The Marathon I Won

I’ll be running my eighth marathon on Sunday. This one is for charity, not time – I’m no speedster anyway. No, my training got derailed for obvious reasons and my waistline has expanded with all the cookies that have been delivered of late – not a good combination for running success.

I stood on the scale in horror yesterday as the digital readout spoke lies to me. I want to go back to the days of the rolling number wheel that looked so cheap and inaccurate you could truly rationalize it being off by 5-7 pounds. Modern scales reflect the downside of the affordability of precision electronics.

The situation brought to mind the first time I ran the Georgia Marathon in 2007.

I won it!

You heard that right, I broke the tape for the marathon.

In late 2005, I reached a plateau. It wasn’t a good plateau, it was a large one. I’ve always been a big lug, but the responsibilities of a father with four young children had led to an unhealthy weight. When the children (who caused the problem) see pictures of that time period, they call me “Fat Daddy”. Yes, my size 40 pants got tight and I made the decision that I wasn’t going to buy size 42’s. So I joined a gym, dieted, and found that I really enjoyed running.

After losing some weight, I saw an announcement of the inaugural Georgia Marathon and decided to set my sights on running the half-marathon. I got my training plan, ran four days a week, and bought all of the necessary paraphernalia including some snazzy running belts (fanny packs) that my children adore. By the time March 2007 rolled around, I was ready. My goal: 2 hours.

I lined up in coral G and watched in excitement as the flares went up and the gun sounded the beginning of the race. It took a little while to get into my stride, but I soon found my pace and settled in. Noting the split at mile 6, I made sure to turn left with the other half-marathoners, laughing at the few lonely souls going straight for twenty more miles. Through ten miles, I ran well until hitting a rather stout hill on mile 11. Once that was behind me, some mental calculations told me that I had a shot at my goal time.

I gave it my all. I pushed, grunted, and strained toward the finish. Finally, I saw it – the finish line. Just when it came into view, a roar came over the crowd. I looked around and didn’t see other runners around me.

This is really nice, I thought. They’re cheering for me!

I heard the announcer say something garbled – I guessed it was my name.

How’d they know my name? Must be the bib number.

I saw two people in official garb run a tape across the road.

Wow, that’s cool. A tape for me. Do they know it’s my first time?

Being the subject of such adoration was slightly embarrassing. Still, I lifted my arms to the crowd’s delight.

This is amazing! I wonder if they do this for everyone!

The same two officials who had run the tape across were now flailing wildly and seemed to be waving me off. Just after I broke the tape, I turned to see a group of very thin, insanely fit men barreling towards me.  Yes, at the exact time I finished my 13.1 miles, the professions finished their 26.2. I got a haughty look from the guy who rightfully should have broken the tape. Jealous, I suppose.

Although I might have been in the wrong place, I can forever say that I got to the finish line first!

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