Note: This column appears in the 1/22 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 1/23 issue of the Peoria Times
One of the best parts about finishing a road race is getting a medal. It’s so Olympian. Here is your medal. Wear it proudly. We don’t hand these out to just anyone. Only the 30,000 or so other people who did the same exact thing you just did, many of them faster. Congratulations! Now please proceed to the bananas.
And it is with that in mind that I am proud to say that I completed the PF Changs Rock N’ Roll Arizona ½ Marathon this Sunday. And I have a medal to prove it, which I donned immediately after the race while double-fisting my free Michelob Ultras, just like a true Olympian would.
Someone who deserved a medal much more than me –- besides, you know, all of the full marathoners, but whatever -- was my mom, who flew here from New Jersey to fulfill a personal goal of fast-walking 13.1 miles, which she did in excellent time. Unfortunately, she now associates Arizona with extreme pain, so I still have a long way to go to convince her and my dad to move here.
Honestly, running this race had been on my mind since I signed up for it, evidenced by the 17 columns I’ve written about preparing for it. I was pretty much dreading it. So I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. And it wasn’t in retrospect either like, “Wow, that was terrible. But I’m glad I did it.” The race itself was actually fun. Yes, it was difficult, and I may never run again for the rest of my life. But it was hard to focus on the pain while running in the 70-degrees-and-sunny-with-a-cool-breeze Arizona weather, along with thousands of other dedicated strangers running alongside me, for reasons ranging from honoring a lost loved one to just because.
The race began in Phoenix and ended in front of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Along the way thousands came out to cheer on the runners, most of them wearing Cardinal red to support a team that would earn a trip to the Super Bowl later that day. I felt like I was an active part of one of the greatest days in the state’s history. From now on, when people think about January 18th 2009, they will remember my name. And maybe Larry Fitzgerald’s, too.
It was one big party after the race. It’s amazing how many people you end up meeting when “Congratulations!” is the universal icebreaker. I was taking pictures with people I would have considered strangers two hours ago. I think I high-fived a guy who was wearing a cape. I also got a little sunburned, which is something that happens in the middle of January here in Arizona. Oh well.
Whether or not I do this race again next year is up for debate. But if you happen to be reading this and you’re wondering if you should give it a go, all I can say is, you won’t regret it. In the meantime, I can now turn my attention to the amazing fact that the local football team is headed to the Super Bowl.
Which reminds me –- I wonder if the Cardinals got a medal. They probably should have.