Poop before the race. Do not laugh at this. Very, VERY important. If you can't do it at home then head to the porta-potty the minute you arrive at the starting site because if you are lucky you'll find one untouched (aww, the sweet pleasures in life). If you do not manage this very basic human action then you will spend the next 13.1 miles worrying about it. Who needs worry?
Pandora beats the shuffle every time. Because you never know what song is coming next which means you never think "God, I'm so sick of that song" (trust me, this comes from experience).
Never wear underwear that is too big. Don't laugh. I've had my underwear slide all the way down under my butt cheeks before and let me tell you, it's slightly embarrassing having to shove your hand down the back of your shorts in order to pull them back up again. In addition, even though you KNOW it's your undewear, it FEELS like your shorts so you panic thinking your shorts have slid all the way down your backside. Race day? Definitely don't want to provide stories for the people behind you. Solution? Shorts that have a built in underwear liner. I run in one pair of shorts almost exclusively. When they die my running days may die with them. That's how much I love these shorts.
Check out the butts of people in front of you. Now don't laugh, this can provide a large chunk of entertainment and it's actually my favorite part of participating in races (besides the medals). I've discovered that butts of all shapes and sizes run. I've also discovered that some look good in certain types of shorts and others, well, made me realize how horrifying my own ass must've looked in those tight KU running pants I so proudly sported last March. Seriously. Thick spandex ladies, I beg of you; because cheap, thin spandex shows every...single...dimple...and choose black. I came up behind a nude colored pair of spandex shorts and thought the woman was naked. And this was not someone I'd want to see nude. For the love of God, no nude spandex. Ever.
Spend time looking at the ground so you avoid stepping in the hundreds of wads of phlegm that dot the surface. Yes, I'll admit to having spit a few times in the past when running but it was ONLY in extremely hot weather and I made it a point to spit towards the side of the sidewalk into the grass. Phlegm on the sidewalk keeps me focused on not puking rather than my own fatigue. Even the disgusting things in life can come in handy.
Check out real estate along the run. Realize some houses will be out of your price range forever. Accept this. Use other houses as a reminder to never, ever complain about your own again. Spot a cute apartment with a balcony and a cool view downtown? Imagine the amount of fun the twenty-something hottie who lives in it must be having...they probably don't drive a van (so uncool)...they are probably sleeping in right now after partying all night...ask yourself what the hell happened because YOU used to be cool...then look at the nude spandex in front of you and remember that at least you aren't wearing THOSE...and remind yourself that you are over half way to retirement while twenty-something hottie has his/her entire career to sweat for "the man" and chuckle softly in gratitude that you don't have a hangover or the beer shits today because YOU went to bed early. Puff out your chest, feel righteous and move on to the next mile.
Check out the sun rising and close your eyes for a moment (only a moment, you'll trip and fall if you keep your eyes closed too long) savoring the moment. Then remember that a blind woman with a guide passed you at mile two.
About the time you are feeling pretty accomplished at mile 10 notice the cool bicycles and official looking guys on them coming up on your left and in that moment realize they are leading the marathon leader. Accept that there are people getting ready to pass you and they've run TWENTY THREE+ FREAKING MILES to your measly ten. Now this will provide some really good food for thought, hopefully taking your mind off the fact that you are starting to lean a little while running, in a broken/intoxicated and embarrassing sort of way (you know this because you can see your shadow on the ground in front of you and it's rather bizarre). Think about how much you hate that marathon runner. Seriously. Who the hell runs that fast? Then notice the three graceful "gazelle-chariots of fire" sleek and lean runners pass you WHILE HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH EACH OTHER. For the love of GOD, who can talk after running 23 miles?
Alternate between hating these over achievers and admiring them. Briefly, in a psychological break (it's okay, these things happen when the body starts to weaken), imagine that it is YOU in the lead, after having run 24 miles...wait, after running 100 miles (it's YOUR mental breakdown so why not Hollywood this up), and you are getting ready to head down the finisher's chute to cheers, glory and a made for TV movie in your future!
Shake yourself back to reality after tripping and notice your bizarrely shaped shadow again (is that an old woman in front of you?). Keenly observe that there truly are some genetic differences between those of you on the right side of the road (i.e. 1/2 marathon runners bringing up the rear) and those on the left side of the road. For starters, no fat. Seriously. Not a single, teeny, tiny ounce of fat anywhere to be seen. And much can be seen. Because these guys have loose tank tops on and tiny running shorts. In 40 degree weather. And they are sprinting. It would be like filling a basketball court with average people and then throwing Wilt Chamberlain into the middle. He'd kind of stand out.
Smile at the supporters during the early miles of the race and pat those fun signs that say "touch here for power".
Grin through your teeth at about mile 8 and silently wonder what the hell these folks are getting out of standing out here in the cold weather cheering you on. Tell yourself you are being a dick and accept that they are sweet and keep chugging away.
Look for a rock at about mile 11 so you can knock those grins off their faces. Imagine places you can shove those stupid cow bells. Don't they know you are dying? Realize in that moment that you can't feel you hand and even if you could you aren't sure you have the strength to throw a rock, much less shove anything into anything. In fact, at this point you are pretty sure that if you had underwear on and if it were to slide down you'd simply have to cross the finish line with panties hanging out of the bottom of your shorts because you wouldn't even have the strength to pull them up.
Notice the shadow shape again and begin giggling uncontrollably.
At mile 13, you know you are home free so you can finally remove the headphones and listen to the cheers. As you enter the finisher's chute, start to sprint because, hey, you want to look like you've kept up THIS pace the entire race. Yes, I'm a bad ass!! Immediately cringe as your calf says "oh HELL no you don't" and realize if you do more than a slow jog you'll be on the ground crawling towards that mat in humiliation. So chin up high, jog like you feel fresh and then, once you cross, find yourself fighting back tears.
As with most things I write, there are doses of exaggeration and humor thrown in.
But I was serious about the underwear. And the pooping.
Oh, and the sunrise. The messages within a sunrise can provide sustenance for any distance if we let them.