Sunday was cool and windy, today was warm and sunny, with hardly a breath of wind. Yesterday there were tens of thousands of people lining the streets, today on Kiawah Island there were just an intimate group of us runners. Yesterday was hurried and stressful, today was breezy and relaxed. While there’s no such thing as an “easy” marathon, today was about as good as it gets.
Kiawah Island is one laid-back place, and the atmosphere at the start was tranquil and easygoing. There was hardly a ruffle of air, the leaves hung lazily from the trees as the morning sun poked through the branches. Birds chirped. Squirrels gathered acorns. Deer grazed on nearby shrubs, unruffled by the crowd. The stillness was broken, however, when the group started off down the road, hooting and hollering as we proceeded on our way.
There was very little traffic on the road, so we got to talking early on. Two of the runners had run with me in Seattle and, on a whim, decided to fly out today to run another (beats sitting at a desk, as one of them put it). Another had come down from Canada (to work on his tan). There was a German athlete celebrating her 50th birthday today, the marathon was a present from her husband, who was also running with us. We had a spirited young couple from Atlanta (“he’s driving home,” she said, “and I’m sleeping”). There were six first-time marathoners, a handful of ultramarathoners, several triathletes, and a member of the Air Force Special Ops, with an insignia on his calf, NSDQ (Night Stalkers Don’t Quit).
The run was quite flat, and remarkably scenic. We passed by several ponds and pristine marshlands, wove through numerous tree-lined streets, ran along a meandering footpath that was shaded by a canopy of green vines and shrubs, and passed by some of the most stunning estates I have ever seen. When we ran past one of the lakes near a golf course, there were two eyes and some flaring nostrils lurking along the surface. Yes, an alligator!
All was going beautifully well, until we missed a turn. I felt so badly for the other runners who followed me the wrong way, but scarcely a grumble was heard as we retraced our steps backwards, except from me. I felt so horrible. When we finally did cross the finish line, my GPS read 27.8* miles. It was my second “ultra” during the Endurance 50, and a fitting conclusion to an otherwise “easy” marathon.
All of the runners today were incredibly upbeat and appreciative, even though I misguided a group of them down the wrong path. One of guys commented that it was his first marathon, his Personal Record, and also his first ultramarathon, all in one day! With an attitude like that, there’s no such thing as a wrong turn, just a few extra training miles among friends.
As my daughter, Alexandria, is fond of saying: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
Always the best,
P.S. Many of you have asked about the “finish party” in New York City on November 5th. Provided I make it that far, all of you are invited! It’s taking place from 12:00-4:00 PM near the NYC Marathon finish at The North Face retail store located at 2101 Broadway (at 73rd), New York, phone number (212) 362-1000. Please swing by if you can!