A couple of weeks ago, three friends and I teamed up to run the Little Rock Relay Marathon. Now, the most important word in that phrase is the word relay. I ran 7.8 miles, not the 26.2 miles that the full marathoners endured, or even the 13.1-mile half marathon that my fast, fast sister Joy ran and took second place overall (and won cash!).
No, I staggered through the 7.8-mile third relay segment, and it felt something like cheating when I detoured from the full marathon course to go through my little relay chute and collect my medal and bag of post-race treats (Little Debbie cakes, mostly. Who knew a healthy, post-run snack could be so tasty?). It also felt something like necessary.
You see, there was some doubt that I would even start the race. The day before, I felt off....like I was catching the virus my children had had for the past couple of weeks. "It's all in your mind," my do-an-Ironman-even-with-the-flu sister insisted. "You've just got to focus on something else." Right. So I promptly began focusing on finding out how many Ghirardelli chocolate squares one person can eat in a day.
It didn't help. By that evening, when Joy's friends arrived to stay at our house before the race, I had a high fever and was huddled under three blankets asking, teeth clattering, "Is it just me, or is anyone else freezing?"
My running partner, Holly, came up with a plan. "Just have Joy jog over to your starting line after she finishes her half marathon, then she can run your segment with you. If it looks like you're not going to be able to finish, you can just put your race number and chip on her, and she can finish your leg." So, with a prayer, a codeine pill, a few extra blankets, and a fever of 102, I went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up feeling great! Well, maybe great is an exaggeration, but I did feel determined to run, so I ran. I even met the (rather modest) goals I'd set forth for myself: I kept my average minutes-per-mile at 8:something, I kept my fever down (until later that afternoon, when it returned with a vengeance), and I kept my breakfast in my belly.
Joy caught up with me and ran the last five miles of my run alongside me, which was helpful. Helpful, that is, if your definition of helpful is having a sadistic athletic machine run with you, talking incessantly, insisting you don't have to answer, then constantly asking, "What?? What did you say? What do you mean, you're tired?? Let's pick it up for these last two miles. Of course you can go faster. Did you know VO2 max is increased when you...."
Yes, Joy was definitely helpful, and I mean that sincerely. After all, I perform best when a race closely mimics my training. "Faster, Mommy. Run up the hill. Where is the park? When are we going to be home?" Did I mention I used to train with a Babyjogger?