Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Scoop and the Poop on Running a Marathon

Yesterday I attended a third Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. It was magnificent as always. A Stealth bomber flew overhead to mark the start of the race. Thousands and thousands of runners began their 26.2-mile journey and I waited on the sidelines, cheering on my husband this year, rather than my son.

Mike is a little more forthcoming about what it's like to run a marathon than my son ever was. Non-runners like me want the inside scoop without having to run. Mike shared the little details that I've wondered about.

For one thing, when the runners start and they're clustered around their pace leaders, it gets a little dangerous. I always thought I'd hate that part: running in a mob of people. One man tripped and fell hard this year. Right past the start gate. He's lucky he wasn't trampled. As it was, I'm not sure whether he was able to continue the race or not. A year of training for naught.

There were food stations and water stations nearly every mile. For some reason, they handed out bottled water instead of cups. (I was wrong, as noted in comments below. They handed out cups of water and Gatorade. The bottles on the ground were the ones they brought with them.) The ground was littered with them. It was hard for my husband to just throw his bottles down on the ground; we're huge recyclers and we don't litter. But he had to. There were bands playing at stops along the way, too. He really liked that.

This year, they had buses taking family supporters out to the 10-mile mark. We'd wanted to do that last year when my son ran, but they didn't have buses. I hope they continue this. It was wonderful to go out to a midway point in the route and cheer my husband on as he passed and he said it made a big difference to him that we were there.
He enjoyed the scenery of running through parts of Dayton we've never explored before. There was one stretch on the Air Force base that he described as boring.

We'd had a lot of discussion about a factoid he'd read in his runner's magazine. It said that 1/3 of all marathon runners have to stop for a bowel movement during the run. We thought this was an odd thing, but my son thinks he knows why. He says it's the body's response to fight or flight. Running a marathon is hard on your body and when it gets physically taxed, it goes into fight-or-flight mode and voids itself of excess waste just as it would when panicked. It makes sense to me. We're going with that idea.

A few people were taken off the course by medics. The sag wagons and ambulances were always nearby along the race. We saw one woman escorted across the finish line by medics. Others were cheered on by the announcer who shared that many of them, like the heart transplant patients and cancer survivors, were advised by their doctors not to run it, but there they were, crossing the finish line after running 26 miles. Again, I'm not a runner, so I don't get risking your health for this, despite it being a great accomplishment.

My husband says the last half-mile was one of the hardest. We scanned the runners off in the distance, hoping to spot him before he was actually right in front of us. There were a few runners we thought might be him, dressed all in black and about his size. But it wasn't until I actually spotted him and realized how well I know his gait, even from half a mile away, that I got excited. He'd just run a marathon. He'd trained for a year, conditioned himself to do this, and there he was: running toward the finish line with a gigantic smile of achievement on his face. And almost immediately, he talked about doing it again.


  1. Amazing! Big congrats to your husband. And no worries about the bottles; the cleanup crew will get them and recycle.

    1. Whew. I know it's crazy to be bothered by something like this during a 26-mile run, but we just aren't people who throw bottles on the ground. :)

  2. They did not hand out bottles. I had one I needed to get rid of. There were actually scores of people cleaning and picking up the paper cups, all volunteers.
    Also, you and iz being on the sideline buoyed me for miles!!

    1. Well, that makes more sense. I'll have to fix what I wrote.
      And we wouldn't have missed watching you run for anything!