By the Way

I’m not a runner and I’m running a marathon

Sarah Burke, left, and Regina Zilbermints after completing a half-marathon in New Orleans.
Sarah Burke, left, and Regina Zilbermints after completing a half-marathon in New Orleans.

I didn’t strictly mean to run a marathon this weekend.

If we’re all being honest, I’m not entirely happy about it.

But I have a problems with bucket lists and peer pressure and those two problems combined to get me to the start Sunday of the inaugural Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon.

In 2013, I said an annual seven-day, 420-mile bike ride across Iowa — RAGBRAI — would be a bucket list item. I’ve done the ride four times.

While training for my first half-marathon — the Rock and Roll half-marathon in New Orleans in February — I said it would also be my last.

Here’s where my two problems intersect.

The day after running the 13.1 miles, which I actually found oddly and surprisingly enjoyable, the friend I ran with texted me.

“How are you feeling?” Sarah asked.

“Surprisingly okay,” I responded. “You?”

“Oddly fine,” she said.

We were probably doing fine because we had spent the past 18 hours consuming little besides Advil and beer. A little Gatorade and a banana for good measure.

Then she added the fateful words, “You know what this means right? It means we need to do a full now.”

Things had escalated quickly.

We started tentatively talking about a November marathon in Savannah, Georgia, a city we had heard was beautiful but had never visited. I wasn’t sure about having enough training time between RAGBRAI at the end of July (see above) and the race, but I was game.

A few weeks later, information about the Gulf Coast Marathon was first released. My friend and co-worker Justin Mitchell, who had intended to run the February half with us but had injured his foot, suggested running this one instead.

I said “sure” in the way you say “sure” when you don’t really mean “sure.”

My concerns: The race is one very long, straight line. There is not a single turn to break it up. If you hit a headwind you never turn out of it.

In New Orleans, every turn brought a band playing, spectators offering up shots of beer, funny signs and one random disco ball. I didn’t think I would find that here.

(Prove me wrong, Mississippi.)

But then Justin posted this blog, informing you and everyone else who reads the Sun Herald that we were both running the race.

Granted, the number of people who read that isn’t as big as we would like. But I liked the idea of participating in the race’s inaugural year. I truly hope it becomes a big annual event.

It was enough for me. I started training and I was committed.

I was committed after Sarah said she wasn’t running with me and I was, unjustifiably, committed after Justin dropped out too.

I was committed even though I realized not a single person remembered that blog and would hold me to it.

I was committed after my leg started twinging halfway through what was supposed to be my last long run, a 20-miler, and I cut it short. I was committed though I haven’t been able to run more than 4 miles at a time in three weeks. And I was committed after the world responded to my complaining about my leg with a headline about a man with terminal lung disease who had completed a marathon towing an oxygen tank.

So, I am running a marathon Sunday. I may be jogging/walking/crawling/crying a marathon Sunday.

I haven’t been able to run nearly long enough the last month or so, but if I severely injure myself during this race, well, I was planning on never running again anyway.

My friends have been very supportive.

So, Mississippi, if you see me, wave. Make a funny sign. Hand me a shot of beer (it has carbs).

Come out and cheer on the runners. Some of them are really good. All of them will appreciate the support.

And make sure to check the Sun Herald’s Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and website for both my take on the race and information about people much, much faster than me.

See you along the beach Sunday?