Tomorrow I am running the 101st Annual Thanksgiving Day race. I've done the race the last three years in a row and I have always enjoyed running it despite the unpredictable Cincinnati weather. The first year I ran it, the temperature was cold enough to cause an ice slick at the water stop. So while there was a lot of running, there was a little bit of skating as well. Last year, with more than 15,000 participants at the 100th annual race, I froze my tushy off due to the long wait to get to the start line. But I warmed up in no time once I got out on the course and got moving.
As a marathoner, I've run in extreme cold ( 9 degrees was possibly the coldest), snow, ice, high winds, extreme heat and pouring rain. The last item on that list is the absolute worst of all weather conditions in my humble opinion, and that's unfortunately what is forecast for tomorrow's race.
My last experience with running in the pouring rain was the Flying Pig Marathon in May. I remember waking up at 4:30 a.m. that Sunday morning and thinking it was one of those days that would be just perfect for sleeping in until noon. I laid there in my warm, dry bed listening to the gently rolling thunder and the tranquil plink-plink of rain droplets beating down on the roof and window panes. I finally arose and looked outside, and my first thought was that I needed to build an ark instead of run a marathon.
I had run in pouring rain during one of my long training runs, but my rain-soaked 16-miler a month previous wasn't nearly this bad. "Would they even run the marathon in this?" I wondered. The previous week, I heard news reports that a tornado warning closed the course of the Country Music marathon in Nashville. It worried me. Was there a possibility that I did all that training and wouldn't be able to run my race?
With all that apprehension in my head, I made my way from the dry cover of Paul Brown Stadium to the start line. It was announced over the loud speaker that the most severe weather had passed, and organizers had deemed it safe to run the race. The rain beat down even harder as me and 14,000 other soggy runners waited for the gun to go off. The water had soaked right through my jacket and I was drenched from head to toe.
As I crossed the start line, I discarded my jacket into a pile for the homeless, since it was pretty much useless. During the first mile, I tried to dodge the bigger puddles, but since my feet were already completely saturated, I figured it was no use...there were 25 miles to go and my feet weren't going to get any drier.
By mile eight, I hit a wall. The barometric pressure from the thunderstorm was causing every joint in my body to ring out with pain. My 3/4-length pants were drooping at the waist and knees from being water-logged and my legs felt heavier with every stride. I decided to take my "just in case" travel-sized ibuprofen, but struggled to open it because I could tear the plastic pouch in the rain. I fumbled with it for what felt like an eternity. I finally let out a huge scream of rage and opened the damn thing with my teeth. It was only mile 8, and I was already feeling a little crazed and delirious.
The hardest part of the Flying Pig course is that all the hills are in the first 8 miles. While the concept of "all downhill from here" normally describes a mental and physical boost, for me, "all downhill from here" was more accurately a description of my slow, agonizing decline during the race. I had to take walking breaks by mile 12 (something I really don't like to do). When the rain let up a little and I saw my brother and sister-in-law at mile 16, I thought I was actually starting to dry out and for a moment I felt decent. But then the rain started beating down even harder at mile 18, and dampened both me and my spirits once again. At mile 22, I stopped to talk to my friend Tiffany who came out to cheer me on, and I had to fight back the tears (let me clarify... these were not tears of joy).
I finished the race, but it was ugly from miles 1-26.2. As much as I try not to let the weather affect my running, the rain defeated me that day. Tomorrow, unless Mother Nature decides to intervene (pretty please?), I will have my next grudge match with the pouring rain.