Tuesday, November 26, 2013

All About The Flying Monkeys

We were warned, we were told, we were reminded that Running Is Stupid. But then again You Can't Fix Stupid. This is why some 335 runners registered, not sure at this point how many actually got the message and didn't show up to brave this year's  Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN. or more importantly, how many actually survived the Monkey.

In the eyes of many, it is Tennessee's Best Marathon, and according to Wikipedia, "it was created to be among the top five most difficult road marathons in the United States", but who am I to argue with this, after all, if its in Wikipedia and the internet, it has to be true... right? You just have to be stupid, and a big enough idiot to finish this marathon in order to make your own conclusions.

Last year I volunteered. But after watching all the "fun" runners were having braving through the estimated 7000 ft of elevation change, I decided to add this to my bucket list. One day I will be brave enough to run this, one day.

Tennessee's weather this time of year is extremely unpredictable. The air temperature at race start was 22°F. The winds were somewhere around 10-12 mph, therefore the "feels like" temperature at 8 AM on Sunday, November 24, 2013 was a crisp 14°F.  Yeah, perfect Monkey weather, right? So, layers we wore.

After the registration process, which this year due to the popularity growth of the marathon included a lottery, I received an email which very gently expressed deepest condolences and extreme concern for what I had just committed to do. Somewhere along the line I was encouraged to make sure my will and life insurance were current. Which I did. This is the recurring communication theme from the organizer, Trent Rosenbloom. From the git-go he warned us that "you can't train for the Monkey". I thought it was hype. I am now a believer.

With the many layers of clothing on, it was a small miracle that we could even move. Well, at least I had many layers on. Three top layers, two bottom layers and even my hands had two. I'm not sure I mentioned this before, but it was frigid cold. And it was windy.

Our running group, Hendersonville Running Club (HRC) was extremely well represented. Most of the other runners are highly experienced and fast. Not most. All. But me. When it was all said and done, I came in about 50 minutes after the previous last one had already finished. Even one of them who was out there sicker than sick, came in about an hour faster than I did. So what was I doing here? What possessed me to venture into this event? Surely, the simple idea of adding this to my list of accomplishment could not be it. I have an appointment with a Shrink to figure out why I do stuff like this. Running IS Stupid.

During the training process, which I know, I know I wasn't supposed to do, I wondered if I should have gone to the park and do a recon run. I found out yesterday that "ignorance is truly bliss". Had I known before hand what was ahead of me, I probably would have not made it to the starting line. Which begs the question... "why do so many runners keep coming back? over and over again?" It seems like every step along the way, you were either going up, or coming down. I do not recall any "flat" spots, anywhere. Where there any? Didn't think so. Next year, I'm going to suggest that whichever volunteer group has the duty of staffing the water stop atop Mt. Percy, that they provide oxygen masks! Yes, the air was very thin up there!

This marathon is about having some "serious" "fun". This marathon is not sanctioned, it's not a BQ qualifier, there are no pace groups, nothing is official, times don't really matter. It's about the "I Did It" factor.

Small details, sometimes became big reasons to smile during the race. Upon approach to one of the water stops, the one at mile 23, at a point were something, anything encouraging was very much needed, I saw this written on the road...

This my friends... made my day! Thanks folks, you know who you are!

I ran with a gentleman for a couple of miles who told me that he is not a marathoner, that this is the only marathon he runs every year, his seventh straight. When I asked why he continues to come back, he told me that it's all about validation for him. He proves to himself, at the end of every year, that he in fact, can finish a marathon. So why this one? He didn't have an answer, but I think I know.

Will I run this marathon again? I'm glad I don't have to make a decision yet. But the quick answer is: "you betcha."

I continue to grow as a runner and this allows me to continue my growth as a person. Over the last few months which included the NYC Marathon and yesterday, I pushed the limit to new levels. I asked my body and most importantly my mind, to do things I could not have imagined a few short years ago. I hope to continue to have good health to see how far I can take this. For now, I need to rest. Training for Ironman Chattanooga 2014 is right around the bend.