Annoyance Of De Feet: Victoria Marathon Race Report

Let me start off by coming clean: I started the race off with a blatant lie. A guy with a news camera saw me and my shodless self at the start before the race and asked me the usual questions. One of the questions was “Have you ever run a marathon in shoes?” “Yes,” I answered honestly. Then dishonestly I added, “all my slowest marathons were in shoes.”

?!??!

I have no idea why I said that. It just came out. You all know, since you surely keep track of these things, that before this race my fastest, second fastest, and third fastest marathons were in shoes. So sorry about that.

I told another lie on the course. Noticing my feet (I swear, they get all the attention), someone said, “You must have read Born To Run.” I replied, “Read it? I was REFERENCED.” That lie I won’t apologize for, because it was funny.

The roads were much rougher than I thought they would be with many long stretches of chip seal. I’ve gotten to the point in the art of barefootery that I could run fast on the stuff without it hurting, but it still wasn’t fun. I also couldn’t afford any sloppiness – stomping was out of the question. After a while, I would have liked the option to stomp. Just a little. That stuff is so obnoxious. I was mad at shoes. If people didn’t wear shoes, chip seal would never have been invented.

My training was spectacular. Over a thousand miles in fifteen weeks, hitting all the suggested paces for a projected 2:50 marathon, and I felt great. Still, I planned on playing it conservative for race day. My actual goal was anything below 2:58:48. I ran accordingly, pacing twelve-to-fifteen seconds per mile slower than what the training suggested I was capable of. That didn’t matter, though, as I started falling apart before halfway. Just like my previous marathon at Umstead. And, frankly, almost every other marathon I’ve ever run. As early as mile eight I had a sense of foreboding, even though I wasn’t breathing hard and my legs felt fine.

Mile twenty-one I was too far behind the pace to meet my goal, so I stopped at the beer aid station. “You’re not pregnant, are you?” they asked before giving me a little cup of IPA, “Because that would make you barefoot and pregnant!” After swigging down the liquid mood-elevator, I said, “Nope, and I’m not in the kitchen, neither. I’m sure as hell not cooking. I’m cooked.” I slowly hobbled on my way, wishing I had instead just hung out with those guys the rest of the day.

Mile twenty-two: left hamstring cramped mightily. I only cramp in marathons, never in training. I should be studied by science.

Lots of walking, even though I had some fuel left in the tank after recovering from the cramps. I didn’t even breathe hard the entire day. I was defeated and SO SICK OF STUPID CHIP SEAL OMG WHY DOES THIS STUFF EXIST IT IS SO STUPID AND ANNOYING.

“I can’t hear you right now bro, I’m locked in,” said an earbud-wearing barefoot runner who had caught up to me a mile-and-a-half from the finish. “I’m in a lot of pain, man,” he continued. Using gestures and facial expressions, I said, “Me too.” The race had not gone according to plan at all. I was depleted and depressed. Maybe I could salvage a bit of the day, and at least be the first barefoot finisher. I started pushing the pace, ignoring my tight hips and aching hamstrings. My barefoot competition kept up. “Yeah, man,” he said as we accelerated. 800m to go. Someone in the crowd yelled “IT’S A BAREFOOT BATTLE!” I felt like crying but pushed on, getting faster. “YEAH MAN.” He kept saying that, matching me stride for stride. YEAH MAN!” The dude was totally getting off on the pain. Now he was controlling the pace. 400m, I quit. “You got me,” I whimpered to no one, slowed down, and watched him finish thirty seconds ahead.

3:20:05 said the clock. My fastest barefoot marathon, second fastest marathon overall. Just a few years ago I never thought I’d be able to run a marathon that fast. My feet are in excellent condition, and the rest of me is uninjured. Of course those perspectives hold no weight at all. On the walk back to the hotel I tried not to wallow too much, because I didn’t want to take away from Iris‘ excellent PR-smashing performance in the half. Fortunately, she was a little bummed too because she thought she could have gone even faster than she did. Running is so fun sometimes. Yay.

“Oh, that is SO unhealthy – you need to put some shoes on. SO unhealthy,” cautioned a concerned busybody woman as we staggered among other staggering marathon finishers. “Lady, YOU’VE BEEN LIED TO!” I retorted. “SO UNHEALTHY!” she shot back. Ugh. Whatever.

In my tired state, I kicked the curb HARD. “Ow, you okay?” asked Iris. “Yeah, I’m fine. It would be a fitting end to the day, though, for me to break a toe walking around after finishing a marathon barefoo…” WHACK! I kicked another curb. “Um, maybe you should put some shoes on,” suggested Iris as politely as she could under the circumstances.

EPILOGUE
Shannon planted a seed in my head: I should do another marathon right away. Like, in three weeks. If I can’t find a race nearby, maybe I’ll just run it. Enough writing, time to start looking for races and/or routes. Wow, that was a short epilogue.

What To Wear?

One of the hardest parts about a Goal Marathon: what to wear? Shorts are easy enough (the shortest ones I’ve got, of course); but the shirt? Here are the options:
Umstead Tick Shirt:

Because nothing says "understated" like a neon green shirt with a giant tick on it.

Because nothing says “understated” like a neon green shirt with a giant tick on it.

Pros: easy to pick out in a crowd, tradition, bugs
Cons: a little heavy, tight around the neck, living in the past

Ink’n Burn Blue Mountain Shirt:

I thought it was a bottle of chocolate milk. Boy was I surprised!

I thought it was a bottle of chocolate milk. Boy was I surprised!

Pros: aesthetically pleasing, looks like our new home, accolades from the Ink’n Burners
Cons: a little long in the torso, blue hard to pick out in a crowd, attention from Ink’n Burners would make failure more public

Shirtless (SDBC):

There's a lot going on here.

There’s a lot going on here.

Pros: lightest option, sweat maintenance, damage-free nipples
Cons: chilly at the start (low-mid 40s), bib-rules, traumatizing for onlookers

What do you think? Your opinion matters, NOW MORE THAN EVER.