Four hundred-plus training miles later and I’m as ready as I’m going to be for the Umstead Marathon, aka Baby’s First Official Marathon. The race directors allot a seemingly generous six hours to navigate the course, but there are a few cutoffs along the way that I must reach before the Giant Hook of DNF reaches out and drags me back to Camp Lapihio and sends me home without the coveted finisher’s pint glass. The cutoffs are giving me the most anxiety for my buck. Will I make them? Right now I’m wishing I were more on the side of average than slow.
“Buck up, Iris,” you’re saying. “You’ve got this in the bag!” You’re covering my Facebook wall with inspirational photos of slim, tanned girl-runners (who are easily 25 years my junior) sprinting confidently over mountain peaks. Seriously, friends, those girls are supposed to boost my confidence? Where are the photos of 40-something women who only just started running four years ago after spending their younger, prettier years under fluorescent office lights trying to build their careers so they can eventually get the hell out of New York and lead a quiet, saner life working for themselves and have a little free time to do things like raise chickens and watch birds and maybe take up running?
Oh, right, those photos are all over this website.
Basically I just don’t respond to the usual inspirational stuff. Like I said the other day at the Manic Runday Aid Station, I tend to do better when I go into a race unsure of myself. Every time I’ve started a race feeling like I had it in the bag, I totally crapped out. So, how will I do next Saturday? Honestly, I’m not sure. Twenty-six-point-two miles is really effing far, regardless of how easy and not far the ultrarunners around me make it look. And 26.2 miles around the trails and hills of Umstead? Well, it’s no Myrtle Beach, I’ll tell you that. We’ll just get there and see how it goes.
This race doesn’t do medals. Instead, finishers receive the aforementioned coveted Umstead pint glass emblazoned with that year’s animal mascot, which isn’t revealed until packet pickup and is the subject of much speculation in the preceding months (my bet’s on the Magnificent Beast, aka groundhog). I love useful race swag and am not so into medals. That said, in case I make it across the finish line in time, I did make myself a little Umstead medal to remind me later that I did okay:
If I DNF, I’ll award my DIY medal to another runner.
Wish me luck. I need it!