The Massacre Marathon is one of a few races that I look forward to each year. The race is a 16-lap marathon around a local park where the first lap is 2.2 miles and each of the following laps are 1.6 miles. While it’s open to solo runners, the majority of participants put together two, four, or eight person teams. To keep order, organizers have a couple rules. Four person teams must alternate laps. All other team combinations can run whatever lap configurations they choose provided each person on a team runs at least one lap. Got it? Good.
This is my third time running the race, and my first with my buddy John. Not the John I tackle ultra distances with, a different John. That John is, as my son calls him, “Farmer John.” The other John is, according to my son, “Old John.” (No offense Old John). Johns aside, the past two times I ran the Massacre I did so with my buddy Jim, who moved away recently. Anyway, lots of my running friends start with the letter J but that’s not really relevant to the story except that I’ve run the race with Jim (starts with J) twice and was about to run it with Old John (also starts with J).
Unlike when Jim and I ran the race, John and I did not train much together leading up to the big day. Probably because I’ve been running at 5AM and John prefers not to run at 5AM. That said, for the past few months my mileage has picked up in preparation for this race and the upcoming Pilot Mountain Payback (with Farmer John) in March. With the added training, I felt pretty good going into the Massacre that the race would not be a massacre. As for Old John, he was logging his own miles, and was totally good with sacrificing his legs for a few hours.
Previous races were cold and windy. The first time I ran it the temperature was 18F with 18MPH winds. Last year it was in the upper 30s. This year, however, the forecast was calling for race temps between 53F and 68F.
Weather aside, let’s talk about my colon. No matter how many mental notes I make I can’t seem to remember to avoid eating tacos and nachos the night before a race. So the night before the Massacre I ate nachos covered in cheese, beef, chicken, shrimp, vegetables, and a bucket of grease. Needless to say I spent most of the morning emptying my ballasts.
The race was at 10 and I showed up at 9:15. I found a spot to drop my bag, picked up our bibs, and made my way to a Porta named John. At 9:40 I caught up with Old John, yucked it up with him and a few other friends of ours, and as luck would have it, got the urge to double with 10 minutes to go and a million people in front of me. Miraculously, everyone did their business in record time and I was weaseling my way to the front of the crowd with seconds to spare.
The Running Part
I flipped a two-headed coin and called tails which meant I was running the legs with the longer first lap. Also decided on race day was the leg distance. In previous races, Jim and I just alternated laps. Eight for him. Eight for me. One at a time. This year, John suggested, and I agreed, to run two laps per leg. This amounts to four 5Ks for each of us (with the exception of the first leg which totaled 3.8 miles).
Not long after the horn blew I got sucked into a 6:34 pace that I held onto for the first 2.2 miles. On my second lap I forcibly slowed myself to a 6:56/mi pace bringing my average pace for leg #1 to 6:43/mi.
John ran his first two laps and handed me the baton after about 14 minutes. I then ran back-to-back 11:06 laps at 6:56/mi.
As John ran leg #2 I took the opportunity to throw down a pack of Gu Chomps and a couple cups of Gatorade. 25 min later, John was back and I was starting the second half of our race 1 hour and 36 minutes after we started.
Having sat around for too long, the blood in my muscles was slow to circulate. On my previous two legs my mind stayed the course and remained focused on the task at hand. As soon as my legs got heavy, my brain went into preoccupation mode.
BRAIN: OK Everyone, LEGS are getting tired. Let’s get them thinking about something other than running.
And they did. Instead of thinking about having to run 2 more 5Ks, my brain hit a switch and I started looking at all the things that were hanging out in my periphery.
BRAIN: Hey, there’s Jen! “Hi Jen!” Whoa. I saw someone I knew. That’s so cool! What are the chances of me seeing someone I know? Hey, there’s that dude from work! “Hey dude from work!” Dude from work didn’t say hello in return. Guess I’m going to give him a hard time on Monday.
LEGS: Monday? That’s tomorrow. Today is Sunday and we’re running! We still have 1 1/2 laps to go and another full leg after…
BRAIN: Look! A puppy!
LEGS: Aw, look at that cute puppy.
A half mile later I was back around at the start/finish line waving at John. My brain had done a good job of shutting out my legs. Now it was focusing on my second lap and how many hills I had left.
BRAIN: Two hills per lap. One long one and one quick one. Get over them and you’re home free. Do that twice more and you can call it a day.
LEGS: Does anyone care what we think?
Slowly I made my way back to John and handed him the baton.
John gets moving and I check the posted lap times. John and I were sitting pretty in third place for the two-man division. The first place dudes were rocking out a 6:05 pace, and the second place team was about a minute forty ahead of us.
When John came around for his second lap I shared the news. He may have smiled though I think he was cursing me through his teeth. Hard to tell really. Thirteen minutes later he handed me the baton wearing the same facial expression. Yeah, probably wasn’t a smile.
Finally! My last leg of the day. One more 5K and I was home free.
LEGS: We’re tired.
BRAIN: Look over there! A baby running with a camera!
LEGS: OMG! That’s so funny! A baby with camera. That’s funny because babies can’t use cameras, but this one has a camera. Man, that’s hilarious.
BRAIN (to BODY): Keep it up guys! LEGS are delirious. Four more hills!
The first long hill was much less fun than the first time I ran it. Up ahead I could see one of the timing dudes taking photos. He was laughing and having a grande ole time. I, however, was not. At the top, I lengthened my stride on the downhill before rolling into hill two.
LEGS: How many more of…
BRAIN: There’s Mike! We’re going backpacking in a few weeks. Say hello to Mike! Mike is wearing a baby backpack.
LEGS: Uh, where’s Mike’s baby? Oh GOD! The baby! What happened to the baby?
BRAIN: Keep it together LEGS!
Back at it, I muscled up enough to close out the lap and start my final one. With very little in the tank, I did my best to block all things race related from my noggin.
I willed my body forward. I pushed myself up and over the first hill, then the second, before opening up my stride on the long rolling downhill to the start/finish line. All I had to do was give John the baton and I was finished.
BRAIN/LEGS: Where is John? John should be here. JOHN! Where in THE CAPITAL F&%$ is JOHN?! Oh, there he is. Up ahead. Why is John up ahead?
Funny story. John thought I was on my first lap. John was incorrect. Funnier story. I stretched out my hand to give John the baton and he looked at me as if to say, “F*&$ you! I ain’t running an extra lap!” I assured John that it was his turn to go and he was off, reluctantly.
John’s face after his second to final lap reinforced the reluctance he started with. His pace had clearly slowed. Like me, he was running on fumes. One lap to go. Just one lap John. I waited anxiously. I tried to judge when I’d see him approach the downhill to the finish line. When I didn’t see him I sent him a “funny to me” text.
TEXT #1: Almost done!
TEXT #2: EMTs at the finish line.
Not long after sending my second text, I saw John about a quarter mile from the finish. I hustled over to scream out obligatory words of encouragement then sprinted back to wait for him so the two of us could cross the finish line together.
Team “We Were Told There’d Be Cake”
3rd in 2-man team division
26th out of 167 overall
John: 12.8 miles / 1:44:32 / 8:09 pace
Chris: 13.4 miles / 1:34:08 / 7:01 pace
The race was great. John was fantastic. The weather was wonderful. And I managed to shave a little off my previous PR Massacre pace. Next year is going to be even better. I can feel it in my rubbery legs.