Superman, Cash-Only Parking, and Running in Houston

At six am Sunday morning, for about five seconds I feared that I would not be running the Houston Marathon. I drove through jammed packed streets and several half empty parking lots only to be told by parking vendors, “No cash, no park.” So I have to give a special shout out to the 4th parking vendor of the day. Maybe it was the look of pure desperation in my eyes or the generosity the guy found in his heart, but he let me park. I guess if I was a more animated person, I would have jumped out and kissed the guy, but instead I stammered a hurried thanks and drove off praying he didn’t change his mind.

Lesson learned. Always have cash for parking. Also, don’t spend all the cash you do have on sales at the running expo the day before. You probably don’t need those cute Nike tights that are 50% off. Resist the force of the sales. Be strong and walk away.

Thankfully once I got the parking settled, I didn’t feel so stressed about the run. I felt relieved and timing almost became a nonfactor. Almost.

This second marathon, I decided to focus on pacing. My Luke’s Locker coach will be happy to know she was in my head ¾ of the way. “Slow down. We are at a 9 minute mile people! We shouldn’t be going fast right here. You can run those last miles fast.” Thanks to her mantra, I probably checked my watch a thousand times to make sure I wasn’t running faster than a 9 minute pace.

Regardless of pacing though, I can say that Houston was my favorite run so far. Granted I have done only races in and around the DFW area, so I guess I can’t say much. The fans, entertainment, and support were amazing. Every mile they had Gatorade, water, a musical attraction and a line of screaming fans armed with witty running signs. Neighbors sat out on their lawns sharing encouragement and the occasional tissues, oranges, chocolate, pretzels, and various drinks. Of course the beer at mile 19-20 was probably the highlight of some runners.

Personally, I enjoyed the signs and the screaming enthusiasts. Every time I saw a crowd my mind would say “I feel athletic and heroic right! It might not be true, but these people are saying it so. . .” I would run a little faster. Later, I found out that I almost beat my personal best for a 5k between miles 13-17. At this point, I think I was having an energy high from all the sugar I was consuming and the crowds’ liveliness. I ran past two drum bands which definitely got my blood pumping and my feet stumping.

So yeah, the first 20 miles were delightful. I didn’t even put in my headphones because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Even a conversation from an audibly loud runner about snitches who took pictures of cheaters cutting streets amused me. I chuckled as a read posters like “You run faster than our government” and the Uber sign. About mile 23, I was looking for an Uber car.

The last six miles were a great test (I should have run 22 miles in training) and my goal of 4:15 shrank to nothing. I did manage to stay with the same “general” pack of runners. The people I had sort of ran with for over 4 hours were with me in the stretching, wincing, and occasional walks. Even Superman felt the pain, despite cheers for the hero and his cape (Actually that probably slowed him down or kryptonite was around somewhere.) In the end we all picked it up for the loved ones screaming and I finished a few seconds after 4 hours and 24 minutes had ticked by. Considering my last race, this was a good time, but I wish I hadn’t had to split for the bathrooms 2 minutes in.

Now for the real truth. My running addiction continues. . . .

I am not done with the marathon. I know I can run faster and a 4 hour (or less) marathon seems doable. A few days ago I googled the time I needed to qualify for Boston. Future goal by 30 maybe?

I guess that means I need to seriously focus on healthy eating and appropriate stretching. Less pizza, pastas, and chocolate delicacies. The whole idea makes me wince a little. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the free Saturdays. My first Saturday without running, I slept late and then ended up spending several hours at the dentist. Ugh. I blame all those Saturday mornings eating energy chews.

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