wineglass marathon ’10

west side

Saturday – Packet pickup in Corning ends at 5:00, so we leave Brooklyn at @9:45 thinking that it’ll take 5 hours if the traffic is light. Mercifully, there is very little traffic and getting out of Manhattan is a breeze. Lar’s driving first which means that technically she can’t fall asleep. That also means that it’s time for some Hodge family conversation.

Stopped at a light on the West Side Highway, I see another black Sentra in front of the car ahead of us.

Me: “I wish there wasn’t that car in between us so that we could be right in back of that other black Sentra. Then there’d be two Sentras that look exactly the same, right together.”

Lar: “Yeah, but that Sentra is a nicer Sentra than ours. Our Sentra is a c@#$&*%^ing @#^%$ compared to that one.”

Me: “Well, that’s all fine, but would you rather have the car you have now, or the nicer Sentra but with a severed hand?”

Lar: “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Me: “I mean, what if as a result of wishing for and receiving a nicer Sentra, there was also a severed hand involved?”

Lar: “You mean like in order to get the nicer Sentra, a Nissan employee comes to the house, drops off the car and keys, but chops off one of my hands?”

Me: “Nah. I was thinking more along the lines of they bring over the nicer car, but hanging from the rear-view mirror is a severed hand. And you can’t just snip it off and throw it out the window as you pass a school or something, you have to keep it there. That’s part of the deal.”

Lar: “Hmm. How recently was the hand severed?”

And on and on for four and a half hours.

We’re in Corning and head to the expo. Grab my packet and look around briefly. Was going to buy a few more Gu packets, but they only have espresso and lemon, and I ain’t havin’ that. We go to the mall and find a Champs that has Vanilla and Triberry and all is right.

Our hotel is actually in Elmira, just a few miles east of Corning. Terra and Stella have driven in from Hamburg. We hang around the mall for a while, and decide to try to find dinner. We have our hearts set on the Olive Garden because I hear that that’s where real Italians dine when they stay in Elmira. Unfortunately for us, there’s a 35 minute wait for the Olive Garden.

Terra plugs “Italian” into Google Maps, and we’re off to Pietro & Son. It’s a modest Italian place with a fairly big Italian fish tank and an indoor fountain where the water shoots out of an Italian lion’s mouth. What’s that? Were there advertisements for local businesses on the paper placemats? Not only were there, but there were advertisements laminated onto the wooden table! This is one of them. I’ve been thinking about this for six days now, and I still have no idea what this is supposed to mean. If you can articulate a sensible explanation for this ad’s content, please do so in the comments.

I order spaghetti with marinara sauce. It’s good, but the portion is not very big. I was going to get an order of french fries on the way back to the hotel, but decide against it. I’ve got potato chips and some other stuff back in the room.

Terra and Stella head back to Hamburg, and I turn in at @10:00. Shooting for a 5:00 wake and drop-dead leave time of 7:00.

Sunday – Wake at 4:45. An okay night of sleep. I remember looking at the clock at 1:30, but I feel fairly rested. Pour my oatmeal into an old teacup and head down to the lobby for hot water. I step out of the elevator, into the first floor hallway, and there’s a runner dressed with rolling bag and he’s heading out the door! The hotel is about 30 minutes from the start, but sheesh! That’s early.

Back in the room. Finish my oatmeal and just finished a banana. My stomach doesn’t feel right. It’s not awful, but it just doesn’t feel 100%. Although I haven’t eaten any dairy product since Thursday night, I’m starting to wonder if the marinara sauce didn’t have a bit of parmesan cheese mixed in. As I say, it’s not terrible. Maybe a little acidic. I have brought no ‘Reader’s Digest’ or ‘Real Simple’ magazines with me, but none are needed, if you know what I mean.

An hour or so goes by of me sipping water, and snacking on pretzels and a few chips. I’ve brought the fixings, but decide to go without the pbj.

Wunderground says that it’s 36 degrees. It doesn’t feel that cold. The forecast calls for scattered showers, but I don’t see it. It looks like it’s going to be nearly perfect. We get in the car at @7:10. The road to Bath is line with clouds clinging to the low points of the hills and tucked in the valleys. In some spots, you can see them slowly starting to lift. In other spots, they just lie waiting. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the land stops and the sky begins.

We’ve left too late. That’s my fault. We park a little ways down the road from the start, and I jog up ahead of Lar to the POPs off in the distance and get in line. In what is becoming a PrepHo tradition, when the starting gun goes off, I’m… uh… still seated.

All the other runners are gone, already down the road a bit. Find Lar and give her my sweats and hat. Do two quick stretches and start jogging toward the starting line.

“Are you running today?” an official looking guy asks as I near the line.

“Yes, sir!” I say.

“Go for it,” he says.


“Yeah I know what it’s like to have failed, baby
With the whole world lookin’ on
I know what it’s like to have soared
And come crashin’ like a drunk on a bar room floor”
“All The Way Home” – Bruce Springsteen

I am the last person to cross the starting line, but I catch up with the back of the pack pretty quickly. I head toward the right side of the road and start passing folks. On my left and slightly ahead of me, there’s a guy dressed in black who seems to be doing the same thing. After a few minutes of weaving in and out, I hear a guy in back of me say, “Just so you all know- Those are the guys that were in the port-o-potties when the gun went off!” Everyone has a chuckle and the guy in black gives two thumbs up.

I’m going out way too fast, but I’m kinda cold and I want to get into a spot where I don’t have to worry about running up on people. At mile 5, I settle into a nice @8:40 pace which is ideal. The goal is to break 3:50 (that’s an 8:47/mile pace). If I’m going to do it, this would be the day. Excellent weather, and a course that is largely downhill.

If you need a crowd to draw energy from, this is definitely not your race. When the crowds are out, they are very loud and very encouraging. They mostly gather in the main intersection of the small towns and villages. The course also runs very near route 86, so there are often large groups of folks that have exited the highway, parked just off the exits and walked toward the road so that they can see the runners.

It’s mile 5 and I’m nearing the only really big hill. I’ve started to keep my arms and hands closer to my body and swinging them up higher toward my chin when I run hills. For whatever reason, I find hill running much easier this way. It’s probably just a head game.

Mile 7 – I’m getting that tired feeling in my jaw. Not bad, but I know it’s there. More worrying, my stomach is now a little achy. Not cramping, but it feels as though I’m hungry. I wanted to wait until at least mile 10 before starting with the Gu, so I’m going to give it a bit and see if it goes away. Until now, I’ve only been doing water. At the next water stop, I go with Gatorade. I’ve caught up to the 3:50 pacer. Well, I haven’t really caught her, I see her maybe 50 yards ahead.

Lar didn’t tell me where she was going to be, but I’m guessing that she’s probably going to be at the next large spectator spot. I see that we’re heading into a town, so I take off my gray longsleeve and get it ready to throw it to her in case she’s there. She is there and the toss is made. Our form is a little sloppy this year.

It’s mile 9 and my stomach is no better. Take a vanilla Gu. It’s a little bit better, but not much.

I’m nearing the half and I look at my watch. My split time is very good, and I’m definitely on pace. In fact, I’m a little faster than I thought I’d be. Just after the half, I decide to take another Gu. I get it down, but now there is zero difference in my stomach.

Passing mile 15. My legs are starting to tighten up on me, and my stomach is burning. I rip open a Gu, try a bit, but the taste of it is repulsive. Really strange. I know I need to eat, but I feel like if I choke this down, it’s going to come up on me. I end up tossing the nearly full Gu packet on the ground. I think about a story Matt once told me from one of his Triathlons, and now I totally relate: I wish I had a hamburger right now. If I had something solid, I think I could get it down and my stomach would stop aching.

It’s pretty amazing how quickly things can change. Just before mile 16, I do something I never thought I’d do. I walk for @.2 of a mile. A good deal of pain in my legs, and my energy is gone. Looking back now, I see that the reason I’m feeling this way is because my legs are burning fat because my body has run out of carbs to burn for energy. My body has no carbs because my stomach won’t allow me to take any Gu. A nasty catch-22.

I run for another half mile and have to walk again. People are passing me. Even at this point, if I can just gut this out, I can still make 3:50.

I’m able to run another mile and 3/4. At around mile 18, I see Lara up ahead. She’s waiting to hand me my sunglasses. She’s expecting a quick transfer, but when I get up to her, I stop running all together. I feel pretty weak now. She gives me some water that she’s carrying, and I set off again.

The 3:50 goal is gone. I make it to mile 20 and have to walk again. It’s hard to articulate what this feels like except to say that everything has consolidated into one giant ache. A group of 4:00 goal folks catch up with me. I try to keep up with them, but I just can’t find the energy. I watch the group slowly slip away down the road ahead of me. I’m truly running as fast as I can, and people are passing me. I’m starting to freak out a little. Thoughts are darting through my mind. Jesus. Should I just drop out? People must do it all the time, don’t they? I’ve read that some of the pros do it. If they feel as though it’s not going to happen for them early in a marathon, they’ll drop out and save it for another race.

I’m going to write a little about Dom now, but I want to make something very clear first. I’m absolutely not equating my minor discomfort during this day of picture perfect weather to the struggles that Dominic went through each day of his life. It’s not even close. Now then… .

I think about things Dom left undone, not because of lack of desire or loss of will, but because of time taken away from him. Dom was cut short through no fault of his own. He was forced to sit at the table and play his shitty hand knowing full well it was only a matter of time until he lost. But it’s different for me. Dom would have given anything to be here, to be able to run in the brilliant sunshine of this crisp fall morning. So I’m not going to quit. I’m going to finish. *I* will dictate how this ends and do it in memory of my friend Dominic who didn’t have this luxury.

I need a plan. I decide that I’ll walk a quarter mile and run the next 3/4 mile, sipping water and try to get into some kind of rhythm that way. It’s a little depressing. I trained hard, and it’s come down to this.

A guy passes me wearing a kilt and running barefoot. I wonder if that’s really comfortable? I’m sure the kilt is, I mean the barefoot running. I would be paranoid about stepping on glass and dog crap, in that order. With my luck, I’d step on the glass and then the dog crap would get in the wound and I’d get trichinosis or something. I heard that happened to a kid on a Carnival Cruise.

Mile 25 is finally here. The thought of one mile left gives me a little bump in energy. I’m going to try to run to the finish. At the mile 26 marker, there is some ornamental grass lining the right side of the course. It’s exactly like the kind I see on my Riverside Park runs. I run my hand through the tops of the grass as I pass, and for a minute or so, I start to cry pretty hard. I think about Dom and what has been. I think about Dad and what’s to come. This is the end. Is it an ideal ending? Nope. But it is an ending I can call my own. Official finish time: 04:13:23.


A volunteer hands me a heat blanket. I stop walking to put it on. When I start to walk again, I’m very unsteady. He grabs my upper, left arm and asks if I want a “walking buddy.” I tell him that I’m really ok, I just need to get my bearings and I move on.

I walk a little further and another volunteer puts a blue, glass finisher’s medal around my neck. I keep walking and Lara finds me. We immediately set off to find food. I grab an apple, a bagel and three cookies. Shortly after, I find a cup of chicken soup. By the time I’m done eating the soup, I feel 100% better. My stomach pain is gone and my mood instantly picks up. We hang around for a little while until it’s time to head home.

There is one more story that I need to tell, though.

I cross the finish, very drained. As I take off my sunglasses, a guy with scraggly, shoulder-length hair puts his hand on my right shoulder. He’s to my right, in the front row of spectators just after the finish line. I look up at him and he looks me in the eye. “You’re awesome, man. What you just did today… You did a really great job!” he says. It’s so unexpected, and I’m so taken aback, that I don’t know what to say. I say the only thing I can think of. “Thank you very much.”

I don’t know what it is about the marathon atmosphere that makes moments like this possible. All I know is that I think it’s unique to this situation, and I think it’s awesome. So for all of you raceday spectators who have ever yelled an encouraging word to a passing stranger, let me offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to you. You are the ones who make this day special.

Most of all, my deepest thanks to Lara for, once again, supporting me in all this madness. I love you.

Here’s a bit of footage of the race Lar took from the car. Quite a difference from the boroughs of NYC.

2 comments to wineglass marathon ’10

  • kway

    The cross country coach at my school told me “A finish is a finish. And a finish is a victory, regardless of time.” Good run, good finish.

  • SoundDawg

    Sorry to hear the race sucked for you! Never the less I am still super impressed! Good job Kevin! I wish you raced more often though so I could read these funny blogs more! Good writing!

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