hurt due to my crappy training and the twenty pounds I've gained in the past year. It's a nice course, very runnable and it was great weather (a might steamy at the end, but hey, it's not supposed to be easy) fantastic volunteers and only a few rollers at the beginning and then again at the end. Nearly the entire thing is on the air base and the roads are closed or nearly so. I visited the potty some more, scored some Vaseline from the medical volunteers to protect the lady bits, but generally it was uneventful. I suspect I was someone's white whale because there were some folks working hard to pass me. Some did. Some did not. One guy ran around me and pivoted abruptly, running backwards in front of me, scaring the crap out of me.


I was confused at first. Pop quiz! Then I realized: the tattoo. Then I had to think. I sputtered, oh, I, uh, Kentucky!

Eventually I was at mile twenty-two, slowly grinding my way toward the finish. I was moving slowly, in a straight line, through an aid station and chugging some more Gatorade. Just then, a loud, grating woman's voice screached in my ear, look out!!!! I'm passing you on your left!!!

What the fuu---? I wasn't even moving left! The woman, a very smug-looking racewalker, waggled by me, looking very, very bitchy. And smug. You know the type. They're all, you with your running, why, I'm not running and I'm doing a marathon! And I just passed you! Idiot!!

Yep, I was sure that's what she was thinking.

And just like that, I had my new white whale.

Oh, it's on, bitch...




  1. Thank you for the big smile at the end. The majority of people in endurance sports (that I've encountered, anyway) are so cool that it makes the douchebags that much more irritating.

  2. Very funny! We've all had these things happen 8)

    BTW Moby Dick starts with the line "Call me Ishmael"...but you knew that ..8-0

  3. Great post! I call these people my 'carrots' just beig dangled in front of me as I ride / run along

  4. Okay, being passed by a racewalker = hilarious. (Yes, it's happened to me too). They have the weirdest gait. Looks WAY more painful to keep that up for 26.2 miles than just breaking into a run!

    If I were to rank People Who By Rights Should Never Pass Me in ascending order, it would go:
    1. People pushing jog strollers (especially double strollers!)
    2. Barefoot runners or people wearing sandals
    3. Dudes in sandals ALSO pushing a stroller (yeah, he passed me in a 5K this summer:
    4. Racewalkers.

    I did a trail half marathon this weekend and made the tactical error of starting in wave 3 or 4. And got passed by about 120 people in wave 4 in the first 15 min. Yeah, I passed some of them back... but seriously, Dude Running 8 Minute Miles Who Started in Wave 4, what were you thinking?

  5. Anonymous4:46 PM

    I've never had any of these things happen in my marathons...gee I guess I missed out on the fun!

  6. Anonymous3:20 PM

    Hey your finish photos are up!

  7. Thanks for the laughs!


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